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How To Find Absentee Owners For Real Estate Deals

When it comes to growing your real estate investing business, the quality of leads you generate can help you scale very quickly — or leave you spinning your wheels for years.

Because while most investors are able to build a list of leads and get people raising their hands saying, “sure, I might want to sell my home”, it doesn’t mean they’re actually going to sell.

What typically happens, instead, is that you spend months trying to convince them to sell when they never intended to, in the first place, and were only interested in seeing what they could get for their home.

Which, if you’ve ever experienced that (and you probably have), you know how incredibly frustrating it can be to feel like you have a potential deal on the hook — only to get ghosted after.

There’s a simple solution to this massive problem, though: lists of highly motivated sellers.

And one of the best ways to uncover higher seller motivation levels is by focusing on absentee owners who aren’t as emotionally attached to the property — and more open to actually selling the home.

To kick things off…

What is an Absentee Owner?

In terms of real estate investing, an “absentee owner” is anyone who owns a property but doesn’t actually occupy the property full-time as their primary residence.

This could be anyone who has purchased the home as a second (or vacation) property, or even as an income-generating investment property.

Many times, the owners will live out-of-state, and sometimes even out of the country.

These properties may either be left vacant or be occupied by tenants as either short-term or long-term rentals but, for the purpose of this guide, we’re going to focus on vacant properties since they’re typically the easiest to purchase.

The Different Types of Absentee Owners

Since there are a number of reasons that property owners become absentee owners, making sure that your marketing message is targeted to their specific goals is critical.

To ensure that the marketing you do is as effective as possible (saving you time AND money), you need to understand what motivates absentee owners to consider selling their properties.

This will help ensure you’re targeting each of them properly and with the right message which, in marketing terms, helps ensure your messaging resonates with them and generates calls.

It also means that the chances of you converting those leads into calls, then into prospects and prospects into deals, significantly increases.

Here’s the 4 main types of absentee owners and what motivates them to want to sell:

  • Short Term Rentals — STR owners, or short-term rentals, especially those who bought during the pandemic may have gone over their budget in order to purchase the properties. That, along with local municipalities implementing laws and ordinances making short-term rental properties harder to own and operate, creates amazing opportunities for you as an investor.
  • Long Term Rentals — Longer-term rental properties are another great opportunity because you can often find owners who are ready to shift their business model away from rentals. Cashing out the equity they’ve built up in the properties and getting away from being a landlord can be incredibly motivating — especially when you put the right offer in front of them.
  • Inherited Homes — Homes that were inherited after a family member passed away also make great opportunities for you as an investor. Many times, the new owners of these homes are facing significant stress in their lives and the probate process can take years to work through, which means they’ll be more inclined to listen to your offer in an effort to alleviate their stress.
  • Vacation Homes — When property owners purchase a second home to use as a vacation property and then face budget crunches at home, their vacation property is typically the first expense that gets cut. This means you can help them escape the financial pressure, let them cash out their equity, and get a great deal on the property at the same time.

If you keep each of these motivating factors in mind while you’re planning your marketing campaigns, you’ll have an easier time generating highly-motivated seller leads that close at higher rates.

Why Absentee Owners Are Great Prospects

To grow and scale your real estate investing business, you need to ensure you’re plugging the right leads in so you’re spending less time, money, and energy turning them into prospects.

Finding leads that already have the motivation to sell is how you accomplish that goal — it’s significantly easier to ask them to sign on the dotted line when you already know they want to sell their home.

And when it comes to finding motivated sellers, absentee owners are some of the best prospects because they’re typically not emotionally attached to the property, don’t actually live in it, and are usually looking for ways to get out from underneath it.

All of that translates to scenarios where you’re able to make an offer while speaking directly to what’s motivating them to sell.

The first step in speaking to those motivations is understanding the frustrations that live underneath each one of them, so you can show them how you’ll alleviate those frustrations.

Here’s some of the scenarios that cause absentee owners to want to sell their properties:

  • Landlord Fatigue — Being a landlord does have its perks, but it also comes with a ton of headache and frustration that many investors don’t realize until they’ve started renting their properties. These headaches can grow over time, creating what’s known as “landlord fatigue” which can make owners motivated to sell.
  • Poor Rental ROI — When markets shift and rents in the area start to drop, it often becomes unaffordable to maintain the mortgage on the property. If this happens, property owners may look to liquidate and cash out any equity that their tenants have helped them build so they can put that money into other investing models.
  • Legislation / Ordinances — Changes in local ordinances and laws can also affect how profitable or frustrating it is to own a property in that area. This is especially true with ordinances and laws around short-term rental properties. As those laws change, seller motivations change with them, making these great opportunities as an investor.
  • Little (Or No) Emotional Attachment — When property owners only see the home as an investment property and not a primary residence, there tends to be little-to-no emotional attachment to it, which makes it significantly easier to sell when they get a good offer.
  • No Longer Affordable — If the property is the owner’s 2nd or 3rd home, especially a vacation home, and they’re forced to tighten their budgets, these properties tend to be the first to go. You can alleviate the pressure they’re feeling by purchasing the property from them and getting them out from under the mortgage they hold on it.
  • No Desire To Own The Property — When someone inherits a property, whether a family member passed and left it to them or in some sort of contract arrangement, the chances of them wanting to keep the property are relatively low. That means you have a great opportunity to secure the home.

