When I started out 10 years ago I was frustarted with agents - I could not find anyone who knew a little bit about investing; some did not seem to kow a whole lot about real estate either. That was before BP and I had to learn the hard way. There are many good agents out there, but even more nots o good ones. A good buyers agent, who is an active investor, is the single biggest advantage you can get. How can you tell? There is a lot, but on the most basic level, look for someone who does at least 30-40 deals a year as an agent and owns at least 10-15 doors, some rehab experience is a plus. Buyers agent commission is usually paid by the seller (please check for NY), so it does not even cost you anything. A good agent will help you develop a strategy, guide you when analyzing deals and has an established network of lenders, contractors and other professionals. You can find a great agent easily on BP.
Great deals can be found off market, but most (residential) deals are on MLS. Personally I have bought only a hand full off-market deals and none of them were exceptinally good - most of my deals came from MLS. The advantage on MLS listings is that you get to see a lot of deals in a consitent manner and that will help you to compare and get a sense for what makes a good deal. That is very hard with off market deals, because the information about the property is often times hard to get - there is no data sheet about the property - and you are operating in a legally less regulated space. IMO the most important thing for your first deal is that it is a sound investment.
You don't have to make all your money on the first deal. Make sure it's low risk, in a good area and you buy a quality asset, that would be easy to sell. Mediocre ROI is okay for the first one, as long as it's low risk and you will have a good experience. Cash flow tends to grow over the years anyway. Once you have mastered the bascis you can shoot for higher ROIs. Stay away from odd properties, buy cockie-cutter with standard features and finishes. Stay away from desperate sellers who are looking to unload a problem property or problem location, look for seller motivation that is not rooted in the property, but in the sellers personal circumstances. Think about your target tenant demographic, before you choose a property type and neighborhood.
Hope this helps! Good luck!
Usually Realtors know Very little about what makes a decent investment property in my experience. Craigslist or Zillow search under Forvsale by owner and then find property that is not being kept up on by driving around and contact the seller directly . Using a local realtor probably won’t do much for you because they operate on commission and 90% + of their sales are based on families looking for their white picket fence big yard dream home
That was a great response to the OP's question and spot on.