4 Simple Tips for Finding Incredible Real Estate Deals

by | BiggerPockets.com

When I was a child, every Saturday morning was the same: Wake up early, pile into the minivan with my mom and three siblings and start looking for . . . garage sales! Yes. I was raised by a “garage sale mom.”

Because we didn’t have a lot of money, we bought nearly all of our clothes, furniture, toys and pretty much everything else from someone who no longer wanted those items. And, let me tell you — my mom was the master at those sales. She knew how to find the coolest gadgets, toys, games and appliances for pennies on the dollar. She could negotiate a 50-cent t-shirt down to 10 cents, and regularly did. She would even buy far more than we needed, just so she could resell those items at her own garage sales and make a profit to fund our family vacations.

Today, I do far less garage-sale shopping than my mom, but the lessons I learned from her haven’t changed. I still want to find a great deal. Today, however, instead of 50-cent t-shirts, I spend much of my time hunting down great real estate deals, because I’m a real estate investor.

Whether I plan to flip that house, hold the property as a rental or go for something entirely different: Everything begins with a great deal. Here are four simple tips you too can use to find better deals on your own real estate, whether you’re looking for an investment, a property for your business or simply a home for your family.

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1. Consider buying a bank-foreclosed property.

When someone fails to pay a mortgage payment for an extended period of time, the lender will ultimately repossess the home and remove the occupants. Once the home is empty, the lender generally lists the house for sale on the market, using a local real estate to list it.

While the foreclosure, in itself, is of course sad (no one rejoices when someone loses a home), once the deed has been done, these properties can be some of the best deals you’ll find in real estate. Banks want to be in the business of lending money, not managing property, so they are often quick to offer large discounts just to get the deal off their books. Translation: You can get a great deal on foreclosed properties, if you know how to buy foreclosures right.


Related: 4 Things NOT to Do in the Quest for Great Real Estate Deals

Because the foreclosure process can take several years, these properties are often in need of some serious repair or updating. So, further discounts may be given to compensate — for buyers willing to brave a rehab.

Talk to a local real estate agent about the foreclosures in your area, and start checking some out. You might be surprised at the deals you can get.

2. Be the first . . . or the last.

In real estate, often the old adage holds true: The early bird gets the worm.

Oftentimes, it’s not the highest offer for a property that gets accepted, it’s simply the first. Therefore, if you are looking for a great deal, be quick about it! Get a pre-approval from a bank so you can jump at any property right away, and have your real estate agent set you up with automatic email alerts notifying you of any new property that hits the market.

Then, don’t delay — check it out quickly, and make an offer the same day if possible.

Conversely, another way to find great deals is to look for properties that have been on the market for a long time. Those owners are often far more willing to sell for a discount, because they are tired of holding on to that property. Many times, they will have been making two mortgage payments for months (or years) and will entertain almost any offer.

3. Approach absentee owners privately.

In a hot real estate market, like the one most of the United States is experiencing today, great deals can be hard to find because of the large number of people looking for a home. In some areas, a single house for sale might get a dozen or more offers in the first several days.

Therefore, one of the best tactics real estate investors use today is to look outside your multiple listing service and instead contact owners directly, asking them to consider selling. At any given time, a good percentage of the population will entertain that option, so why not reach out before they list the home with a real estate agent?

One of the best kinds of people to target is absentee owners, which simply means someone who owns a property but doesn’t live there. They might be landlords (who hate their tenants) or owners who inherited their houses and are simply unsure what to do with them. You can find these deals in a number of ways, such as:

driving around, looking for houses that look vacant, and using online public records to track down the owner
buying a public record list using an aggregate-list site like ListSource.com calling mom-and-pop landlords who are listing properties “for rent” on Craigslist. Let them know you aren’t interested in renting, but you would like to talk to them about buying.


4. Look at a lot of deals.

Finally, understand that finding good deals is largely a “numbers game.” You often have to kiss a lot of frogs to find the prince!

Related: The One That Got Away: The Top 8 Reasons I Lose Out on Real Estate Deals

For me, I look at deals in terms of a funnel. At its top, numerous leads come in, but at the bottom, only a few come out. Therefore, if I want more deals at the bottom, I need to improve each aspect of my funnel, including the quality and number of leads at the top. For example, my funnel might look like the following:

  • Raw leads from my real estate agent — 200
  • The location is somewhere I would buy — 100
  • A quick analysis shows promise — 20
  • A deeper analysis still shows promise – 10
  • Deals I’ve made an offer on — 8
  • Offers I’ve made that have been accepted – 1

Notice that, in the above funnel, my agent sent me 200 possible properties, but at the end, I ended up making offers on only eight and only one offer was accepted. If I wanted to buy two properties, I know I’d need to look back on my funnel and find a way to increase my numbers. Because, again, it’s just a numbers game.

Whether you are looking to buy an investment property, purchase a home for yourself or buy real estate for another reason, remember: You make your money when you buy. If you want to have immediate equity in your property, which can help you build wealth in the future, or save you in case of an economic turndown, you must find great real estate deals.

So, don’t settle for paying market-price for a house. Instead, follow the four tips here to get a deal so good even a “garage-sale mom” would be proud!

