How (and Why) I Offer on Properties BEFORE I Ever Step Foot in the House


The other day I flabbergasted a friend of mine.

(I’ve always wanted to use that word in a blog post. Score!)

I explained to him my simple funnel for getting real estate deals:

As I walked him through this, my friend was befuddled! (Another word I’ve always wanted to use in a blog post!)

“Wait a minute,” he said to me, “you are telling me you make an offer BEFORE ever stepping foot in the house?”

“Of course!” I responded. “At least, if it’s a foreclosure. If it’s a motivated seller, I still make a verbal offer.”

“That’s crazy!” He laughed. “How would you know what to offer? And how do you know the condition?”

As I explained it to him, I thought it would probably interest others as well, hence this blog post!

So before I explain how I do it, let me tell you why I do it this way.


Why I Make Offers Before Looking at the Property

I realize that to newer investors, making offers sight-unseen probably seems crazy.

When I think back to my early days investing in real estate, I used to do exactly what my friend does:

  • Walk through the property
  • Walk through it again
  • Measure everything
  • Make a detailed spreadsheet
  • Panic
  • Walk through it again
  • Get scared and overthink everything
  • Then make an offer
  • And the offer gets rejected 80-90 percent of the time still.

Today, I make my offers before I step foot into the property.


Related: 8 Tips to Put Your Real Estate Offer in the Best Light — And Get it Accepted

Four reasons:

  1. I don’t have time to look at every property I want to offer on, knowing 90 percent will be rejected. Life is busy enough! Besides, my real estate agent would go nuts if I made him open up so many properties!
  2. No one ever accepts the offer up front — they always counter-offer (negotiate with a higher number). This gives me time to see where they are really at price-wise.
  3. I can estimate the rehab budget reasonably well based on photos and talking with real estate agents who have walked through it.
  4. I always include an inspection contingency so I can back out or re-negotiate if I find something other than I assumed.

I love the phrase “if you want to get a prince, you are going to have to kiss a lot of frogs!” Of course, this applies perfectly to real estate. If you want to buy a great deal, you are going to have to make a lot of offers and get a lot of rejections. But it’s OK! It’s part of the game.

By offering on properties before touring them, you can save yourself dozens of hours of time every week.


How I Make Offers Sight Unseen: Two Real-Life Examples

So, let’s walk through a couple quick examples that have happened to me in the past week.

1. The Motivated Seller

I talked with a motivated seller yesterday (after church, of all places).

She knew that I did real estate, and thought I might be able to help.

She told me that she is the Power of Attorney for an elderly woman in a nursing, and due to complications with Medicaid, the elderly woman needs to sell her house FAST in order for Medicaid payments to kick in.

The first thing I did was asked some questions, like:

  • Where is located?
  • What’s the condition?
  • How much do you think it would take a contractor to fix it up?
  • What’s the roof like?
  • Do the floors slope at all?
  • What kind of price are you asking?
  • If I could pay cash and close in a week or so, what’s the lowest you’d take? (With this question, I know where negotiations are going to START. She told me $140,000 is what the county assesses it at, but that was way higher than she was thinking.)

I got a LOT of information about the property this way. Not everything, of course, but enough to paint a decent picture and make an offer!

(If I had been home and not at church, I could have also headed to my local county assessor’s website, where I’d find recent photos of the property, and I could take a virtual drive on Google Street View to see the neighborhood and what I was dealing with. Luckily, however, I knew the neighborhood well!)

Because I know my area well, I already knew a general “after repair value” for this property — or at least close enough for now. If I hadn’t, I might have run over to to see what other similar houses were listed at to at least get a ballpark. For this property, the ARV was likely around $150,000.

Related: If You’re Not Embarrassed by Your Offer, it’s Too High: Here’s Why

To determine how much I might pay, I turned to the often-misunderstood “70% Rule of Thumb.” This rule of thumb is often used by flippers to ballpark an offer price. (Had I wanted to rent this house, I might use the 50% Rule of Thumb instead.)

The 70% Rule of Thumb says:

The maximum amount you should pay for a property is 70% of the After Repair Value, less expenses.

In other words, whatever the home would sell for when it’s 100 percent fixed up — multiply that times .7 and subtract out the repairs. That’s the offer price.

Based on my conversation with the seller, I estimated the rehab to cost around $25,000. Therefore:

$150,000 x .7 – $25,000 = $80,000

Now I had a very rough ballpark estimate. So, I made a verbal offer! The funny thing is my offer was made in such a way that didn’t sound like an offer at all! It was just a conversation.


