We recently spoke with two different agents who do a lot of work with vacant listings. Check out their interviews with our team below to see how they approach and land the listings.
Lauren Perry is a five-year real estate veteran in the Boston area. About 50% of her income is from sales, and the other half comes from rentals.
Because of her rental experience, Lauren works with a lot of vacant properties.
“I guess mainly the going after the vacants and the kind of absentee. So it's a little bit different when you're working with those.
“Marketing is a hundred percent of the game, you know? That's the make or break it. So send them letters all the time. Just go knock on their doors.”
To find vacant homeowners, Lauren searches the MLS for absentee owners. She puts the addresses into Google Maps to see the neighborhoods the homes are in and to determine whether they’ll be worth pursuing.
“Then you have to go to the assessor's database and see kind of what you could do to that property. And if it's a developable lot — if that house that's already there — if it's in good standing or what the status of it is, and then you have to run a whole bunch of numbers and to see what makes the most sense to make it profitable.”
Lauren finds a lot of these absentee owners are apprehensive about speaking with a real estate agent. That’s why she tries to come prepared for each property.
“So if I'm doing like, just kind of door knocking on a specific property that I've already identified would be good and trying to win them over, then I have just kind of like a folder that I've prepared for them about the specifics of that house and tell the range of what it could sell for and how they would benefit from selling it with me and the benefit of me as a Realtor and the benefit of my company, as well.”
Lauren says her presentation for vacant owners is more number heavy because people want to know how much they can get for their homes before they venture into the selling process.
“I found that my clientele seems to be older. There are houses that have been in the family for 50 years, are the houses haven't been touched for 50 years or something like that. So you're talking to an 80-year-old couple, and it's a very overwhelming process for them and they're skeptical, you know?”
She says most vacant homeowners are focused on one of two things.
“It's either one, it's financial, and this is how they're going to survive in a retirement home for the rest of their life and give a little bit of money to their kids and things like that.”
On the other side of the coin, she runs into clients who are very attached to their homes.
“The house has been in their family for 50 years or it's nothing about money and it's a sentimental piece. It's always one or the other. Usually within the first couple of minutes when I'm knocking on the door and talking to them, you can see where it's going and then you kind of tailor your pitch one way or the other.”
“I got my license back in 2006, and I started out with a small brokerage that didn't have a lot of training, so I had a slow start to it. Then I went to Keller Williams and went on overdrive, learned a lot with them, and I just purchased my own brokerage in November of last year. So it's a small town brokerage in Montgomery City, Missouri. And it's going great. Love it. We've got an excellent market here right now.”
Sherry started working with vacant homeowners about three years ago.
“I ended up with some rentals in a neighborhood that has a lot of rentals in it. And I discovered by looking at the tax records that a lot of them aren't necessarily there with private individuals who in the last downturn of the market, they used to live there. They needed to move out of state or around the state or something. They couldn't sell it. So they rented it out, and they've been just halfheartedly renting it out ever since. And so I use the fact that I had three listings in that neighborhood that was for sale and had them under contract. And I contacted everyone whether they have that company established or whether they were just private individuals. And by far, who I got the most response from was the private individuals because that's on their wishlist.”
Sherry found that most of the private owners were interested in selling because they didn’t want to deal with tenants.
“I was able to sell two of them for them. And I found several investors that I helped find other properties. So it kind of cascaded from there. In this market, right now people are buying up rentals very quickly. So if it's property that can be rented, it sells very quickly if it's priced right. So it's a good thing to do right now.
“I also did it with land listings and the way I got those, I went to the tax records — the tax sales are advertised in July, and I saved that newspaper and I watch what happens to them. And I generally contact them every couple — the ones that don't sell at the courthouse store — I contact them every couple of months because they're probably not paying their taxes again and probably having difficulty paying it.
“And I try to ease their burden by helping them get rid of this property that they are not occupying a lot of time. It's vacant lots or farm land and that they think that someday they're going to make it rich on, but they don't pay the taxes. So I've got several listings on those, but it's kind of a long-term thing because they haven't been paying their taxes and I'm sure there's multiple reasons. They either, the property is not desirable or they think that it's worth a gold mine and you have to help them understand its true value.
Sherry often uses handwritten letters to market to vacant homeowners.
“I am especially good with writing letters. I get a real good return on writing letters. And so I ask them to call me and I tell them what I do, what I might be able to do for them, if it meets their needs, and that I'm happy to do an evaluation of the property for them if that would be helpful for them. And I generally get for every hundred letters I sent out, I was getting a pretty good return of about eight. So I felt really good about that. And then of course it takes a while to convert them, but I'm 100% by mail to get started. And then we just kind of develop the relationship.”
Sherry says people who are currently renting their properties are typically not hard to convince.
“To be quite honest with the rentals, that's not a tough sale. A lot of times — especially if they live out of state — it's really easy picking. So I get their address right off of the tax records. So the information is publicly available, and I just contact them. And I get quite a few responses off of them.
“Whenever I have a contract in a certain area, I comb the tax records in that area and find possible leads. And I concentrate on those. Or if I want to go in a particular area, if I'm looking for more listings and that's what I'll do. I'll just focus on a particular area.”
In Missouri, tax sales are published in July, so that’s a prime time for Sherry to scout out potential clients.
“It's normally only several pages worth of property descriptions that are going to be sold on the court or on the courthouse steps in August, unless the taxes are paid. And a lot of those do not get bidders. So you'll see a lot of them that are first offering all the way through fourth offering. And so those are what I concentrate on. I especially do the first offering because a lot of times, certain business entities like landlords and stuff, they don't wanna pay their taxes until they're absolutely required to do so. So they will wait until about the third offering to pay it because they know that if somebody bids on it, well, they can just pay them anyway and save their investment. But the first offerings are generally people that seriously do not have the money to pay their taxes or have genuinely lost interest in the property. And those are the ones I get the best response.”
Sherry is selective about the properties she lists.
“A lot of those are not being paid because they're a tiny little triangle slice of land that they have to pay homeowner's association fees, and nobody's going to pay $5,000 for it. So I don't waste my time with those, obviously. But when it's in an area where there is a high demand for affordable rental housing there is a property that's sitting vacant or an unhappy landlord, by golly, I get excited about that because I can find somebody that can improve it. And if there is land in one of those areas that can be developed, I get real excited about it.”
Sherry has also benefited from a rental property she once owned.
“We have in Missouri, it's the Northeast Community Action Commission. They help with affordable rental housing, make payments. They offer a list of all the landlords. And I had a rental once in Montgomery City, and I signed up with them and they never did take my name off of the list after I've told them multiple times. So I still get renters calling me, asking me if my house is available. No, it was sold at like eight years ago, but there's a lot of individuals in there that have just one house or two houses. So that's another good means of finding disgruntled landlords that are interested in getting rid of their house.”