The House Is Not for Sale—Can You Still Offer to Buy It?

May 14, 2022

There’s no “For Sale” sign on the front lawn and no listing online, so it’s safe to say that the adorable home that caught your eye is not for sale. Still, you can’t help but fantasize about owning it one day. It’s not technically on the market, but that doesn’t mean you can’t at least try to buy it. The worst the owners can say is no, right?

You can offer to buy a house that’s not for sale, but prepare yourself for rejection—or perhaps the owner asking for more than the estimated value of the home. But nothing’s stopping you from trying.

“If the seller has not been thinking about selling, they may want more than the market will bear just because … or they may not want to sell at all,” says Lana Lavenbarg, a Realtor® with Re/Max Ideal Brokers in Grants Pass, OR. “The best approach is to ask.”

How to put an offer on a house that’s not for sale

First, you should try to figure out why a property isn’t on the market; this will help you tailor your offer to the situation.

For example, if a property was previously listed, but the listing has expired or was withdrawn, it might mean that the owner was unhappy with the listing agent or the market’s response, or that the owner’s plans had changed. In this case, the owner might be more open to offers. You can either approach the owner directly or hire a real estate agent to approach the owner for you.

If a property is vacant, however, you or your real estate agent might need to do more legwork to track down the owner and determine if the property can even be sold. The home might be foreclosed on, condemned, or awaiting litigation—all situations that would affect whether or not the house could even be sold.

But if you have determined that a blind offer could sway the homeowners, think twice before directly approaching them with a cold letter.

“Most letters that are mailed are ignored,” says Kathryn Bishop, a Realtor with Keller Williams Realty in Studio City, CA. “You are competing with all of the ‘we’ll buy your ugly house’ letter campaigns that sellers throw away.”

Instead, she recommends you ask your real estate agent to present a specialized offer in writing with a letter explaining why you want to buy their house.

Of course, making an offer on a house you’ve seen only from the street means you could be missing crucial repairs that must be made. Perhaps the home needs a new roof or the downstairs bathroom has a nasty case of black mold that needs to be eradicated. The biggest risk is offering too much money for a house that has serious issues.

“When making an offer on an unlisted house, I always recommend that the buyer include an appraisal contingency,” says Bishop.

Be ready for rejection

Everything has its price, but when it comes to homes and people’s sentimental ties to them, sometimes money can’t compete. For some, no amount of money will be enough to hand over the keys to their property.

Bruce Ailion, a real estate agent and attorney with Re/Max Town and Country in Atlanta, was representing a buyer who had his eye on a piece of land and gave Ailion all the ammunition to go get the land, but the owner couldn’t be swayed.

“He had me deliver a contract without a price and blank check, subject to due diligence,” Ailion says. “That was rejected.”

So when you make an offer on a house that’s not for sale, do so with confidence but prepare yourself for the homeowner to say no.

If there’s a property you want that’s not on the market, it doesn’t hurt to go after it. After all, you’ll never know if you never try.

Written by: Julie Ryan Evans , Realtor.com  

Photo Credit: (in4mal/iStock

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