Five Tips to Get Great Deals On the MLS (Including Buying Houses on Friday…?)

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I buy almost all of my houses off of the MLS.

I have tried direct marketing, wholesalers and other methods to get great deals, but the MLS seems to work the best for me.  So why am I finding so much success with the MLS when others are struggling?

Here are the the top five reasons I can get a great deal over someone else trying to buy in my area.

1.  Being a Real Estate Agent Lets Me Act Quicker Than Other Investors

I already wrote an article about the benefits of being an agent and investor here.  The truth is I see the MLS multiple times a day, I can look at a house without calling an agent and make an offer with the help of my assistant less than two hours after a home is listed.  To be honest, this puts the rest of you who are not agents at a huge disadvantage when buying off the MLS.  I know acting quickly has gotten me many deals that I would not have gotten had I waited a day or two.

2.  Buy Houses on a Friday…. What?

My last three deals I bought off the MLS were listed on a Friday.

I noticed this trend on the last deal, because I kept accepting counters over the weekend.  I try not to work on the weekends, but I am happy to do some work if it means I am buying a new rental property or fix and flip.  It could just be a coincidence, but the houses I bought were listed on a Friday and I was receiving counters before anyone else made an offer.  My thoughts are that most people start to zone out Friday afternoons and don’t feel like driving to a house, writing an offer and sending it to the listing agent (It could be that many real estate agents do not want to do this on a Friday either).  People think I can look at that house on Monday, it will still be available.

My last deal was listed Friday afternoon of last week.  It was in a town 30 miles from me and I really didn’t want to drive out there, but the home was listed for $60,000 less than similar houses  in the area.  I saw the home, had my assistant make an immediate offer 20% below list and we sent it to the seller.  I made a low offer because this was a really bad house.  It looked like someone had thought about flipping it, got to the demolition stage and gave up.  On Saturday I received a counter at $75,000 and I accepted it.  The listing agent said they had five showings set up over the weekend and were expecting more offers, but none had come in yet.  Had I waited to make an offer until Monday or even the weekend, I would have lost the house or been faced with multiple offers.  Two of my other recent purchases went down the same way with the seller getting me a counter on the weekend before any other offers came in.  FYI, these are fair market listings, not REOs where most banks require a property to be on the market a certain amount of time before they look at offers.

3.  Remove Your Inspection Contingency

Removing the inspection contingency is a risky move if you don’t know what you are doing.

I started doing this recently because I rarely, if ever, do inspections on my purchases.  I want great deals when I buy a home and if something comes up in an inspection that would cause me not to buy it, I probably am not getting a good enough deal.  Major issues like foundation and roof I can usually spot myself.  That is why it is extremely important to know what you are doing when you remove an inspection contingency.  Here is an article I wrote on if an inspection is necessary.

Removing an inspection contingency is huge in our market right now.  On every house I sell I get hammered with inspection requests.  It seems like the in thing to do is to ask for every single thing an inspector finds and then some.  Many of the houses I buy need a lot of work; I think the biggest fear many sellers have is getting an accepted contract and then having the buyer ask for $10,000 off the price after their inspection.

4.  Watch the MLS Like a Hawk for “Back on the Market” Listings

Two of my recent fix and flip purchases were under contract before I got a chance to make an offer on them.  I know, I just said how important it is to act fast, but I have a valid excuse.  I was in Mexico on vacation for one and they other was in a town I normally don’t buy in.

When those properties came back on the market I made offers immediately and got them under contract before any more offers could come in.  By quickly, I mean that same afternoon after the homes came back on the market.  The listing agents were actually apprehensive because they did not believe I could have seen the house and made an offer that quickly.

5.  Don’t Limit Yourself to Certain Types of Listings

I see investors mention on the forum they are focusing on buying REOs or short sales.  REO and short sale activity is way down for most areas of the country and it seems silly to limit yourself to any type of sale.

Some of my best deals have been fair market listings.  Fair market meaning they were not distressed due to a short sale situation and they were not bank owned.  In the last year I have bought fair market listings more often than I have bought short sales or REOs.

