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How to Buy Off-Market Homes

If you’re a potential homebuyer who lives in an area with a hot market like Seattle, getting ahead of the competition can be overwhelming if not nearly impossible. Last year, the coronavirus pandemic shook Seattle’s market, causing a dramatic dip in both supply and demand. 

Demand is now steadily increasing, with buyers eager to relocate from smaller, more expensive homes in busy cities to larger, more affordable homes in quieter neighborhoods — but supply can’t keep up. Because of this, homes in Seattle and the surrounding areas are quickly bought by aggressive sellers who seem to know all the tricks. 

Local realtors predict this will be the case until at least spring of 2021, but don’t be discouraged — other ways exist to find your next home without having to fight off the competition. One of these methods is to look at off-market or “pocket” listings to find your dream house.

[Related: Important Tips for Millennial Homebuyers]

What Are Off-Market Listings?

Off-market listings or pocket listings are homes for sale that are not listed on the local Multiple Listing Service (MLS) database. These homes are sometimes listed eventually, but still available for sale inquiries beforehand. Off-market homes can be lucrative to potential homebuyers, and even advantageous to sellers for a variety of reasons.

Advantages of Off-Market Listings for Buyers

For those who know how to track them down, off-market properties can be a gold mine for interested buyers. When inventory is low, off-market homes provide options off the MLS that less people are viewing, meaning the competition isn’t as tough as with publicly listed properties. 

Because the playing field is more level and the chance of a bidding war is low, you could potentially get a great closing cost on a hidden gem. You could also have more time to make your decision since you and the seller aren’t overwhelmed with interested parties from open houses and public promotion.

[Related: The Best Times to Buy a House in Seattle]

Advantages of Off-Market Listings for Sellers

Why would a seller not want to publicly list their home? Although it may seem like off-market listings are only beneficial to potential homebuyers, choosing to forgo the traditional MLS method has some advantages for sellers as well. 

Sellers are able to give their home a “test run” off-market to gauge the amount of local market interest and evaluate potential list prices. Selling your home off-market also gives sellers more privacy and more control over the process. Sellers can be selective about who sees their home and when, and how much promotion they want to do. 

Impact of MLS Statement 8.0 – NAR Clear Cooperation Policy

In May of 2020, MLS Statement 8.0, called the NAR (National Association of Realtors) Clear Cooperation Policy, was implemented. This policy requires that all NAR members of MLSs who want to promote their listings off-market need to provide written informed consent from the property-owner, and notify their local MLS within one day of promoting their listing in any way. 

Although it seems to contradict the allure of off-market homes, the policy is meant to level the playing field for consumers and realtors. 

However, off-market listings can still be “off-market” under this new policy. Per section 1.01 of the policy, if you are a seller or realtor and aren’t publicly promoting your home outside of the local MLS through the use of flyers, email blasts, or multi-brokerage sharing listing networks, you can continue to privately sell or even list your property as “coming soon” in perpetuity on the MLS database.

[Related: Guide for Renters Curious About Owning in Seattle]

How to Find Off-Market Homes

Off-market homes may seem like an elusive idea, but once you understand the what’s and why’s of off-market listings, the how’s come easy. Here are several ways to track down off-market listings.

Approach Homeowners

This approach is very basic: Drive around in areas you are looking to move to, and if you see a property you absolutely love (or one that you could imagine fixing up to make your own), approach the homeowner. 

You can either knock on their door, introduce yourself and get the conversation started, or leave a flyer with your information by their mailbox. The odds are they won’t be selling, but exchanging contact information, giving them an offer, or at least letting them know you’re interested helps get your feelers out there.

[Related: Homebuyers: Seal the Deal With a Winning Letter to the Seller]

Network With Communities

Word-of-mouth is one of the best forms of advertising — and one of the best ways to score a cool deal. 

Talk to friends or coworkers and let them know you’re browsing the market. They might have a contact or know someone who has a contact they can put you in touch with. Who knows, they could even have an idea for finding off-market listings that we haven’t mentioned.

Talk to a Respected Agent

Many agents have their own sources of off-market listings at any given time that they have exclusive rights to sell. 

If you know someone who has worked with a respected and experienced agent and had a good experience with them, find out their contact information and connect. They might have something up their sleeve that fits in with what you’re looking for.

Go Online

Alternative resources are out there that list homes online not available on the local MLS database. Places like Craigslist can be great places to find these properties, and even Zillow allows for properties to be listed a bit prior to being published on the MLS.

[Related: 5 Priceless Reasons to Save Up to Buy a Home vs. Renting]

Contact Seattle Mortgage Planners

Are you a potential homebuyer looking for the best route for finding (and funding) your future home? Seattle Mortgage Planners is ready to help you with all of your loan and financing questions and concerns. Or maybe you’re an experienced homeowner looking for tips on refinancing — we’ve got you covered there as well. Contact us today and let’s get started!

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