How to Buy Unlisted Property

Most owners list their homes for sale in multiple listing service databases with the help of real estate agents. The listings appear online and in print publications for interested buyers to browse. A home "For Sale by Owner" might not be listed in the MLS but be advertised instead with a sign on the property. In the absence of a publicly placed listing or property sign, you might have to do some legwork to find the owner and persuade her to sell.

Contact a real estate agent to find out if the property was listed for sale recently. An agent can pull up the expired listing in the MLS, which contains the property's specifics and the price at which it was listed. Agents routinely contact owners of expired listings to drum up business, so sign a representation agreement if you want the agent to initiate contact with the seller.

Search public records to find the owner's name if the property is vacant. You can do this at the courthouse or taxation office in the locality where the property sits. Generally speaking, such searches are free and can provide you with information about the chain of ownership.

Write a letter to the owner indicating your desire to buy the property. Such a letter should be concise and to the point. Include your name and contact information at the top of the letter. Tell the owner that you are interested in the property and why. For example, you may wish to purchase a plot of land because it is adjacent to yours. You can also hire a lawyer to contact the owner on your behalf.

Submit an offer to the seller and proceed the way you would in a standard real estate sale. Once you negotiate the property's price and terms and the contract is signed by both parties, proceed with your home loan application and gather your down payment. Perform any actions required by the terms of the contract and prepare for closing.


  • Selling a property can be a sensitive matter for some families. Therefore, it's generally not a good idea to pursue owners aggressively if they don't respond to your initial inquiry. However, once the owner has time to think about your proposal, you may be pleasantly surprised to get a response indicating willingness to sell months after you've forgotten about it.
  • As a buyer, initiating contact with a seller diminishes your negotiating power. Therefore, expect to pay your agent's commission, attorney fees and the closing costs for which you are responsible out of pocket.

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About the Author

Maya Black has been covering business, food, travel, cultural topics and decorating since 1992. She has bachelor's degree in art and a master's degree in cultural studies from University of Texas, a culinary arts certificate and a real estate license. Her articles appear in magazines such as Virginia Living and Albemarle.