With our prices rising, I am seeing houses under priced by real estate agents.  These are the properties that you can get an offer in on quickly and get under contract before anyone else has a chance.  I do not ignore REOs or short sales, but I don’t focus on them either.

I focus on price!

Conclusion

Act quickly, don’t limit yourself to REO and don’t take three day weekends and you just may get more deals.

Do you have any other tips for using the MLS to get deals? Offer your suggestions below in the comments!

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About Author

Mark is Real Estate Broker and investor in Greeley, Colorado. Mark invests in long-term SFR rental homes and also does 8-15 fix and flips a year. Mark started a blog this year that focuses on investing in long term single family rentals.

58 Comments

    • I’m a realtor and I work with closely with several cash investors. I’m the one who has the eye on the MLS for them and yes, I too have an assistant and we can write up the offers within the hour. I’ve also listed such properties so I have experience on both sides. However, here in the Los Angeles market, nothing is going under list price and my cash investors are wasting my time mostly, because they keep bidding under list. Everything, wether in good shape or not, is going near or above asking price. Bidding 10-20% below is not a strategy that works. For those who intend to demolish and build, I just don’t get it, especially in a prime location. There’s still a huge upside margin, but until investors face the reality of the market here, they are not getting the deals.

      Not being in the market means your money is not working for you while prices are trending upwards.

      • Thanks for the comment Audrey, I understand investors wanting to get a good deal still. I are investors paying much more than I would pay all the time. I am not going to over pay because someone else is willing too. I don’t know your market so it is hard for me to speculaye, but are these prices meaning the investors are banking on more appreciation? That is something I refuse to do, because you can’t always bet on appreciation.

        • Mark,
          I am not talking about over bidding. I am talking about paying fair market value. When I have a seller who wants FMV price and an investor decides their numbers require a $25-30k reduction on a $730k listed price, well that doesn’t work – consistently, because there are conventional buyers willing to to pay close to the list price. When that investor is going to demolish and build a $1.3-1.4M home, you have to be kidding me that the margin is tight. I think the investor is greedy! I’ve done at least 20 written offers for at least 4-5 cash buyers, and the results are always the same. So I’m not wasting my valuable time with such investors where I can close deals and make money with regular buyers able to get a mortgage.

  1. Thanks, I just got my license and looking to find out some deals and this can be beneficial for me. Mark so direct mailing doesn’t work for you?

    • I have had some leads through direct marketing, but no deals yet. I have been working on it for almost a year. I have heard from many local investors in my area that direct marketing doesn’t work for them either. It may be a local thing.

  2. also don’t limit yourself to the bedrooms/baths you require as many listing agents of reo’s will list it as a two bedroom when in fact its three so taking the extra time to look might make you some money.

  3. Ryan Russell on

    Great read Mark! #2 really hits home for me. I have had similar success on Fridays. In my market there is currently a lot of competition and a limited amount of mls listed deals. Beating the rush for mls listed properties is the best way to try and procure a deal. I’ve even had better luck on a Friday prior to a holiday weekend. We had a lot of inclement weather this winter and it helped me beat the competition to a few deals as well.

    • Thank you Ryan,
      I think the weather can help as well. It always surprises me how some people let the littlest things like a foot of snow stop them from looking at a house. haha,

  4. Good article, Mark. I agree that there are fewer REO/shorts than in the past. I’ve bought a lot of deals off of MLS, too, but the majority of them were REO/short. Not anymore. I’ve bought two off of MLS this month, and neither was REO/short. One was a surviving spouse and the other was heirs.

    So often, flippers focus on listing price but I think it’s the wrong filter. Motivation is more important, in my opinion. Of the two I bought this month, one was listed for $1.75 and I got it for $1.2 (ARV $2.2). The other was listed for $580 and I paid $300 (ARV $625). Both houses are in CA. Many people say you can’t find good deals in CA on the MLS…the evidence tells me otherwise. To be completely fair, in both cases the listing agents brought these to my agents and said that the sellers were motivated and would look at any offer. This tells me that networking works best in combination with strategic use of the MLS.

    • Thank you Brian,
      Having a great network is extremely important! I have had the same situation happen to me and I always tell agents if they have any great deals coming up to let me know.

