• Low housing inventory will slow housing sales for at least another year.
  • Agents sometimes have a tough go drumming up homes for their buyers.
  • Agents have successfully found homes for their buyers when none were for sale by reaching out to homeowners in neighborhoods their buyer wants to be in and other tactics.

Savvy real estate agents can almost always find homes for their buyers — even in markets where the supply of homes for sale is as scarce as California water.

Agents are smart to hone these skills because the yearslong inventory shortage emerging from the housing collapse will continue to hamper the housing market for at least another year, according to realtor.com Chief Economist Jonathan Smoke.

Smoke had one tip for buyer’s agents in listing-starved markets: Wait for the offseason.

Housing data shows that in recent years inventory remains at a roughly constant level year-round; agents can increase the chances of buyers finding a home by advising them to hunt in the late fall and winter, when demand generally wanes.

However, some agents have buyers itching for a home now.

For them, Inman presents the seller-hunting secrets 11 agents recently shared on a Raise The Bar in Real Estate public Facebook group post.

Knock on doors

I door-knock in specific neighborhoods for my clients. I deliver a letter from my buyers about why they want to live there. — Amanda DeBord, agent, Infiniti Realty Partners, McKinney, Texas

Unlisted? No problem — contact the owners 

Last year, I had a client looking for land in a particular area, and we were having a hard time finding anything suitable. We drove around, saw some unlisted lots they liked, and I wrote to all of the owners to see if anyone wanted to sell.

Out of five potential lots, I got two responses. My clients settled on one and have built a gorgeous 10,000-square-foot home. — Kelly Normand, agent, Century 21 New Millennium, Gainesville, Virginia

Become a property troll

I troll properties that have been under contract for a while to see if they will do a backup offer; I also hunt terminated and expired listings. Before contacting, I do a bit of research on the listing and property to figure out if it will work. — Danielle Sharp, agent, Sharp Homes Realty, Cape Coral, Florida

Tell homeowners/prospective sellers a story

We narrow down a specific neighborhood or area our clients want and write a handwritten notecard. We tell the story of the buyer and include their names.

This way the homeowner knows this is a real story, with real people, a real situation. — Nyssa Smith, agent, Keller Williams Advantage Realty, State College, Pennsylvania

Make your own “off-market MLS”

Play fetch — err, lead-gen — yourself

The one use I’ve found for nearly two years of home valuation landing pages is to cross-reference buyer requests. Because truly, what I wanted to do in life is make a miniature off-market MLS. I think most teams, and many brokerages of all sizes, are doing this out of necessity.

If I were an agent with a list of ready-to-go buyers in a good-sized office, I’d go around to all the agents who have dabbled with home valuation sites and offer to buy their cold “leads” for a keg of beer and a bag of pretzels. Then I’d pick up the phone or start door-knocking with the profiles of real live buyers. It’s work, but that agent would sell some real estate. — Leslie Ebersole, agent, Baird & Warner Real Estate, St. Charles, Illinois

Look off the beaten path

Agents can find more for-sale-by-owner listings themselves by driving on different roads than they normally would on a regular basis. Look off the beaten path. — Barbara Calabrese, broker-owner, Magic Garden Realty, Ithaca, New York

Keep a secret list of FSBOs

I keep a running list of for-sale-by-owner listings that I have seen advertised. I share the list only with my buyers — they are like secret houses that I save just for them. I feel so guilty. Jodi Beekman, agent, Keller Williams Capital Partners Realty, Worthington, Ohio

Return to listings past

I call 2- and 3-year-old expired listings. They wanted to sell at one time. I tell them: I have not found a home that my buyers want. Dave Woodson, agent, Buy NWi, Valparaiso, Indiana

Crowdsource ‘coming soon’ listings

Buyers who are dead-set on an area can be very good at sourcing properties. They hear from a friend of a friend, drive and see a “coming soon” sign. They’ll pass the info on to us and we’ll get the full details.

If it’s not a fit for them, we’ll ask permission to share it with other clients. — Danny Dietl, agent, Brix Real Estate, Minneapolis

Infiltrate neighborhood Facebook pages

A lot of neighborhoods have set up their own community Facebook pages. We found a homeowner who was considering selling in one of them — a perfect match for one of our buyer clients.

I called the owner directly and we worked out a deal. — Joe Rath, Redfin market manager, Cleveland

Show homeowners the money

I have a “farm” in my town here in Poulsbo, an area that is wildly popular. Whenever I get a client looking for the “Norwegian vintage” home that seems to be popular, I start calling homeowners or go knock on their doors. I know the homes all have at least 50 percent equity (others I leave alone).

I sold a home like this and truly have a waiting list for the next one to come on the market within certain boundaries, close to town. I have a letter right now I’m getting ready to mail that also has my buyer’s signature and a copy of their preapproval.

I get all kinds of crap email from real estate agents who say they have a buyer for my home … blah blah blah. — Kj Lange, agent, John L. Scott Real Estate, Poulsbo, Washington

Email Paul Hagey.

Editor’s note: Responses have been edited for clarity and style.

Show Comments Hide Comments
Sign up for Inman’s Morning Headlines
What you need to know to start your day with all the latest industry developments
By submitting your email address, you agree to receive marketing emails from Inman.
Thank you for subscribing to Morning Headlines.
Back to top
Only 3 days left to register for Inman Connect Las Vegas before prices go up! Don't miss the premier event for real estate pros.Register Now ×
Limited Time Offer: Get 1 year of Inman Select for $199SUBSCRIBE×
Log in
If you created your account with Google or Facebook
Don't have an account?
Forgot your password?
No Problem

Simply enter the email address you used to create your account and click "Reset Password". You will receive additional instructions via email.

Forgot your username? If so please contact customer support at (510) 658-9252

Password Reset Confirmation

Password Reset Instructions have been sent to

Subscribe to The Weekender
Get the week's leading headlines delivered straight to your inbox.
Top headlines from around the real estate industry. Breaking news as it happens.
15 stories covering tech, special reports, video and opinion.
Unique features from hacker profiles to portal watch and video interviews.
Unique features from hacker profiles to portal watch and video interviews.
It looks like you’re already a Select Member!
To subscribe to exclusive newsletters, visit your email preferences in the account settings.
Up-to-the-minute news and interviews in your inbox, ticket discounts for Inman events and more
1-Step CheckoutPay with a credit card
By continuing, you agree to Inman’s Terms of Use and Privacy Policy.

You will be charged . Your subscription will automatically renew for on . For more details on our payment terms and how to cancel, click here.

Interested in a group subscription?
Finish setting up your subscription