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How To Buy A House That Is Not For Sale: A Guide To Finding And Buying Off-Market Properties

Jamie Johnson4 minute read
UPDATED: January 30, 2023

When you’re preparing to buy a house, it can be fun to look at online listings and compare which houses you like best. But what if you find a home that you love that isn’t currently on the market?

If you work with a qualified real estate agent and are willing to think outside the box, it may be possible to buy a house that isn’t on the market. This article will explain how to buy a house that is not for sale and the pros and cons of this decision.

Can You Buy An Off-Market House?

It is possible to buy a house that is not listed for sale, but is this the best course of action? Let’s look at some of the pros and cons of this decision.

Pros Of Buying A House That Is Not For Sale

Here are some of the benefits of buying a house that isn’t on the market:

  • More inventory: In 2021, housing inventory hit an all-time low, meaning fewer homes are on the market to choose from. If you can find homes that aren’t listed yet, this expands your options.
  • Less competition: If you found a house you loved and were outbid by another buyer, you know how frustrating it can be. One of the advantages of buying an off-market house is that you aren’t competing with other interested buyers.

Here are some of the downsides you should consider before trying to buy off-market listings:

  • Can be more difficult: It can be challenging to find an owner willing to sell their home but not listing it.
  • Speed of the game: You have to act fast, especially if you’re finding the house through a pocket listing (which we’ll talk about in a minute).

About The MLS Statement 8.0 Clear Cooperation Policy

In years past, many people would buy off-market houses by searching for pocket listings, which are private listing networks. An agent would sell a home through their own connections instead of on the open market or through a listing in the multiple listing service (MLS).

Pocket listings allow certain home buyers to see and buy a house before going on the market. Savvy real estate agents can use the window of time as a “coming soon” property to make an off-market sale.

However, the MLS Statement 8.0 Clear Cooperation Policy aims to stop pocket listings. The problem with pocket listings is that it limits the amount of exposure a home gets, preventing potential buyers from seeing all the available houses on the market.

That’s why the policy states that the listing agent must submit the listing to the MLS within one business day of marketing the property to the public.

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How To Find Off-Market Properties

Despite the MLS Statement 8.0, there are still ways to buy a house that is not for sale. Here are four steps you can take to get started.

Partner With A REALTOR®

The best way to find unlisted properties is by partnering with a qualified REALTOR®. This individual can help you research potential homes, approach the current owner, and negotiate for a fair price. These are tasks that will be difficult for the average home buyer to complete on their own.

Look Online

You might consider using online resources like Facebook and Zillow to find information about off-market homes. Facebook is especially useful for staying on top of local gossip. For instance, if there’s a particular neighborhood you’re looking to move into, you may be able to use Facebook to learn about interested sellers.

Talk To Homeowners

Your real estate agent can send mailers, call, or speak to homeowners about the possibility of selling their home. For instance, they could send a direct mailer inviting the homeowner to get in touch if they’re interested in selling their home.

Check Expired And Pending Listings

Another option is to look through expired and pending listings. Expired MLS listings have been on the market with no activity, and the contract eventually expired. In comparison, a pending listing means the buyer has accepted an offer, but the home hasn’t sold yet.


You may be able to contact the seller and submit an offer on an expired listing. If you find a pending listing, it may be possible to submit a backup offer.

Making An Offer On A House That Isn’t For Sale

If you found a house you love that isn’t for sale, consider sending an offer letter to the homeowner. There are specific steps you can take to make an offer that will maximize your odds of success: 

  • Make sure you’ve found a lender and are preapproved so the homeowner knows your financing is secure.
  • Work with a qualified real estate agent — if you approach the homeowner on your own, they may not take your offer as seriously.
  • Know exactly how much you can afford and what your maximum budget is.
  • State any contingencies upfront, like an inspection or appraisal contingency.
  • Negotiate with the homeowner for a price that works for everyone.

The Bottom Line

It’s not easy to buy a house that’s not listed for sale, but it is possible. By working with a qualified real estate agent and thinking outside of the box, you can expand your home buying options. If you’re ready to buy a home in the coming year, you can get started with Rocket Mortgage® today.

You know your dream home.

We’ll help you find it.

Jamie Johnson

Jamie Johnson is a Kansas City-based freelance writer who writes about a variety of personal finance topics, including loans, building credit, and paying down debt. She currently writes for clients like the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, Business Insider, and Bankrate.