  5. Nicely done!
    I just became an agent, so I am really looking forward to trying to implement the parts of your plan that I am able to. I would also like to work on “expireds” and “withdrawns” and “FSBOs”. Do you have any opinion on those as opportunities?
    WHat does your assistant do for you that you couldn’t do yourself? Or is it just saving an hour?
    Do you think that in a seller’s market, Realtors and their sellers get nervy when they see an offer come in two hours after listing it? I heard a Realtor mention that as a possibility, noting that they then feel regret that they listed it at the price they did.
    That same person actually mentioned to me that he feels like lowball offers never work. Our market tends to sell for 95% of list price. What are your thoughts on this issue?
    Sorry so many questions, but your article is as I said perfectly timed and very intriguing.

    • Thanks Jason,
      I market to some expireds and withdrawns and have had some success, but it takes a lot of work. Mostly on the listing side and not buying.
      I have multiple assistants. I sold 190 homes last year as an agent and there is now way I could do it all myself. It is handy having them around to make things go quicker and do the things I don’t like doing.
      That’s the seller’s problem if they list a home too low, not mine. It may make them think about their price, but I think most of the time they are priced low because they want it sold quick.
      It depends on your definition of low ball. I think 20% is low and rarely offer that low unless the listing is aged or is a short sale or needs a lot of work. Most of the time low ball does not work, but sometimes it does.

  6. I really like the idea of omitting the inspection contingency. This is such a stress point for sellers. In a competitive market, anything that sets your offer apart should be considered. This is especially true when multiple offers are coming in the first day on newly listed properties. Thanks for the great article, Mark.

  7. Let’s say you want to invest out of state.. and you get your Agent’s license in CA.

    Is it possible to get MLS access in different states?

    Just wondering. thanks!

    • Most MLS subscriptions are local. For example, I’m licensed in North Carolina but only a member of the Triangle MLS, so I can’t access the MLS for Charlotte or Wilmington unless I pay to subscribe to those separately.

        • Within your own state is should be as simple as just paying an extra subscription. Across state lines you’ll likely have to actually get licensed in your desired investment state. Look into licensing reciprocity – some states will let you skip the licensing education if you’re licensed in another state while others will make you take all the pre-licensing education requirements again.

  8. Great article, Mark! I’ve used this same technique very successfully on Ebay. I look for a bid expiration time of Friday or Saturday at 8 p.m. There is no competition at that time, and I always win the bid with no run up in price.

    I’m curious if you have a strategy for working Expireds as well? Thanks for all the good info.

  9. Hi Mark, do you visit all of the properties before submitting an offer or are some offers submitted site-unseen? I have noticed that some agents may not take the offer as seriously if the property has not been physically visited.

  10. Michael Dorovich on

    Mark, thanks for the article. This makes total sense, finding properties on MLS yourself and submitting an offer within 2 hours. I’m also guessing that when you waive the inspection, you look at the house and you have walked through many inspections before.

    Do you think there is any chance of finding deals through realtors in out of state markets?

    • Hi Michael, I have a lot of experience looking at houses. That is a key when waiving an inspection. I think investors can buy out of state, but you have to do your due diligence with agents and know the market.

  11. Good article Mark!

    #3 is what causes the inability of beginners to get deals. You are absolutely right – no inspection contingency, but – I can not recommend this to a newbie; I just can’t. However, they obviously are at a disadvantage out of the gate because of this…

    MLS is very hard because 99% of the information is relative to the price. However, the price is less of an indication of whether a deal can be had than the seller’s circumstance and motivation. Listing price doesn’t matter much in this business. Again, this is why MLS is so hard for newbies – all they see is price…

    • I agree Ben, You have to be experienced to waive an inspection. I think price is a great indication of motivation in many cases. The deals I get are usually priced low to begin with which indicates motivation to me.

  12. I always figure every place listed on the MLS is for sale (by definition), and every house os a deal, at the right price.

    From there, it’s just a matter of deciding what makes the numbers work. I have written about many of my properties and how I git them too. Most were pre-foreclosures, which are drying up, but still there.

    As long as there are mortgages, there will be foreclosures and pre-foreclosures.

  13. Being an agent and having direct MLS access and the ability to make your own offers is a big key to be able to have success on MLS deals.

