10 Smart Tips for Finding Cheap Houses (Yes, They Still Exist in This Country)

by | BiggerPockets.com


That’s what I told my agent when she asked me what kind of house I was interested in buying.

I was 21 years old and looking for my first home. I knew nothing about real estate, but I knew one thing: I wanted to buy a cheap house. At the time I was making barely over minimum wage so I wasn’t buying a cheap home because it fit into some master investment scheme. I wanted a cheap house because it fit in with my budget.

Can you identify with that?

I got lucky on my first deal and found a great, cheap home that I was able to fix up slightly and sell for substantially more money a year later. Since then, I’ve learned that whether you are shopping for your own personal home or for a house to flip or rent out, finding cheap houses for sale in your market is imperative to securing your financial future. However, depending on what part of the country you live in, this might be difficult with the increasing competition in the real estate space.

How you define “cheap” is obviously relative, but this guide should give you a starting point for finding the lowest-priced houses in your neck of the woods.

Let’s get started.

10 Tips to Find Cheap Houses for Sale

1. Sort by price.

This first one might be the most obvious on this list, but many people don’t know this. When searching an online real estate platform like Zillow.com, Realtor.com, or Trulia.com, the properties are often, by default, listed by “most expensive.” Get into the habit of instantly clicking to sort by “cheapest first,” and you’ll always see the cheapest houses for sale listed. Additionally, if you search over a large geographic area, you’ll be able to look for patterns to see where the lowest price neighborhoods generally are.

Related: From Newbie to First Deal: What’s a Reasonable Timeline?

See the screenshot below for an example of the Seattle market from Realtor.com. While the median sale price for a home in the Seattle area is around $650,000 (source) these properties can be found for under $150,000. Obviously this is not taking into account the condition or neighborhood, but it’s a good place to start.

2. Look at a lot of houses.

By looking at a lot of houses, you will be able to better sort out the good from the bad and train your mind to find great deals. After all, “cheap is relative,” so get a good grasp on your local real estate market by attending as many open houses as possible. Set up appointments with your real estate agent to tour a dozen prospective homes in one day, and take note of what you like and what you don’t like. Or spend your weekends driving up and down streets while your spouse uses a smartphone app to check out local home prices. The more you look at, the better your odds of finding a great deal are.

3. Make a lot of offers.

Many real estate investors abide by the 100-10-1 rule, which says you should look at 100 houses, offer on 10, and get just one accepted. By submitting a lot of offers, assuming most of them will fall through, you increase your odds of getting a really great deal on a cheap house.

As one of my real estate agents is fond of saying, “If I don’t blush when making an offer, it’s too high.”

 4. Consider a fixer.

Sometimes cheap homes for sale are priced low because they require a lot of work. However, just because a property needs some TLC, it doesn’t mean you can’t pursue it and get a great deal. In fact, every single property I’ve ever bought was some sort of “fixer,” and that’s why I was able to get such cheap prices on them.

Fixers, however, carry with them a certain degree of risk and complications – and can be difficult to finance. If you decide to purchase a fixer, keep in mind the following tips:

  • Always get the property inspected by a professional home inspector so you know what you are getting into.
  • Always get estimates from licensed contractors so you can accurately estimate the potential repair costs (and be sure to check out The Book on Estimating Rehab Costs from J Scott and BiggerPockets.)
  • Look for “cosmetic fixers” that need simple fixes, like paint or carpet. Bad smells are also great because they are easy to remedy but drive away most of the competition.
  • Consider using a rehab loan, such as the 203k FHA insured loan, to wrap the rehab costs into the loan.

5. Look outside the city.

One of the best ways to find cheap houses for sale is by looking outside the busy cities and suburbs and focus more on the rural. I’m not talking about buying a farm in the middle of nowhere, but there are generally low-priced communities within an hour or two of every major U.S. market. Generally, the farther you get from major metropolitan areas, the lower prices you’ll find.

