Buying Commercial Property That Is Not for Sale

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Buying real estate can start with a look in the newspaper, a visit to a broker, or a search online. These are all good ways to find your next investment property. You’re looking at the same properties as every other investor, of course, so it’s not always easy to beat the competition to a great buy.

A better way to find good real estate investments is to look for properties that aren’t yet for sale, and make an offer. I bought my first home this way. I put an ad in the paper stating what I was looking for, and soon had a call from an old couple that had been thinking about selling. I bought their place at a good price, and they saved a broker’s commission.

Buying investment real estate that isn’t for sale starts with a three step search process. First decide what you are looking for. Single family rentals or apartment buildings? Then start looking for properties that fit your criteria. Then contact the owners.

Buying Real Estate From Non-Sellers

Don’t limit yourself to “fixer-uppers” or other “problem” properties that seem more likely to have owners willing to sell. Many owners of investment real estate have thought of selling, so you can start with almost any building you like.  You never know beforehand if or why a landlord is ready to call it quits. You find out by asking.

Tact is necessary here. Call the owner and tell him you’re an investor, not a broker. Let him know that you like what you see. Tell him you can have an offer ready in a week if he’s interested. If he’s not interested, thank him politely and hang up, but send him your card or a letter. Many investors have bought from owners that changed their minds.

If there is some interest, explain that you are an investor, so your offer will have to be based on your return on investment. This means you’ll need to see the books. Specifically, you’ll need to see the rent roll, listing the units and what they rent for, plus current occupancy, and operating expenses for the last year.

Have a confidentiality agreement ready before you call. Let the owner know that you’ll sign it and deliver it to him before you see the books. He may not want to let the tenants know he’s thinking of selling, so inspecting the units may have to wait until you make an offer. Just make an acceptable inspection a contingency in the offer.

Why buy investment properties this way? No competition and no sales commission means you may get a better price. Also, instead of waiting for that perfect property to be listed for sale, you just find it now. Why wait until it’s for sale before buying real estate?