    Anyone else hoping to get deals off of it will be at a distinct disadvantage for all the reasons you mentioned.
    To be honest I don’t use the “Quick” aspects that much since usually anything that looks like a deal is usually swamped with activity the first 1-2days and gets snapped up right away for way more than I would have ever offered. I like “Stale Crap” that falls off everyone else’s radar. Most agents and other investors are more focused on getting the fresh stuff that looks good so way less competition. However I still use the fact I can setup my own appointments and write my own offers to stream line the process.

    Also the Friday thing is interesting. Wonder if that is bigger for Craptastic investor audience homes. I know when I list a place at least 60-70% of the showings are on the weekend and like 90% of the rest are after 6PM since these are the times people aren’t working.
    On a big time fixer that only investors are looking at I guess you might see more activity during the week since that IS their job.

    • Hi Shaun, I like to look at stale listings as well, but in our market right now, there aren’t many. I have been able to sneak in first on more than a few deals lately.

  14. Hi Mark,

    Great aritcle!!

    I am in the Sacramento California area. The MLS is a very tough place to get a good deal. Most of the listings are not priced on the low side but rather on the high side based on the repairs that is needed. Agents here hold on to your offer until more offers are received and turn it into a bidding war so even being first to make an offer does not really apply here. There is also overbidding the list price too. Is there any advice you can give with these situations?

    Have you seen the article about a house in San Francisco? The MLS price was $899,000 and there was a bidding war. The winning bid was all cash at $1.3 million. Now after the complete remodel within a year the asking price is $2.7 million! Do you think the Investor paid too much and now has to really push the price up so high?

    • I was amused in reading your story. I have many cash buyers/investors like yourself as clients. The reality of the market is that sellers don’t have to sell under market value and buyer demand is high. It’s simple economics. I’ve written at least 20-30 offers for such clients and it’s a waste of my time if they think they can purchase at 20% below market price. Not in this market!

      The only thing I can suggest is invest in an entrepreneurial go getting agent, and offer to pay their marketing costs for a specifically targeted letter campaign. That requires working with a Title company to pull records and choosing areas by demographics and dynamics. Even then, it’s a needle in a haystack. Good luck!

      • Audrey, do you see any houses selling below market? With prices being pushed up so high I would think there would be opportunities, but investors don’t realize how hinge market has gone up since the below market price now is higher than market value 6 months ago.

        The risk is the market turning and dropping again. This is why I like much more stable markets to deal in.

    • Hi Rod, California is tough. In some cases I will see agents try to start bidding wars here as well, but I think the seller would have gotten more if they just priced the home right to begin with. Without knowing your market it is hard for me to know what to tell you. Direct marketing? Have you checked sales to see if investors are getting good deals and how they got them?

      If the market will pay that much money then the investor made a good deal, if not it all depends on what his goals were and if he makes money.

  15. Thanks Mark!

    You sure said it, California is tough! I agree with you. If Agents price the house correctly they wouldn’t have to create a bidding war. I saw on Trulia that Sacramento is #9 for a Sellers market.

    I have tried direct marketing by mailing the same few zip codes multiple times with no results. I did look into what other Investors are paying and I have not seen a good deal. They are paying asking or over asking for fixers. So what happens is the Investor barely puts any money into the rehab.

    I think it’s time to move to a better city for real estate!! LOL!

    • Your comment: “If Agents price the house correctly they wouldn’t have to create a bidding war.” LOL! Really do you think we agents price the property for you the investor? We have a responsibility to the homeowner as a listing agent to get the best price possible. Price is a strategy. Most times the homeowner lists too high. Despite your opinion about this strategy and LA in general, it is what it is because demand is high. Investors cannot get a deal below market price in this market. I have investors who want to buy at $700k and flip for $1.7M Really! It doesn’t exist. You have to change your strategy to the NOW and forget about 2012 and 2013.

      • Audrey, I think Rod is saying a bidding war occurs when agents price a property too low. He is saying if the price was higher to begin with there would be less offers.

        • I understood perfectly well. What I am saying is that as an agent, this is a great strategy for our clients if we are the listing agent. I will do this over and over again for my client the seller. All’s fair depending on what side you represent.

