One of the first steps to wholesaling is finding leads or potential owners that are willing to sell a property. If a property appears to be vacant, that is a great sign that the owner may be willing to sell the property.
Vacant properties tend to have unkempt greenery, potential vandalism, poor structural elements, excessive build-up of mail, or any sign that may conclude that no one is living in the property.
If you are able to spot some of these signs and implement the actions below, you will be able to gather more leads as a wholesaler.
Driving for Dollars
The number one way to find vacant properties in your area is to go driving for dollars. Driving for dollars may sound like I am suggesting you drive for Uber or doing food delivery on the weekends; however, in real estate, driving for dollars simply means you are looking for properties that you can add value to while you're driving. Finding distressed properties, specifically vacant properties, can be a great value add opportunity for many investors.
Driving for dollars is an effective strategy because many people spend time in a car every day. While you are driving around your neighborhood or on your commute to work, you can utilize that time to intentionally look for vacant properties along the way.
If you don't have a car, you can also "drive" for dollars virtually, using software tools like Google Maps. Even though the images using Google Maps are not always the most up-to-date, you can still implement the same principles for finding distressed or vacant properties online as if you are in person.
So if you are planning to drive for dollars either virtually or in person, you need to find a way to alert the potential owner that you are interested in their property. A few ways that have been proven effective are leaving a note on the door or in the mailbox of the property, asking a neighbor how to get in contact with the owner, and using the county records to locate the owner of the property.
By being more intentional when you are driving in your car can lead to some great opportunities. If you are actively looking for vacant properties or properties where you can add value, you may find some hidden gems in your local market.
Ask Postal Workers
Another unique way that some real estate investors find vacant properties is by speaking with local postal workers and mail carriers. An easy giveaway that a property is vacant is that there is overflowing mail either in the mailbox or on the front steps. Another sign could be that they're not receiving mail at all because no one stays in the home anymore. A quick way to find out whether either one of the two scenarios is true would be to ask a local post worker about the property.
If you are honest about your intentions with the postal worker, they will be more than likely willing to confirm if the property is indeed vacant or not. By forming a relationship with a postal worker, they may even be able to bring you additional leads in the surrounding market related to other vacant properties they have on their route.
Use Public County Records
Utilizing your public county records to find absentee owners for potential properties is another strategy used to locate vacant properties. The county records have the information you can use to find owners of a property who may not live in the area. This may mean that the house is a rental property or, in the best case, a vacant property. It is very common that people are given a property once someone passes away, and the new property owners may not want to keep the property.
Therefore, by taking the initiative to reach out to the new owners, you may be the first to inquire about buying their property, increasing your chances that the owner will sell to you.
Be mindful that you will probably have a lot more failures than successes with this strategy because many individuals may be absentee owners but are renting their property or just not willing to sell. However, you can always do your due diligence by actually visiting the property in person to see if it looks like anyone stays there or not.
There is no doubt that having the ability to locate vacant properties can be a great skill to have in your toolbox as a wholesaler. In conjunction with driving for dollars, asking postal workers, and using public county records, you should also put some valuable time and effort into advertising your wholesaling business. Advertising that you buy houses will allow for other people to offer you leads about potential vacant properties.