In this same line of thinking, consider buying real estate away from the U.S. coasts. The midwest and south generally have much cheaper prices on property than the east or west coast. Obviously there are exceptions, but if you don’t care where you buy, focus on the midwest and the southeast.


6. Set up automatic alerts.

Another way to snag a good deal is by being prepared with the first offer on a property.

Have your real estate agent set up automatic alerts for whatever property type you are interested in so you can jump at any great deals. If your agent doesn’t do automatic alerts, set them up with a real estate search portal like Zillow or Redfin.

7. Look for for sale by owners.

Oftentimes, in an effort to save money, people list their homes with a “For Sale By Owner” (FSBO) sign in the yard and hope for the best. However, many times these people have no idea what the true value of their home is and may consider selling much cheaper than other homes in the neighborhood. Also keep an eye on sites like Craigslist for FSBO sales and jump on them quickly.

Related: The Comprehensive Guide for Financing Your Very First Real Estate Deal

8. Focus on real estate owned (REO) properties.

Almost every property I’ve ever purchased has been an REO (real estate owned). This means the property was foreclosed by the bank and is being resold. REOs are generally cosmetic fixers and may have been subject to vandalism or neglect for many years, though any title issues have been taken care of. I like purchasing REOs because I’m not dealing with an emotional bank—I’m dealing with a machine. I can offer much lower prices and get better deals on the properties I do purchase. For tips on buying a foreclosure, be sure to check out How to Buy a Foreclosure: The Comprehensive Guide to Buying a Foreclosed Home.

9. Negotiate strongly.

You get what you negotiate. Never assume the asking price needs to be the sale price.

Although this works better when there is less competition, negotiating with the seller is one of the best ways to lower the cost of your home purchase. Be OK with losing the deal—and you’ll be on top of the negotiations. For more advice on negotiating a real estate deal, check out the new edition of BiggerPockets’s The Book on Negotiating Real Estate.

10. Talk to a wholesaler.

Finally, one great way to find cheap houses to buy is through a real estate wholesaler. A wholesaler is someone who finds great deals and gives the right to sell that deal to another buyer for a slight markup. Wholesalers typically find deals through heavy marketing and good negotiation—and can pass on considerable savings to you, the buyer. However, keep in mind that most wholesalers only sell to cash buyers, so if you plan to use a loan, it might be difficult. (P.S. To find a wholesaler, check out the BiggerPockets Wholesaling Forum and look around for knowledgeable wholesalers in your area. You can also call the number on those “I’ll Buy Your House For Cash” bandit signs on the side of the road in your town!)

Conclusion: Finding Cheap Houses

You don’t need to settle for the most expensive home on the street to be happy. Whether it’s your primary residence or an investment property, you make your money when you buy, so go out there and buy a great deal.

Hopefully these 10 tips will give you some great places to begin looking for cheap houses. I’m sure I missed some other obvious tips, so I hope you’ll do me a favor and share your favorite tip below in the comments!

What tactics have you used to successfully find the real estate deals still left out there?

Let us know your tips and tricks!


About Author

Brandon Turner

Brandon Turner is an active real estate investor, entrepreneur, writer, and co-host of the BiggerPockets Podcast. He began buying rental properties and flipping houses at age 21, discovering he didn’t need to work 40 years at a corporate job to have “the good life.” Today, with nearly 100 rental units and dozens of rehabs under his belt, he continues to invest in real estate while also showing others the power, and impact, of financial freedom. His writings have been featured on Forbes.com, Entrepreneur.com, FoxNews.com, Money Magazine, and numerous other publications across the web and in print media. He is the author of The Book on Investing in Real Estate with No (and Low) Money Down, The Book on Rental Property Investing, and co-author of The Book on Managing Rental Properties, which he wrote alongside his wife, Heather, and How to Invest in Real Estate, which he wrote alongside Joshua Dorkin. A life-long adventurer, Brandon (along with Heather and daughter Rosie) splits his time between his home in Washington State and various destinations around the globe.


  1. You’re a man after my own heart! We all want the “cheapest” house, it just makes sense! But then comes what do you get from that house, what will the returns be, appreciation, and what about the safety, right?