I said something like:

“Great! So, for me, it’s a fairly simple mathematical formula to figure out if I can buy the property. I haven’t done all the numbers yet and haven’t even see the property, but I’m guessing I’ll be somewhere in the $75,000 – $85,000 range, but again, that really depends on what I see at the house. Does that sound like at least ballpark? Can we set up a time for me to come look?” 

Notice that I didn’t commit to that $75,000 – $85,000 price; I simply threw it out there to see if it was in the realm of possibility.

In this case, the seller might say, “It’s a little lower than I was hoping, but feel free to come look. It really is in good shape.” And, in fact, that’s pretty much exactly what she said. I know that if my $75,000 was offensive to her, she wouldn’t want me coming over.

But since we’re at least in the ballpark, I’ll come check it out and do a more thorough job of analyzing the deal.

My appointment with her is tomorrow morning. Will I get the property? Who knows! But at least I’m not wasting my time looking at a deal that I have no chance of getting.

Now, let’s look at another quick example — this time, a foreclosure listed by a real estate agent.

2. The Foreclosure

Last week, I offered on a foreclosed property, but never stepped foot in the house. The property was listed on the local MLS for nearly $80,000. Instantly, there were a few things I liked about it:

  • 1950’s construction (better than 1920’s, like most of my leads)
  • 1 story
  • 3 bedroom, 1 bathroom
  • Great neighborhood

Looking at the photos online, I could tell a few things:

  1. It likely needed new windows.
  2. It likely needed a new roof.
  3. It likely needed all new paint, inside and outside.
  4. The cabinets looked OK.

Knowing this, I estimated the rehab to cost around $30,000 for the project. It might be $20,000, and it might be $40,000. I’m not sure, but I think $30,000 could be close. That’s good enough for now.

I also know that the value of this property, when fixed up, (the ARV) would be conservatively around $130,000, based on a list of “comps” I received from my real estate agent.

And because I want to flip this property, I used that 70% Rule of Thumb again and determined that:

ARV = $130,000 x .7 = $91,000 – $30,000 = $61,000

So I officially offered them $60,000, with a five-day inspection contingency, using my real estate agent to do all the paperwork. In fact, I signed the offer on my iPhone, and it took about three minutes from beginning to end.

The next day, they countered at $68,000. They wanted to play ball! 

However, I couldn’t do $68,000. I could do $60,000. So I told them, “No — I can do $60,000.”

Now, at this point, I could have gone and looked at the property, to see how close my $30,000 rehab budget was.

Instead, something funny happened.

Remember my friend I mentioned earlier? The one who was flabbergasted?


Related: How to Get Comfortable With the Uncomfortable Task of Making Offers on Homes

In that conversation, I used this foreclosure as an example of how I make offers. And while I was explaining this to my friend (who has been dying to flip a house for several years), it hit me: this property is FAR better for him. He is planning to do his own rehab work, which means he can pay a bit more than me. He could do this whole rehab for under $20,000. It’s also a great “first flip” sort of deal — a nice “base hit.”

And we know the bank is OK at $68,000. I told him to make the offer.

He did, and he’ll be closing next week on his first flip!

So, should you make real estate offers sight-unseen?

Maybe, maybe not. Obviously, I have a bit of experience with this, so I know how the game is played. You might be newer, and going to look at properties would likely be a fantastic learning experience. But I hope this post has helped you see that making offers is not a scary thing. You can do it without stepping foot into the home.

And remember, the more times you offer, the more accepted deals you’ll likely get.

So get out there and start making some offers!

Investors: Have you ever made an offer on a property sight unseen? Why or why not?

Leave your comments below!

About Author

Brandon Turner

Brandon Turner (G+ | Twitter) spends a lot of time on Like... seriously... a lot. Oh, and he is also an active real estate investor, entrepreneur, traveler, third-person speaker, husband, and author of "The Book on Investing in Real Estate with No (and Low) Money Down", and "The Book on Rental Property Investing" which you should probably read if you want to do more deals.


  1. Diedrick Nagle

    Thanks for the insight here Mr. Turner. As a newbie (All of 8-9 months worth of endless digging for knowledge and what not)…I’m finally starting to feel ready to get in the game but as we all know, never ever stop learning!

  2. John Weber

    I am ready to put my first (ever) offers in on a few houses that I have been looking at but I am still unclear about how to phrase a contingency clause. What does the ‘with a five-day inspection contingency’ entail? I understand that its a way to wiggle out of a deal but I don’t know what it signifies… if that makes sense.

    • Mike Kohan

      HI John, if you are working with a Realtor to put your offers in, best to get their advice on the wording and workings of the offer. Wording can be important because once it is negotiated and accepted by both parties, it is in fact a contract. Different rules for different sandboxes. Good luck with your first jump.

