How To Find Vacant Property Deals In Your Market

Here’s how you can find vacant properties that make great real estate deals in your market quickly and easily!

17 min read
April 14, 2023

Vacant properties are one of the best ways to find highly motivated prospects in your favorite markets. But relying on the MLS or outdated, resold data to uncover those listings can be frustrating and inefficient. 

So if you’re looking for how to find vacant property deals in your market, we’re going to break down some of the best strategies we’ve ever used. We’ll show you how to do it and exactly why these strategies perform the way they do.

But, first…

What is a Vacant Property & Why Is It Valuable For Real Estate Investors?

In real estate investing, a vacant property (in the traditional sense of the word) is any property that is uninhabited.

That means the owners aren’t living in it and there are no tenants, either — essentially, no one has registered as living at that property. 

Since you don’t know exactly why it’s sitting empty, you can usually assume the property may be outdated, in need of repairs, or that something else may be happening to the property that would make the owners more motivated to sell.

These are incredibly valuable for real estate investors. If a property is vacant, the owners are typically losing money every month.

And that’s where you come in.

When you uncover freshly vacated off-market properties you can be the first to reach out and make them an offer.

Learn How We Find More Deals With Less Money

Are Vacant Property Owners Motivated To Sell? 

Not always. But often. 

If the property is vacant, they are losing money. Even if they own the property outright, they are still losing money on utilities and property taxes.

And as it happens, losing money every month is a great motivator for them to sell. 

Of course, vacancy on its own isn’t the end of the equation. There are ways to take that level of motivation to another level and create even more targeted marketing campaigns. 

(You can use our awesome filters here at REISift to do this)

When you take vacant properties and start stacking other potential scenarios on top of them, you end up with an extremely targeted list of prospects..

Here’s other situations you’ll want to stack onto your vacant property list to make it even more targeted and effective:

High Equity 

Owners with high equity in a vacant property are typically some of the most motivated sellers you’re going to find. 

With a combination of high equity, the vacant property, and being absentee owners, you can safely assume they will entertain your offers.

Expired Listings

Expired listings are gold mines for active investors because the properties were already listed for sale at some point in the last 6 to 12 months and didn’t actually move. 

These owners are usually hyper aware that the MLS takes time and money so they may be more motivated to move quicker than the MLS would allow.

Life Events

Things like divorce, foreclosure, probate, etc, can all send owners into a financial tailspin. 

When this happens and you’re early enough into the process, you can make an offer that eliminates their dire financial situation so they can focus on moving forward with their lives.

Tax Delinquency 

One of the easiest (and most popular) ways to tell if a property is being held by a motivated seller is their tax status.

If they are delinquent on their property taxes, you can safely assume that they’re being burdened by the property and will listen if you put a cash offer in front of them.

Free & Clear 

Sometimes, instead of targeting (say) 50% equity and absentee owners, you can look for owners who are holding the property free and clear. 

You can even add triggers like tax delinquencies, for instance, to find even more motivated owners. Since, if they own the house outright and they’re delinquent on taxes, you can almost guarantee they are going to get offers on that property.

Active Liens 

Liens against the property, especially fresh liens from things like unpaid taxes, HOA fees, contractor bills, etc, is a really good way to find people who are financially motivated to sell fast.

To get the most out of these lists, though, you can combine them with other situations like absentee owners plus vacancies plus new liens. Their motivation level is going to be extremely high because of the storm that’s brewing around them.

Active / Dismissed Bankruptcies 

When you uncover active bankruptcies you can safely assume that the owners will be forced to unload assets to cover their debt.

And while most investors overlook the dismissed bankruptcies, you can build lists around them because the owner may still be recovering financially. This can mean they’re still motivated to sell and start the moving on process so they can recover quicker.

Inherited Properties 

When a family member passes and someone inherits a property, the chances of them being able to do something with that property are usually pretty low.

This gives you a prime opportunity to save them the hassle and headache of working with an agent and waiting for the property to sell so they have one less thing to worry about during the grieving process.

And while you can build lists just using each category above, by itself, you can uncover even higher levels of motivation by stacking the lists.

Here’s some examples you can use to filter through your data:

  • Absentee + Vacant
  • High Equity + Absentee
  • Tax Delinquent + Active Bankruptcy
  • Active Bankruptcy + Divorce

Then, you’ll want to start mining your own data and building your own lists based on the information you’re uncovering using those filters.

There’s quite a few ways to mine your own data and find vacant properties, but here are some of our favorites…

Strategy #1: Driving For Dollars

This is probably one of the fastest and easiest ways to start locating vacant and abandoned properties in your local market.

By picking a few neighborhoods that you want to work in and driving through them, you can start finding properties that may not have come up on the MLS yet.

This strategy is a numbers game, though, especially in the beginning. 

When you’re driving for dollars, you want as much data as you can get so you can start locating the owners and making offers.

That means you want to track down as many vacancies as you can so you have enough data to work with as you’re filling up your pipeline -- and getting your deals flowing.

Then, as your pipeline matures and you have offers going out and coming back, you’ll start shifting your focus into uncovering new areas to drive through.

This could be weekly, monthly, or even every 3 months (or more) for some investors. 

But, as you get consistent and gain more experience, you’ll find the sweet spot you need to hit to ensure your pipeline stays full.

Check out the video below to learn more. 

Strategy #2: Real Estate Data Software

You can use services like Propstream, BiggerPockets, PropertyRadar, and others to build lists that you can contact -- via cold calling, mailers, etc.