    I’ve created my own Leveraged Analysis Technique for finding these properties, and I even give a video demonstration on the biggerpockets blog for anyone interested in learning how to do this effectively, and I take it a couple of step farther than this: First, I ALSO check out the Crime. I ALSO sort by Photo count (the more photos, the less crappy it turns out to be, the more time you save), and finally, I look at the Rents. The Crucial Key Metrics (C.P.R,)

    The internet has made it extremely easy to leverage these resources. We just need to smart about when and what we leverage for each price range. (which we now know how, and share, here on biggerpockets). Thanks for addressing what’s on everyone’s mind.

    I love the 21 yr old Brandon asking for “cheap.” Lol.

      • Of course, right! That’s when this little thing called “discernment” comes into play, and we use our previous skills and resource to consistently pick the best ones. I mean, I am VERY discerning about my investments, but there are still a ton of low cost, great CF properties to choose from. I mean, isn’t that why we are all here, instead of writing this out, learning how to DISCERN a gem from a rock?

  2. When making 100 offers, are you making the offer or are you having a real estate agent make these offers? How does your agent feel about that? I suppose it depends what the time frame of those offers are. 100 in a week is much different than 100 in a year.

    • Brandon Turner

      Hey Joe,

      It’s more of look at 100 houses (online or in person) and make offers on 10. The idea is that if you are getting more than 10% of your offers accepted, you are probably offering too much. For years, I was getting 9/10 of my offers accepted and now, looking back, I know I should have offered less, lost out on some of them, but I’d have more equity and cash flow today.

  3. Brandon, thanks for the timely article. Seems like with the drop in inventory and increase in prices around here, even the REOs are expensive or trashed and need cash only offers. Getting tough these days! Definitely need to keep the options open. Thanks for the tips.

  4. Regarding making 100 offers and getting one house — I rarely make offers. In the past year I’ve made only 1 offer that got rejected (list price $13,500, offered $14,000, sale price $24,000). That’s because I run the numbers BEFORE I offer so I don’t waste my time or my agent’s time making tons of offers that probably won’t get accepted.

    When I visit a house I take into account an estimate of the number of rehab dollars I will need and factor that into my “all in cost”. I also don’t make offers on houses I don’t look at.

    I guess I prefer the sniper method versus the shotgun blast method.

    • Brandon Turner

      Hey Dawn,

      I agree- I’m actually more on your side with the sniper approach. However, when I look at my past, I see that I had way too many offers accepted, and I see now that I paid too much.

      Also – 100 offers is way too much. No agent would do it. What I said was “look” at 100 houses (online, driving by, etc) and then offer on 10. I think a 1/10 ratio for accepted offers is pretty good, and not so much that my agent won’t do it. It takes him maybe 15 minutes to write up and submit an offer, so he maybe has to spend 3 hours on offers for every one deal. I’d say that’s time well spent for him, since most “first time homebuyers” take 3 hours just to submit one offer! 🙂

      As always thanks for reading and commenting! You are a wise person Dawn!

    • Different strokes for different folks I suppose.
      I personally find it a colossal waste of time to look at a bunch of houses I don’t even make offers on. It takes a lot less time to write an offer than to even do a driveby of a place, forget about actually going inside.
      I make most of my offers before looking at the place and see what sellers want to play ball and I will go tighten up my numbers when it makes sense.
      I am an agent so I can do this without having someone else do it so that is clearly a big factor.

      I am curious at how many houses you looked at and only made one rejected offer on?
      To my point above you use a lot more time and effort of your agent looking at a house than offering on it.

  5. Thanks for the tips Brandon. I’d look outside my city but housing prices are a stupid expensive where I live and in the surrounding areas.

    I’m looking to buy soon and think I’ll look for places for sale by owner.

