House shopping strategies without using MLS

shopping for housesThe low housing inventory is discouraging many home buyers.  Low inventory along with increasing home prices and buyer competition can make shopping for a home today a frustrating endeavor.  If you’re a serious home buyer, there may be other strategies to finding homes for sale other than those listed in the multiple list system (MLS).

The “For Sale by Owner” sign in the yard is a tell tale sign; however did you know that many FSBO’s can be found listed in the MLS?  These are listed through brokers who are paid a flat fee as an MLS listing placement service.  And although most are listed online, not all FSBO’s are found in the MLS.  You can also find FSBO’s on numerous “by-owner” sites, as well as Zillow, Trulia, or Craigslist.

Listservs and internet groups are another way to find non-MLS homes for sale; however, neighborhood groups often restrict membership to residents.  Leveraging your personal and social networks by announcing your search for the non-MLS home for sale will most likely prompt them to inform you about what they have heard through their networks and neighborhood listservs/groups.

The National Association of Realtors® 2013 Profile of Home Buyers and Sellers ( indicates that 92% of buyers search the internet.  Besides FSBO’s; online services such as Zillow, Trulia, Craigslist, also list foreclosures auctions, pre-foreclosures, and of course broker listings too.  The internet is also where scammers are lurking, waiting to prey on you.  Be wary about phone numbers that are out of the area; experts agree that you can avoid most scams if you deal with local individuals with whom you can meet in person.

Buying a foreclosure is often suggested as an avenue to buy a non-MLS home.  Although most bank-owned homes become listed in the MLS, you have the opportunity to purchase a home at the foreclosure auction.  If you’re an auction novice, seek out a real estate professional to assist you; homes are purchased “as-is” and you usually do not have the opportunity to inspect the interior.  Mistakes that are often made by inexperienced auction bidders include misunderstanding the terms of the auction, overestimating home values on those they bid, as well as getting carried away and over bidding.  Pre-foreclosures are often listed in the MLS as short sales; however, it is necessary to be aware of local laws (such as the Maryland Protection of Homeowners in Foreclosure Act) when approaching distressed home owners who have not listed their home for sale.

Searching through expired and withdrawn MLS listings is another way to find eager home sellers.  Your real estate agent can provide you with such a list; however, it is not easy and you may quickly discover the reasons why many of these homes did not sell.

Even though, many alternate strategies for finding a non-MLS home for sale can be achieved without a real estate agent you should consider hiring an agent; besides representing you and assisting in structuring and facilitating the transaction, it is also common for agents to use these strategies to search on behalf of their busy clients.

A down side of the search for the non-MLS home for sale is that instead of competing with other home buyers, you’re competing with many real estate agents; not just those agents representing home buyers, but also the many agents searching for their next MLS listing.

by Dan Krell ©
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Disclaimer. This article is not intended to provide nor should it be relied upon for legal and financial advice. Readers should not rely solely on the information contained herein, as it does not purport to be comprehensive or render specific advice. Readers should consult with an attorney regarding local real estate laws and customs as they vary by state and jurisdiction. This article was originally published the week of March 31, 2014 (Montgomery County Sentinel). Using this article without permission is a violation of copyright laws. Copyright © Dan Krell.

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