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Finding the perfect match for a new home can be tough, especially in a hot market. As soon as a property goes up for sale, dozens of buyers might line up to throw in a bid.
If you’re looking for more options, an off-market home could be the answer. These properties are privately listed, which means you could uncover a few gems in your area — and actually have a chance at buying one.
While finding off-market homes might be difficult, it’s still possible. Here’s what you need to know:
What are off-market homes?
Off-market homes are for-sale properties that aren’t listed on the multiple listing service (MLS), which is a network of private databases where real estate professionals help their clients browse properties.
They’re also known as off-MLS listings or pocket listings, since the real estate agent keeps the listing in their proverbial “pocket.”
Learn More: How Much Does It Cost to Buy a Home?
Why some sellers use pocket listings
With a traditional home sale, the seller might aggressively market their home to offload it as soon as possible. But with a pocket listing, the seller doesn’t market publicly.
Instead, sellers and their agents advertise to potential buyers through other means, such as word of mouth or private websites that limit who can see the information on the property.
While this might sound counterintuitive, there are reasons behind it. The seller might use a pocket listing to:
- Test whether buyers are interested in the property
- Experiment with different price points
- Maintain privacy, either for the seller or the buyer
- Save on real estate agent commissions
- Create a sense of exclusivity to drive up the price
Pros and cons of off-market homes
While off-market properties have fewer buyers in the mix and provide more privacy for everyone involved, there are a couple of drawbacks.
Familiarize yourself with the pros and cons before seeking a secret property:
- Less competition: When you tour an off-market listing, the seller has opened their home to a narrow pool of buyers. That means you’ll have a better chance at standing out, and the seller will consider your home offer.
- Lower home prices: The seller might even give you a break on the selling price if they don’t have to pay a real estate agent’s commission or spend money on staging and professional photography.
- More privacy: Because the property isn’t listed on the MLS, only you and the seller will know the home is on the market. Plus, no one can look up photos of your home online after you close the sale.
- Skews home sale data: Because the pocket listing is private, others can’t use information (such as the sales price) when comparing properties.
- Might create ethical concerns: The real estate agent is marketing solely to a select list of buyers, which makes it hard to tell whether they’re following anti-discrimination housing laws.
- Dual agency might not benefit you: With some off-market sales, the listing agent also represents you. It might be hard to tell whether the agent has your best interests in mind.
Whether you’re buying a home on the market or off the market, Credible can help you compare great rates from several lenders at once. In just a few minutes, you can see prequalified rates from our partner lenders — it’s free and won’t impact your credit score.
How to shop for off-market homes
Finding an off-market home takes a little more legwork than simply pulling up the MLS. Here’s how to find pocket listings:
1. Work with a real estate agent
Once you’ve chosen the neighborhood where you want to buy a home, you’ll need to contact real estate agents and ask about office exclusive listings.
The office exclusive is an exception to NAR’s new policy. When agents or brokers work in the same real estate firm, they can share a private listing with each other and market the property to their respective clients one-on-one.
This allows for some privacy to the seller and buyer.
2. Take your search online
You can also find some off market homes for sale in newspaper classifieds or on websites such as Craigslist.
Sellers who decide not to work with a listing agent can also create a website to market their property, or they might post the listing on Zillow.
Homes listed on Fizber.com and FSBO.com, both of which are for-sale-by-owner websites, will also appear on Redfin.
3. Get in touch with homeowners directly
If there’s a neighborhood you’re interested in, one option is to get in touch with homeowners directly.
For example, you can post a notice on a community website, stick a note on a public bulletin board, send out mailers, or go door to door asking if homeowners are interested in selling.
4. Keep an eye on real estate auctions
After a bank forecloses, it can sell the home at a real estate auction.
You can find these properties through local governments, real estate agents, and websites such as RealtyTrac.com and Auction.com.
Be prepared for the process, though. You won’t be able to view the property beforehand or order an inspection, and you’ll need to pay for the home in cash instead of getting a mortgage.
5. Listen to word of mouth
While off-market properties are private by nature, there are still multiple people involved in the process.
A local contractor, real estate agent, friend, or co-worker might tip you off to off-market real estate in your area. Put out the word that you’re looking for this type of home, and you might hear about something you like.
Finding a great mortgage rate doesn’t need to be stressful. Credible helps streamline the process and makes comparing multiple lenders easy — you can see prequalified rates from our partner lenders in the table below in just a few minutes.