  3. I just saw a 2 family being auctioned in an area I know. I haven’t seen the house. Have probably driven past the street plenty of times. I just created an account and activated a visa card so I could place a bid. I don’t expect it to be accepted as I think the reserve is much higher due to the amount of the foreclosure. But no one else has bid on it and the auction started Sat and ends tomorrow am. So, who knows? Anything could happen.

  4. Hanna Essenburg

    Hi Brandon: a portion of your blog post jumped out at me. “She told me that she is the Power of Attorney for an elderly woman in a nursing, and due to complications with Medicaid, the elderly woman needs to sell her house FAST in order for Medicaid payments to kick in…”

    It is my understanding that Medicaid rules are very complex and by selling her house while the owner is waiting for Medicaid payments, the owner may end up having to repay Medicaid for her medical care to date.

    “If the property is sold while the Medicaid beneficiary is living, not only will the beneficiary cease to be eligible for Medicaid due to the cash from the sale, but the beneficiary would have to satisfy the lien by paying back the state for its coverage of care to date. The exceptions to this rule are cases where a spouse, a disabled or blind child, a child under age 21, or a sibling with an equity interest in the house is living there”.

    Perhaps an “elder care lawyer” should be consulted to ensure that the owner is not running afoul of Medicaid regulations re: long-term care benefits.

    By the way, thank you for the webinars / podcasts on BP. I’m learning so much from them.

  5. Brian Campbell

    Great article Brandon! I’ve just started a relationship with a realtor. Does your realtor use a streamlines offerformat of some kind? The realtor we work with is very detailed oriented and is taking her a while to be comfortable with how we are trying to do business. What do you suggest I say to her about making these offers and the paperwork involved?

    Another question if I could…….A different realtor brought us a potential deal. My plan is to write up an offer with the realtor that brought us the deal and if we get it accepted, use the other realtor when we rehab and sell. Do you suggest working with realtors this way? We don’t want to offend anyone.

  6. David Shultz

    Love this. I’m rehabbing my first rental property now. It took 8 offers to finally close on this house. Lots of meeting my realtor at a house on my lunch break, etc… Along the way, I’ve been changing my strategy bit by bit to become more nimble and make better/ faster decisions. I ended up working with a strategy very similar to what you are describing, and have since floated out two offers on second properties after running some quick numbers.

  7. Stephen Lee

    Hey Brandon,

    Loved the article. I think I might have to give this one a try for my next deal and see how it works out.

    In my area there are a lot of REOs that have no pictures or just some exterior pictures listed on the MLS. What would you do in those situations?


  8. John C.

    Nice article.
    If it was up to me I would never look at a house until I had an offer like Brandon but sometimes agents want me to look at it first (yes, they haven’t worked with an investor) or my wife wants me to look at it. All I care is what I think it will sell for and how much I think it will cost to repair then I can make my lowball offer to the crazy banks and see what happens. Sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn’t. It really doesn’t matter since it’s a numbers game. I wish I could find a reasonably priced contractor who can do the rehab without baby sitting. If you know of one PM me. I’m in SE Michigan (Westland, Wayne, Canton area).

  9. Would like to point out that Brandon said he looks at the properties after making a bid- not making a bid instead of walking through the properties. I think some may have missed that little detail.

    I’ve seen a few properties in my area where it appears the person who bought it (one for $200K plus!) didn’t walk through at all. Some are tear downs and are still just sitting there rotting…

  10. Mfreke Inyang

    Great article. I’m a newbie as well just trying to get a handle of how I will go about building a portfolio while working full time. So this really resonated with me. Would this idea not apply if it is being sold “as is”? I assuming that means you could not include the inspection contingency am I correct? In those cases would it be best to take a thorough look around the house before making an offer?

    • Mike Kohan

      Hi Mfreke, “as is” means no disclosures or assurances are being made by the seller. A disclosure might be that it was a former grow-op or crack house. An assurance might be that there are no insect infestations. This just means that the responsibility falls on your shoulders to discover everything you need to about the house/building and you have no legal recourse after buying it and finding bigger problems after the fact. It does not preclude inspections or the inspection contingency unless specified in the listing (which I have seen a few times).

  11. Mike Ferrante

    Fun blog. However, as a realtor, if I were representing the seller, I would probably advise the seller not to consider your offer until you had viewed the home. Why would a seller want to take the home off the market in contingent status with the buyer who’s never even set foot in the home? While this method may work for you, I would advise the seller against considering such an offer. For all of you investors out there, if you can find a realtor to do this, God bless them for wasting their time on it. But most of the skillful agents I know would not participate in this practice. I’m not saying it might not work sometimes. But you won’t catch me doing this. And hopefully you don’t submit these offers on my listings!

