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Finding a house in a seller’s paradise (and buyer’s desert)

What we'll cover

  • Creative ways to find a home beyond realtors

  • Things to keep in mind when using other methods 

  • Resources for once you find the perfect house

If you’re looking to buy in the current housing market, pickings are slim. Demand is high and supply is low, which makes for an increasingly competitive market and leaves many house hunters scrambling to find the right place. Use these alternative methods to find a home you love, even when the search gets tough.

1. Word of mouth

Never underestimate the power of networking. If you’re in a pinch to find housing, reach out to friends, family, and coworkers who are familiar with an area offering your ideal neighborhood vibe. They may be able to use insider information to connect you with people who are looking to move soon but have yet to post a listing.

2. Work with a realtor

A licensed professional such as a real estate agent, a realtor or a real estate broker  can help guide you through the buying process. They’ll be the first to know of any new houses on the market and what’s currently available. And if they’ve worked in your desired neighborhood before, they may have connections they can introduce you to.

3. Online forums and pages

This a great alternative to scouring  traditional real estate listing sites . Sellers might post an ad for their listing in online groups, and if you check these pages regularly, you could be one of the first buyers to express interest. Explore Facebook groups and Craigslist postings to discover the houses that take a bit more digging to find. Use these sites to reach out to sellers directly and ask if their property is still available.

4. Be vigilant

Think of yourself as a full-time house hunter. Check for new listings every day and do what you can to make your offers more attractive to sellers, like getting a mortgage pre-approval  from a lender like Ally Home . When the right opportunity arises, you’ll be ready to move quickly and seal the deal.

5. Knock on doors

With a little confidence and a welcoming smile, you might find your next home by knocking on the door of a place you love. Yes, that’s right. See a home you love and ring the bell. Don’t be afraid to ask the owner if they’d ever be interested in selling, even if there’s not a for sale sign outside. Or if you’d prefer to keep your distance, send them a letter in the mail expressing your interest.

6. Advertise your search

Promote your search via the digital classifieds. Include your timeline, price range, and the type of home you’re looking for in your ad and interested sellers can reach out to you. Consider posting your home search criteria on your social media profiles as well to expand your visibility.

7. Talk to landlords

If you find a home for rent, ask the landlord if they’d ever be interested in selling. They may be open to a rent-to-own agreement that gives you the option of buying the property before your lease ends. Even if they say no, they might know of other landlords in the market to sell.

8. Expand your radius

When it’s crunch time and you need to move quickly, try expanding your search area. You have a lot to consider when buying a home, and by casting a wider net, you’ll have more options to choose from. You just might find a hidden gem that fits your needs!

9. Garage sales

Getting rid of clutter is one of the first things many homeowners do when they’re preparing to move. Garage sales can be a tell-tale sign that the host might be selling soon. Look for yard signs or online ads promoting these events and stop by to meet the owner and ask about their future plans.

10. Consider homes below your budget

If you locate a home below your budget that doesn't necessarily check off all the boxes on your list, it could actually work out in your favor if you're able to use the savings left over to make some desired updates and get the home renovated to your liking. And a bonus to this method is that some repairs will even boost the home's value .

11. Look for short sales

When banks want to avoid a home foreclosure, they might allow the owner to sell below market value, giving buyers a great bargain. Because short sales can be a lengthy process, you probably won’t be competing with lots of other offers. This process can be more complex, so consider enlisting the help of an agent.

12. Attend real estate auctions

Foreclosed homes often go up for auction, which means big discounts and sometimes less competition. If you go this route, do your research on the risks associated with this method (in some cases you can’t perform a home inspection , for example). If you can afford renovation costs and are comfortable with the risks involved, check out real estate auctions in the area you’re looking to buy.

There's no place like home

The current housing market may seem like a buyer’s desert, but a splash of creativity can go a long way. With persistence, your hard work will eventually pay off and you might even be moving into your “home sweet home” sooner than you think.

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