  6. Hmmmm… as a real estate investor, I’m a little confused by this list. MLS is only a research tool to me to get a quick run down on pricing in an area but I never purchase at retail, only wholesale. FSBO is good just like REO (not so much in Canada.. its against policy for banks to sell below FMV). But Tax Liens and Sheriff’s sales are fantastic.. get the info on the home, perform all due diligence and make an offer directly to the owner before the auction and score a deal without competition.. Also, I never purchase with a realtor but will always sell through one… helps me to automate my system so im doing less. And my golden rule has always been only buy with OPM. And when looking on Craigslist, dont look for the people who are selling houses, look for the people who are selling personal items such as a customized Harley Davidson… there should be no reason other than money issues that someone would sell these items. Have a chat with them and make an offer…you may walk away with buying a house and a bike While helping someone out of a tough situation.. its all about problem solving.

  7. Jason those are great ideas for the Craigslist leads.

    Brandon, I seem to have the most trouble with fha and the 203k. When fha has such strict guidelines for the overall condition of the property how do you convince them a crappy fixer upper will be safe for you?

  8. Hey Ben.. yep… I have only purchased 1 house of the MLS and only because I knew I had no competition. It was a foreclosed remediated grow op that the banks would not finance without health clearances. There were multiple offers on the table but no one could secure financing. I went out and got the Alberta Health Services clearance as well as an updated air quality report. I secured financing prior to making an offer and did an inspection myself so there would be no surprises. I then placed an offer with no financing condition, placed an inspection condition, $5k deposit with an additional $5k on waiving of conditions… oh, and the offer was 35% off of the list price. Offer was accept, house bought, reno-ed and flipped, suited the basement and sold it for 75% over purchase price with 40% net profit… presold before the work was done or the property listed.

    I do my best to have the seller approach me as a warm lead without competition rather than chasing down cold leads or MLS listings with loads of competition. This is a more efficient use of my time. I work very hard at being lazy… I am of the work smarter not harder school of hardknox

    • Ben Leybovich

      Jason – you are what we call a creative and sophisticated investor; one who creates his opportunities rather than competes for existing. Very inspiring indeed. All real estate used to be played your/my way. With the advent of HUD/REO/MLS/Financial crisis investors have been spoiled and creativity has been sidelined. I believe this will change sooner rather than later and if all one can do is buy foreclosures off of the MLS, one’s business will come to an end. You are on it sir!

      • Hi Ben.. Thanks for the comments. Its nice to know that there is someone of the same mindset out there. Opportunity has to be created.. it is not just sitting around where everyone can see it. The MLS in Canada is where you want to be selling… its a market place and it dictates what people are willing to spend on a home. The keyword in that last sentence is “home”. The MLS is for the emotional buyer and you can never compete against an emotional buyer as they will spend as much as thet believe the home is worth to them. I don’t buy homes, I buy property.. there Is an emotional disconnect that allows me to purchase at my price or walk away. You need to be able to do that in this business… especially if it is how you earn your daily bread.

        Brandon – I definitely agree with prospecting out-of-town. The smaller communities nestled on 20mins drive of major municipalities are definitely appealing. A different take on that is look for land… I am currently working with 2 different business partners who have taught me sooooo much. their philosophy is “can’t find a cashflowing or potentially profitable house to buy/sell.. no worries… just build one!” Land owners are very willing to give you the land to develop for free and take payment once the property has been developed and refinanced/sold. Also, as an investor, you get to pay yourself upfront, develop the property and either refinance to hold and rent or sell for profit. Multiple streams of income from one project.

        Steve – I’ve found that solving someone’s issues is a very profitable and personally satisfying way to earn an income. I encourage you to browse craigslist and kijiji from mid-month to end of month. The things that are put up for sale wreak of desperation. .trying to pile pennies together to make dollars because rent/bills/mortgage are due. It is very easy to strike a conversation with these people and find out what their real need is. If you can solve a financial issue for them then great! You can do this all day long and build a client base that will come back to you when they have recouped and are looking for a home or, when sadly, thry repeat the same mistakes and get into a pickle again. Some people may frown upon this but nothingppl say can make me feel like ive done something wrong by profiting on someone elses misfortune when all ive done is helped someone out of a terrible situation. Ive just witness a beautiful young family walk away from their home with huge smiles on their faces, excited to start fresh with cash in the bank and zero stress. That lets me sleep at night