  12. anthony stephenson

    I use to NEVER offer on site unseen properties and ran myself ragged trying to find something worth buying.. Now, if it’s an MLS property I’ll offer based on the pics and comps using realtor docs (I am a realtor as well so I make my own offers) with all the inspection contingencies, etc. If I can’t get a feel for repairs by looking at the pics I still do jump in the car for a quick look, then it’s usually a no contingency offer. If it’s a deal direct with the property owner I’ll do a little fishing over the phone to get a sense of their motivation then go meet with them in person if there is a reasonable possibility of working something out. Offer at this point are with out contingencies. Real estate is a people biz, you need to connect with them. I’ve had several offers that were rejected up front turn into deals a few weeks or even months later simply because I took the time to meet with the seller face to face.

  13. Lora H.

    HI Brandon,
    Reading this article (great article, btw) gives me a lot of confidence. I know I can do this. I have rehab, first hand experience, and owning real estate doesn’t scare me . . . I was born and breed on real estate. However, what I am lost on is the financing. Guess I’m asking for help. Background: I am currently a buy and hold investor. My very first house I lived in, fixed up with my dad’s help and sold in 3 years for $160k (95k PP). I had to use some school loan $$ but my expenses were only roughly 7k. ( I did my own CMA and sold FISBO with my dad’s guidance). The next 3 houses I have bought and held, 2 are rentals now (one of which I did most of the remodel myself) and I just bought my 3rd as a primary. All this I did via primary loans (live in, fix up, rent). I cash flow well on both properties. I have excellent credit, 3 loans now and I’m comfortable. But I know I can do more . . . . I know I can do what you explain in this post but I don’t understand how to get financing and still make the numbers work (here in Denver, mind you). I would not mind doing some flips to generate more cash and then give myself a boost in income . . . I’d like to reach a point where I could pay cash and not have to do financing or figure out a way that it doesn’t cost much to finance. I know you’re busy but any help is appreciated. I feel like I’m so close to going over this hurdle. I’ve proven to myself I can be successful but I feel like I’ve been “safe” so far, if that makes sense.

  14. JohnThomas Roseberry

    The inspection contingency in the purchase agreement is key… otherwise your stuck with the thing.

    @ JOHN WEBER, here’s some info on the inspection clause – – but basically it says that you have so many days to inspect, and if the property doesn’t meet your inspection, you can back out of the contract/purchase agreement. If you don’t do so within the time period stated, and THEN try and back out, you can lose your earnest money.

    That said, I’d like to know the answer to @ MFREKE INYANG ‘s question on if the inspection contingency can apply to properties being sold “as is”? In those cases would it be best to take a thorough look around the house before making an offer?

  15. Neema Fotoohi

    It’s also a good technique to use to smoke out a prospective seller to see whether they’re real or not. You’d be surprised how many sellers are not motivated and/or just want to see what their property is worth.

    I had one instance where a friend of mine (who I met trough BP) is looking at a place in Newark to flip and they put in an offer on it without looking at it. They finally went to see the property and realized there’s more work than they anticipated (they have yet to get the estimate from the GC).

    He’s standing firm with his offer (which is $175k and apparently the sellers dropped theirs down to $186). I told him to go back and offer less if the comps can justify it.

    Case in point… this can strategy can work, just make sure it’s a non-binding agreement.

  16. Katrina P.

    Awesome article! I purchase most of mine without ever stepping foot inside of them. As I sit here and count, I think I have only physically gone inside of 20% of what I own. And I invest 600 miles away. Perhaps it would be a bit different for me if I invested locally. In fact, if I invested locally (which I plan to start this year), I am SURE I would go inside each property before making an offer. But I am glad that I have the experience investing the way I do because it gave me the confidence I need to invest anywhere in the world where I can find a good deal. I know that all I need is a good team in place, and I’ll be successful!

    • Mfreke Inyang

      That’s interesting. So I’m assuming you have someone who walks the property for you and takes pictures and gives you a breakdown? What would you say are the most important team members to have if you’re not investing locally?

  17. James Green

    I love this method, because most sellers aren’t motivated enough to sell at a wholesale discount, so this allows you to see where the seller is & allows you not to waste time. The last house I visited, the owner was asking $140k, which I knew was a little to high. I thought I would be able to justify a lower price after “meeting” the owner and walking through the property. The house was just short of a hoarder house. It was raining outside and inside. That was the quickest & last walk through I’ve done without some type of offer agreement from the seller.

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