        • Well if you price a home low on purpose to try and incite a bidding way, then you have to expect investors to submit low offers hoping to get the home.

  16. And investors never get the deal. They come in and over bid and then walk it back with request for repairs by huge margins. If I represent the seller, I tell them this is going to happen. Most times they don’t listen and take the highest bid, and exactly what I told them, happens. The deal falls through escrow and the next offer accepted is standard loan sale. I’m just telling you how it happens. I have represented investors too, and I’m practically done with them because it’s a waste of my time to keep putting in unrealistic offers.

    • Here is a prime example. MLS 14030070 in Sacramento, CA. The agent listed it for $120,000 and says in the comments to make highest and best offer because he/she expects multiple offers because of the low price.

      • Indeed, and it’s perfectly legal. I understand it upsets investors, but an agent for a seller has the fiduciary responsibility of getting the highest and best price. If you want below market price, work with an agent and pay some marketing costs so we can negotiate a private deal. So many investors I have worked with expect me to pick up the costs of a private marketing campaign for them, to get it at the lowest price and even a 1 or 2% commission. So go figure why an agent isn’t motivated to work with an investor.

        • Audrey, no one is saying it is not legal, but if an agent lists a home low on purpose then they have to expect to get multiple offers from investors. The low price will attract investors. So if you want to play the game of listing low to incite a price war, don’t be mad at investors for trying to get a good deal.

  17. With as much animus as Audrey spews about investors, I don’t understand why she lurks on a site geared primarily toward investors… unless of course she’s scraping business leads off the site. Having owned a real estate brokerage, and been a licensed broker in five Western states, I’ve seen the cycle from buyers’market to sellers’market several times since the 1980’s. I’ve also made a ton of commissions working with investors in high-end markets of California like La Jolla, Malibu, and Marin county. The key to working successfully with investors is to develop their trust in your market knowledge, so you can set their expectations appropriately. If they like you, they will trust you; and no agent worth their salt is going to run all over town submitting unrealistic, low ball offers on properties receiving multiple offers. Investors appreciate being told the truth, backed up by written facts of market trends in their preferred investment niche. I get the sense that Audrey’s animus toward investors, culminating in her stopping her representation of investors, is based upon her making the same mistake multiple times – failure to communicate effectively and come to a meeting of the minds. She, and serious investors in her market area, will all benefit from her withdrawal.

    As an investor, if I’m not embarrassed by my initial offer in most markets, I know I’m paying too much. In a sellers’ market, we’ll adjust our initial bid accordingly to reflect current market conditions, based entirely on our exit strategy. We have Realtors that bring us deals all the time, because they know they’ll end up with a piece of three transactions. The initial buy, then the listing/sale, then the next buy when we reinvest our funds. Unfortunately, most agents tend to be myopic and forget that trends will continue to be a reality, and when it turns to a buyers’ market, the smart ones will have a book of investors they can call to generate a consistent flow of commissions. Investors are not your enemy, Audrey, properly coached they could be your key to take a few steps up the ladder toward lasting success in real estate.

      • Yep that was indeed a rude post in which you spewed out a lot of resentment. Oh my! I don’t frequent this site any longer because I’m simply too busy. I respect your opinion, JP Marsh, but you have no clue of my experience or expertise! The investors in my market are simply not that active anymore because the deals they want are waning. I have some excellent relationships with investor clients, and they are not doing any deals. The market has changed in LA and my business is elsewhere. All the data out there is showing that cash investors as a portion of purchased properties is falling.
        Good luck, but I don’t have time to frequent this site or watch any other posts. And I won’t be bothered to respond to negative comments. I have unsubscribed!!!!!

  18. Oooh JP, you’re gonna get it!! Lol!

    A very good post indeed. Investors are important to any Agent because it is repeat business while a Homeowner is usually just a one time deal. I have an Agent in AZ that loved me because I bought 9 homes through him. We may be out of the game for now but the market will change as it always has and Agents will look to Investors.

    I also agree that if my initial offer isnt embarrassing, then I offered too much because the worst thing that can happen is my offer gets accepted on my initial offer. That feeling that I just paid too much starts creeping up on me.

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