When you’re using one of these services, you can select that you only want to see vacant properties, or vacant properties with absentee owners, or vacant owners with high equity, or any other combination above to get highly targeted lists.

Then, the more you filter the lists down, the more you uncover situations that would cause your prospects to have higher levels of motivation -- and be more willing to listen to your offers.

Of course, we don’t recommend pulling all of this data unless you have a good way to manage it and market to it. REISift can help with that. 

Strategy #3: Government Sites

Another great strategy is to use your local government sites, like FHA.Gov, Fannie Mae, the Treasury Department, and even the Small Business Administration, in some cases.

For pre-foreclosure and bankruptcy listings, you can check with your local County Recorder’s office or Clerk of Courts to get updated listings and Notice of Defaults.

By using these sites, you can sometimes get listing data before it has made it to the web so you can get a jump on other buyers.

Learn How We Find MORE Deals With LESS Money

Strategy #4: Direct Mail

Direct mail is still one of the highest ROI marketing activities you can do in your business.

To make your mail campaigns work, though, you want to focus on the three key factors in every successful campaign: your list, your message, and your follow-up. 

When you’re trying to stretch your marketing dollars, it’s critical that you stack your lists and drill down into the data to get the most highly targeted & motivated prospects possible.

Your message should be simple — indicating that you are willing to make the homeowners a fair cash offer on their property. 

And your follow-up should be consistent and timely.

Make sure to follow up at least 3-5 times after your initial mail drop, and also consider using other methods like phone calls or email campaigns to stay in touch with your prospects.

By effectively leveraging direct mail, you’ll be able to jump on other buyers before they even have a chance to make an offer

Want more details? 

Check out the video below…

Strategy #5: List Stacking

List stacking can help you find some of the most highly motivated sellers in your local market -- if you do it right. This is especially true if you’re spending money on marketing.

For example, you can get lists of vacant properties and then stack them with lists of absentee owners. 

Or lists of absentee + foreclosure listings + high equity. 

That significantly increases the effectiveness of your marketing.

And while list stacking will reduce the number of potential prospects left in your data after filtering through them, it’s a lot more affordable and effective to market to that smaller, highly targeted list than it is to send thousands of mailers to a list you bought without filters.

It’s the difference between using a shotgun or a sniper rifle.

Speaking of which, we have the most effective list stacker and data filter in the industry here at REISift. Check it out

Strategy #6: Consistent Marketing & Follow-Up

One of the biggest mistakes you can make when you’re building your pipeline is sending out a mailer, or making a few calls, and then writing it off because you didn’t get a response.

Because consistency is the name of the game in this business.

And there’s a generally accepted rule that it takes at least 12 touches or contacts before a prospect will move forward with a deal.

When you’re using the situations that we’re giving you here, that number usually rings true. 

So while you might get some responses out of the gate because of the highly targeted nature of these lists, you’re going to want to make sure that you’re being consistent with your followup.

In fact, follow-up should be built right into your marketing process (and automated… you can use our Tasks feature in REISift to do this!). 

Check out the video below…

People will need time to think over the decision and (in most cases) are not going to sit down at the kitchen table and sign on the dotted line the first time you contact them. Timing is everything. 

That means you need to be tracking your activity in a CRM like REISift so you know who you’ve marketed to, when you need to follow up, who you’ve made offers to, who is ready to move forward, etc.

Consistency in your marketing and followup will show up as consistent deal flow in your business. It really is a non-negotiable if you want to be successful in this industry.

Strategy #7: Skip Tracing & Cold Calling

Before you start cold calling, to save yourself time and frustration, you need to make sure you’re skip tracing the data you’ve purchased or built.

You’ll see this alot when you’re buying data from resellers.

The data is outdated, old, and filled with disconnected and wrong numbers -- or numbers who have been called by multiple investors already.

That’s why you want to focus on mining, building, and stacking your own lists. 

When you do, you can skip trace the owners to get a good number and then know that your cold calling efforts aren’t just wasted energy.

Compare this to how most people cold call, especially when they’re using outdated data, and you can start to see why their cold calling campaigns tend to run flat -- plus what you can do to get the highest ROI from the time you spend on the phone.

But the key here is making sure your data is verified and your message meets the prospect where they want to be met -- then having a strong followup system in place to keep those prospects moving forward.

Check out the video below to learn more about skip tracing your records…

And here’s a detailed 1-hour video teaching you how to build an effective cold calling campaign…

Strategy #8: Connections & Networking

One of the easiest ways to find freshly vacated properties in your local market is to build your network. Start working on getting connected with people who are in the know, like contractors, real estate agents, brokers, attorneys, you name it.

Because when you rub shoulders and shake hands with the right people, you can cultivate a situation where you’re the first investor to come to mind when one of them gets word a property just went vacant -- or will be going vacant in the near future.

And since they usually have an inside track with the owners, a small recommendation from them can go a really, really long way toward helping you get the deal done.

Which if you’ve heard the adage “your network is your net worth”, then you already know how critical it is to start getting your name out into your local community.

You can get started by spending some time at auction houses, at Landlord Association and REIA meetings, Chamber of Commerce groups, Home & Trade shows, and even social media groups and investor meetups in your area.

Final Thoughts

When it comes down to it, learning how to find vacant property deals in your market really comes down to the data you’re starting with.

If you use the strategies in this guide to start mining and building your own data, you can start to uncover the situations that make property owners even more motivated to sell.

Start stacking your lists using the situations we’ve given you, then focus on getting consistent in your marketing and your networking. The vacant property deals will start to flow.

Learn How We Find More Deals With Less Money

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