Design & Home

3 Expert-Approved Ways to Find an Unlisted Home

Frankly Realtors’ Frank LLosa shares his secrets.

So you’ve fallen head over heels with a particular neighborhood—but none of its homes are on the market. What to do? Don’t give up. Just because there are no homes currently listed doesn’t mean that no homes are for sale. You just need to be strategic with your search. Realtor Frank LLosa of Frankly Realtors shares a few pro tips on how to find—and get inside—those unlisted properties.

Talk to the people in-the-know. Look for dog walkers—who are typically out in the neighborhood up to three times a day—and postal workers to get the unofficial scoop on the real estate gossip. “Dog walkers know everything,” says LLosa. “They know who has had a moving truck recently and they know all the neighbors.” And postal workers will know when mail is backlogged at a home, and even if there might be a foreclosure looming.

Get in touch directly with the owners of homes you like. Sending a snail mail letter to homes you covet might seem like a long shot, but this method does sometimes work—if you do it the right way. LLosa has a few tricks to boost his success with this technique, such as including personalized URL websites in each letter so he knows if the owner takes a peek. He’s also used public property records to ID owners and then connected with them via LinkedIn to find out if they are interested in selling.

Head online. Take a peek at Craiglist’s real estate category to find for-sale-by-owner homes, and make sure to check Zillow’s Coming Soon feature, which includes listings that will be coming on the market in the next 30 days, and the Make Me Move option, which allows homeowners to set a price on their home to gauge interest without actually putting it up for sale. “Some people put realistic prices and some put prices that are twice as high, but all that matters is that there’s someone there who has a remote interest in selling,” says LLosa. And though it might be seem unlikely, that Make Me Move feature can actually be fruitful: LLosa once helped a client buy a million-dollar home in a McLean neighborhood that had no inventory through Zillow’s service.

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