[This post originally appeared on Entrepreneur.com.]

Any tips for finding great deals you’d add?

Let me know with a comment!

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. A life-long adventurer, Brandon (along with his wife Heather and daughter Rosie) splits his time between his home in Washington State and various destinations around the globe.


  1. Lawrence L.

    Thanks Brandon for the wonderful blog, great tips. The second and fourth tips are the ones I defiantly need to work on. Have you made an offer on a house and did not take a look at it? Want to give a shout out to you, Josh, and the BP staff…..THANKS FOR ALL YOUR DO!!!!!

  2. Randy Phillips

    Great advice, I only deal with homeowners, specifically absentee owners, and I find them using direct mail, bird dogs and bandit signs. I also target distressed properties needing a lot of work and sellers needing to sell because of various reasons.

  3. I don’t know much about real estate stuff, so this was good for me, because eventually, I’m going to have to find my first family home someday. I thought it was interesting that the best offer doesn’t get accepted sometimes, but the first. That’s not what I would have expected, but I can kind of see why that would be. Thanks for all of the info!

  4. Your first or last tip really resonates with me. My husband and I are looking to purchase some real estate and people whose homes have been on the market for a longer period of time have been more willing to talk with us and negotiate. The same goes for homes that we have been the first offer on. Looking for homes on both end of the spectrum could be beneficial; either way, you may be likely to get a nice deal.

  5. I think it’s interesting that the first offer will mostly be the one picked. When we were looking at houses, we tried our best to find houses that hadn’t been bid on. It really helped that we were the first to give an offer on the house we live in.

  6. I completely agree that you should look at a lot of deals when trying to find the right one. When we were looking for our house, we went through a lot that we didn’t like, but were good prices. It just makes sense to look at many different options.

  7. I appreciate what you said about it being okay sometimes to find real estate that has been listed for a long time. My cousins recently purchased a home that had been on the real estate market for a very long time, it had a lot of remodeling that needed to be done, but because it had been so long they got a great deal that allowed them plenty of extra money to pay for the remodeling. Thanks for the other tips! I’ll be applying them the next time I’m in the real estate market.

  8. I really like your second tip “Be the first…or the last.” In our experience as home-owners, we have had some deals that have been all about the first offer and others that were about the last. It simply depends on the seller. We are currently looking into buying some real estate so we will have to keep these tips in mind during our search. It might be about being first, or being last!

  9. I like your idea on looking at foreclosed houses for a good deal. I would imagine that because they are bank owned it would be easier to get a good deal on them. I\’ll have to hire a realtor to help me look for foreclosed houses and other good deals when buying real estate.

  10. We have been in the market to buy a house ever since we got married two months ago. I loved knowing from that article that another way to find great deals is to look for properties that have been on the market for a long time. I will be sure to keep this in mind when we actually start hunting more earnestly for a house this summer!

  11. Brandon, I love the idea to buy a bank foreclosed house to save some money. My wife and I want to move out of our apartment into a more permanent living situation. I definitely think that we should find a home that could suit our growing family.

  12. That\’s a great point you make about how you need to look at lots of homes in order to find the best deals. The more you put in, the more you\’ll get out! I\’ve heard that it\’s so important to remember, however, to still look for homes that satisfy your needs and some of your wants and to not get caught up in all the good deals. I\’ll be sure to keep this great information in mind as my wife and I look to get the best deal possible for our first home this summer.

  13. I like that you mentioned that the first offer on a home is often the one chosen. My wife and I have had toruble finding the home we want to buy. The ones we have liked, we didn’t get. I will have to make sure we try and put an offer down on a house as soon as possible after it goes on the market so we can have a better chance. Thanks!

  14. I like how you suggest being the first to put a bid on a property when it comes to real estate for sale. I don’t have much experience with real estate but it seems to me that getting an early jump on a property or home for sale would be important in showing that you are really interested. It would also be a good idea to do some follow up on what’s going on with the property after you’ve made the bid on the real estate for sale.

  15. I really like the advice you give about either being the first or the last person to make a bid on a house when looking for a deal. After all, either option can have vastly different benefits to the buyer. If you place the first bid, then you’re looking at the lowest price for the home; however, if you wait until last, then you know you won’t go to far over since you’ll have a general idea of how much the home is actually worth.

  16. Kyle Wayne

    It’s awesome that you talked about how one of the best kinds of people to target when buying is absentee owners, which simply means someone who owns a property but doesn’t live there. My dad is looking to buy houses for sale and wants to learn about more ways he can expand his real estate investments by making smart purchases. I’ll be sure to talk to him about working with a professional and trying to find absentee owners to buy from. http://www.nashturleygroup.com/Buyers/default.aspx

  17. My wife and I have been considering investing in real estate but we haven’t been sure where to start. I liked that you had mentioned that it can be important to check out homes quickly and to be one of the first people to see it. We’ll have to start looking into real estate in our area, and we’ll be sure to purchase quickly.

  18. I have been looking for a new place to live and I found that these tips were extremely helpful! I really appreciated the tip about being the first and getting with the bank to get a pre-approval. I will have to do this as I begin my search for a new home.

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