How to Find Motivated Property Sellers

How to Find Motivated Property Sellers
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Learn how to find motivated property sellers as a real estate buyer.

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In real estate, a “motivated seller” is an individual or entity eager to sell their property swiftly. This urgency to sell can stem from various circumstances, ranging from personal financial strains to a desire to quickly liquidate assets. Typically, these sellers may be prepared to negotiate terms more flexibly, possibly accepting lower offers, to expedite the sales process.

Understanding the motivations driving a seller can be crucial for buyers, as it can influence their offer. While a motivated seller may be driven by factors such as divorce or the urgent need for cash flow, real estate agents may label a client as “motivated” to encourage potential buyers to make faster, perhaps lower offers. This strategy can generate a psychological effect, potentially leading to a transaction favorable for both parties.

Importance of finding motivated sellers

Transactions with motivated sellers can offer a faster closing time, fewer complications regarding contract contingencies, and immediate equity if the property is purchased below market value. Additionally, identifying a motivated seller early can allow a buyer to act quickly, gaining an advantage in competitive real estate markets where timing can be everything.

Understanding motivated sellers

Financial challenges, including the risk of bankruptcy or foreclosure, can turn a homeowner into a motivated seller, sometimes leading them to sell at below-market prices to avoid negatively impacting their credit report. Major life events, such as divorce or the need to relocate due to job transfers, can also pressure owners to expedite the sale of their homes.

However, some people might just want a swift transaction without the long hassle of a sale process. 

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Common signs of a motivated seller

Discerning whether a seller is truly motivated can involve examining both the language used in listings and tangible cues during property viewings. 

  • Phrases like “motivated seller” in real estate ads can sometimes be a tactic recommended by real estate agents, especially if they are unable to convince the seller to set a realistic asking price, resorting to encouraging offers below the list price.
  • Physical signs can be more telling. For instance, a vacant house suggests the owner has possibly moved on, bearing the financial burden of two properties. This scenario could lead to a level of desperation to sell off the old home. 
  • Other indicators could be signs of cosmetic neglect like overgrown lawns or clear signals that the home’s capacity exceeds the needs of current occupants, such as empty bedrooms in the home of empty nesters.
  • Additionally, when a seller openly shares information about the property’s defects—like basement floods or roof leaks—and has no intention of undertaking repairs, they are likely lacking resources for maintenance and shouldering the desire for a quick sale.

Methods to find motivated sellers

Real estate investors understand the value of identifying motivated sellers to secure properties at favorable terms. But where can you find them? Here are some popular methods. 

1. Driving for dollars

Driving for Dollars, often referred to as “D4D,” involves real estate investors canvassing neighborhoods in search of properties that exhibit signs of distress, such as poor maintenance, overgrown lawns, or boarded windows. This hands-on approach not only allows for the collection of real-time data unavailable online but also provides the opportunity to meet property owners face-to-face, fostering a direct connection that can lead to a transaction. 

2. Networking with real estate professionals

Networking remains a vital tactic for sourcing leads in the real estate industry. Building relationships with other professionals, such as real estate agents, brokers, attorneys, and contractors, can yield referrals and insider knowledge on properties before they hit the open market. Networking can be conducted through business events, community involvement, or digital platforms like LinkedIn.

3. Direct mail marketing

Another method to reach motivated sellers is through targeted direct mail campaigns. By personalizing mailings with compelling messaging and eye-catching designs, investors can capture the attention of property owners. Sending out a series of follow-up letters in addition to the initial contact can enhance response rates and create brand recognition among potential sellers.

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4. Attending code violation hearings

Trips to the local municipality to attend code violation hearings can yield profitable leads. Property owners struggling to bring their properties up to code may be attracted to the quick exit that a wholesaler can provide, potentially below market value.

5. Working with bird doggers

Bird doggers act as the eyes and ears for real estate investors, scouting for potential investment properties, often distressed or undervalued, and presenting these finds for a fee or commission upon closing. This relationship is pivotal for investors seeking deals with significant margins, as it leverages the bird doggers’ on-the-ground efforts and local market knowledge. With bird dog fees typically ranging from $500 to $1,000 per closed deal, this collaboration can be quite lucrative for the birddogger and beneficial for the investor.

Due to the nature of the work, which doesn’t require capital investment in properties, bird dogging poses a low-risk and low-commitment opportunity for those looking to gain exposure to the real estate industry. At the same time, it does require a certain level of acumen; bird doggers must stay attuned to market trends and educate themselves continuously to identify properties that will appeal to investors.

6. Using public records

One of the foundational tactics in finding motivated sellers involves scouring public records. Real estate investors can uncover a wealth of information about potential real estate transactions by accessing these records. Information such as prior sale price, tax assessments, and current ownership are available, often for free, through resources like PropertyShark, HomeInfoMax, and Zillow. Buyers can also directly contact the assessor’s office or search online using a property’s tax map ID number obtained from public databases.

7. Lead provider services

Lead provider services can supply investors with lists of leads that meet specific criteria, such as homeowners in pre-foreclosure, behind on taxes, or those who inherited properties. By outsourcing the lead generation process, investors can free up time to focus on the negotiation and acquisition aspects of their business.

Online search through property sites

Real estate websites such as Ownerly, Trulia, and PropStream provide vast databases of property listings. Investors can leverage these platforms to try and identify sellers, even those properties on the verge of foreclosure or marked as ‘Make Me Move.’ The convenience and reach of online property sites could uncover a myriad of potential deals.

Finding motivated sellers on Ownerly

Savvy investors can spot motivated sellers on Ownerly by looking for listings that have been on the market longer than average—today, even 30 days could imply motivation. Sellers may become frustrated with the lack of activity and thus may be open to lower offers or terms they previously wouldn’t have considered. Also, properties that have been listed, delisted, and then re-listed can also be indicative of a seller who’s ready to move on, possibly due to a failed prior transaction or an unresolved issue that has since been corrected.

Finding motivated sellers on Propstream

For investors willing to invest in a subscription service, Propstream can offer structured and detailed data that can help find sellers quickly. The ability to create targeted lists by stacking criteria such as pre-foreclosure, pre-probate, or divorce status can pinpoint those who may be ready to sell under pressure. This strategic approach can filter down to the sellers most likely to respond positively to any offer made.

Finding motivated sellers on Craigslist

Craigslist can be a goldmine for discovering motivated sellers who may be looking to sell quickly without the assistance of a real estate agent, often as a last resort. Regularly monitoring the real estate section for new or long-standing listings and tailoring notifications for such updates can lead to potential deals.

Each of these methods can be integral in developing a well-rounded strategy for locating motivated sellers. Investors might employ a combination of approaches to enhance their chances of finding promising leads and expanding their real estate portfolio.


Motivated sellers are often looking to rapidly close transactions, offering investors the potential for below-market purchases and value-added deals. As real estate markets evolve, the finely honed skill of locating these sellers could make the difference between an average investment and a highly lucrative one.Using online listings and lead provider services offers technologically driven approaches, while networking with real estate professionals presents a more relationship-based angle. Incorporating these strategies can benefit investors by helping streamline the process of finding motivated sellers and improve their odds in competitive markets. 

Disclaimer: The above is solely intended for informational purposes and in no way constitutes legal advice or specific recommendations.