  9. Brandon, nice blog. I love how you always provide links and I end up reading 5 articles with each blog. I bought a property that was a little of both last fall that I plan to flip this spring. After driving to a neighboring town and looking at about 4 properties, and not looking at the one I wanted to make an offer on. (It went under contract the 3rd day it was on the MLS, the day I drove over to view it.) I passed a house with a for sale sign in the yard about 5 houses down. It looked small and had piles of junk all over so bad you couldn’t get in the driveway. It had all the utilities off, so I had to look at it by flashlight It was only 10 days until the foreclosure auction I got a great deal but we had to race to get it done..

  10. Brandon,

    I’m leaning in a similar direction to Ben and Jason here – Yes, I may be a little shocked, but probably not.
    Our primary interests are in multiunit / mixed-use properties and, in our local market, when a property hits MLS (actually ICX.ca here), you already know there’s a problem – usually it suffers from serious neglect and/or is way over priced. The real deals – and most which are not really deals – are sold privately. After you get digging in the right ground, you are likely unearthed more than you can reasonable handle {unless you have much more liquid capital hanging around than I.}

    Not to completely discard MLS – and other online listings – they are useful when first getting started or looking at a new area. We’ve been doing that with a couple of markets in the U.S.A, but find it not only to be lots of work, but it would be impossible w/o a knowledgeable and trusted pair of boots on the ground to weed the simply “cheap” from the possible.

  11. i’m young too 24, and looking to get in real estate and he mentions he did it at 21, how different is it now, is the only way i can get a rental is a conventional mortgage?

  12. Agree with a lot of your points.
    I think the thing that should be emphasized is that it is about VALUE not just getting the cheapest POS on the market.
    The most expensive place will probably never be the best value, but I’d guess the cheapest one usually isn’t either. However I’d guess most of the time that best value is in the bottom 5-10% pricewise.

  13. Great List !
    Agree with your all points , cheap homes are really hard to find .
    By this post many people can know the technique how to find the cheapest home.
    Thanks for this valuable share!

    Vern C Tan!

  14. Hey
    Great share!!!
    Well, I wish i had found this article some days ago. As Me and my husband searching for the cheap apartment and we finally got a house but it is so expensive. Hope it works out for us in future.

  15. These are really great ideas of how to find an inexpensive house. I like the tip about setting an alert so when I’m looking for a certain house comes up I will know about it. That way I don’t have to spend a lot of time on the web looking for the right house.

  16. It’s interesting that you should look for houses that are for sale by the owner. When we were looking at houses, we looked for ones sold by an agent because we thought it would be better for us. It’s good to know now that we are helping our friends find some.

  17. I like your fifth tip about where to find cheap housing. It makes sense why real estate gets cheaper the further you are from the city. I’m hoping for something at the most 45 minutes away from the city and 10 minutes or so from grocery shopping.

  18. I want to start a family but need to buy a house first. I had never considered getting a fixer-upper that has easy to remedy problems. Often fixer upper houses are great because your can tailor them to your own taste. It would also be smart to make sure that if you get a house that needs to be fixed that you get one that is fully within your budget so that you don\’t end up too far into debt.

  19. Thanks for these useful tips. I like that you suggest to look for houses outside the main metropolitan areas. I agree that homes tend to be cheaper outside the city. However, you thing to keep in mind is that you will have to spend money on travel if you work in the city. I think you’ll have to measure the pros and cons to decide what’s best for you.

  20. I really love your comment about looking at lots of houses when trying to find a cheap house. Your comment about “cheap is relative” makes a lot of sense, and even a more expensive home might be “cheap” when you figure what you’re getting for your money. I would also think that having a good real estate agent would help considerably in trying to find a cheap home, as they probably have a lot more contacts than the average person.

  21. Who wants to spend more than they have to on a house? I really like what this article said about looking at a lot of houses for sale to get an idea of what your local housing market is like. I am definitely going to implement these tips so thanks for posting!

  22. These are such great tips for someone like me who is buying a house for the first time. You made a good point when you said that it’s good to try looking in the suburbs outside of big cities. That is something I haven’t thought to try, so far, but I think it’s a good idea since the cost of living is less outside of cities. Not only that, a lot of rural or suburban communities have all of the businesses and services you need really close by so you don’t have to search far.

  23. I think it is always a good idea to look outside of the city. I might even like getting a house in the middle of nowhere. It means having a bigger yard. The only concern here is making sure the commute to work and stores is manageable.

  24. I was thinking about buying a cheap mobile home the seller needs moved. Move it to a cheap piece of property fix up a little and sell. I figure I can do all this for around $40,000. The market in my area for something like this is 80-$100,000. Good idea or bad idea for a first investment property to get started? Thoughts?

  25. I really like your tip about looking outside the city when it comes to finding a home for sale. My husband and I have been thinking about buying our first home for a while now and we would love to find something for a decent price. We will have to keep these tips in mind for our search to help with the process, thank you for sharing!

  26. Because there are so many online websites it makes it a lot easier to find houses that are within your budget. Like you said, it is good to sort by price and look at a lot of different houses. I think that it would be a good idea to lower it down to ten potential houses before looking in person. Once you have the ten houses you are interested in, you should go and visit them to narrow it down more. After that, it will be easy to make offers on the ones that you like the best.

  27. David Sabatini

    If I could give a word of advice to starting investors, it is this: Always come up with your maximum allowable offer before you start any negotiation! Leave plenty of room to allow for some back and forth. Also, don’t aim to get the house for your MAO. The goal is always to get the house at the cheapest price possible without losing the deal for being too greedy. Like all in life, it is a balance; use common sense. Also remember, not all deals are home runs. Don’t worry if you didn’t make a fortune on your first house. Your negotiation skills with every property you buy. Keep your eyes open, there are cheap houses all around us. When you know where to look, the competition disappears.

  28. I loved how you said that the more houses you look at, the more chances you have of finding a great deal. We are planning on entering the market for a house in a few months and want to make sure we know all there is to know so we can land a great deal. It is important to remember that hiring a real estate agent can help you make sure you get the best prices and find the best properties based on the market.

  29. All ideas here are good food for thought . One thing I would add is once you narrow it down, always get a home inspection done! There are so many things that can be wrong with property, It may shine as far as looks and with the excitement of purchasing it You buy on impulse .Always need to take in account the cost of hidden repairs . Like plumbing electrical issues which look fine ,but are not .Always get inspection!!! as an inspector I say beware

  30. My husband and I are checking the real estate market for properties for sale that we can invest in. Of course, we want the best deals as much as possible; inexpensive properties for sale. In this article, you provided great tips on how we can find those cheap houses by strongly negotiating. Much appreciated!

  31. I liked that you said that by looking at a lot of houses, I will be able to better sort out the good from the bad and train my mind to find great deals. My husband and I have decided to stop renting and buy our own house, and we are kind of on a budget. We will make sure to get a good grasp on our local real estate market by attending as many open houses as possible, and maybe soon we will find our perfect house or apartment!

  32. I liked that you mentioned the 100-10-1 strategy when trying to purchase a home which basically means to look at 100 houses, offer 10, then just purchase 1. That’s quite a smart move to do since you’ll have choices available to you. I’ll try to do that since I’m planning to move from my old home due to some circumstances. Thanks for the great tips on how to find cheap houses on the market!

  33. Kyle Wayne

    It really helped when you talked about getting into the habit of instantly clicking to sort by “cheapest first”. My younger brother is recently married and they are looking for houses for sale. I’ll be sure to talk to them about working with a professional and to search by the cheapest house.

  34. Silas Knight on

    Thanks for the fantastic home hunting tips. I like how you said that we need to look at a ton of houses to find the best deal. We’re hoping to buy a home this year, so we appreciate any help we can get!

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