Now, just because the owner is an absentee owner doesn’t necessarily mean that they’re going to immediately sell their property to you. But it does increase the chances they’ll be motivated to sell.

How To Find Absentee Owners in Any Market

Once you understand who you’re looking for and why they might be motivated to sell their property to you, the next step is building lists of absentee owners in the market you want to work in.

And since you’re looking to find motivated sellers, you might also want to look into finding foreclosed homes, vacant properties, and distressed properties, too.

To get started finding absentee owners (as well as others), there’s a few strategies you can use:

Driving For Dollars

Since real estate investing is a “people business”, driving for dollars and connecting with people in your local area is one of the best ways to uncover potential investment properties.

When you’re out driving for dollars and connecting with people, there’s a few clues you can look for to determine a property is owned by an absentee owner:

  • When it comes to finding vacation homes, you’re looking for signs that show the property isn’t being used during the offseason. You’ll also notice that the property has more personalization and customization that shows it’s loved.
  • In terms of short-term rental properties, you’re looking for things like digital door locks to let you know it’s being used as an AirBnB, VRBO, or similar.
  • When you’re looking for long-term rentals, you’ll want to look for “For Rent” signs in the yard or homes with basic landscaping, simple decor, and minimal curb appeal. These are all signs that the property is a rental unit.

If you’ve never gone driving for dollars before and want to learn more about this highly-effective strategy, check out the video below:

Also, to make your driving for dollars even more effective, you’ll want to consider using direct mail.

Leaving behind direct mail pieces (either door hangers or mailers) is a great way to let the property owner know you may be interested in making an offer on the home.

Then, all you have to do is make sure you’re available to answer the calls as they start coming in.

Which, if you aren’t going to be available to answer those calls, you’ll want to use a call answering service like Call Porter to make sure you aren’t missing opportunities you’ve worked so hard to generate.

Long-Term Rental Lists

Finding owners that may be facing landlord fatigue is relatively straightforward. To get started, you’ll want to check out popular websites like Craigslist and Facebook Marketplace for rental properties.

The key here, though, is making sure that you’re looking for properties that have been submitted by individual landlords instead of property management companies.

Property management companies tend to help reduce landlord fatigue which eliminates one of the biggest motivating factors for absentee landlords to want to sell.

Research Tax Records

You can build lists of potential leads by contacting your local tax assessor’s office and requesting a database of properties in the market you want to invest in.

Then, you can match the owner’s name in the database to the property’s address to determine who may own the property without actually living in it.

Once you’ve uncovered absentee owners, you can start sending direct mail or cold calling them to begin the conversation and find out if they’ll entertain your offer.

Purchase a List

You can also purchase lists of absentee owners from data brokers or lead generation services.

While it’s easy to purchase these lists, you do want to make sure that the data is up-to-date and hasn’t been resold dozens (or even hundreds) of times.

You’ll also want to make sure you can use filtering criteria such as the home’s value, equity in the property, length of ownership, and other factors that will help make your marketing message even more targeted.

Or, if you want to ensure that your leads are exclusive to you and haven’t been resold, consider using a tool like Propstream to build your lead lists.

Cold Calling

Cold calling is still one of the best ways to get in touch with absentee owners.

The key to making cold calling work, though, is by making sure you’re using a proven cold calling script so each time someone answers the phone you’re able to quickly introduce yourself and guide the conversation forward as confidently as possible.

Then, if someone doesn’t answer the phone, you’ll want to leave a voicemail and possibly even send a text message letting them know how to get in touch with you.

But, with this strategy, you’ll want to make sure you’re either able to answer the phone when they return your call (typically during the evening hours) or that you’re using a call answering service like Call Porter.

Call Porter uses trained real estate professionals to answer your incoming calls, fielding and qualifying the prospects that call in and then booking appointments directly to your calendar.

That means you get to spend more of your time focusing on generating more leads and moving prospects through your pipeline without having to sit around and wait for the phone to ring.

Or potentially letting missed opportunities slip through the cracks because you missed a call from a hot prospect wanting to know more about how you can help them.

Final Thoughts

When you use the strategies we’ve broken down for you in this guide, you know who you’re looking for and what would motivate them to sell their home, finding motivated absentee owners is a lot easier to do.

Since it’s ultimately a numbers game and real estate investing is a “people business”, make sure you’re giving each lead that comes through your business the white glove service you would expect to receive.

Making Call Porter a key part of your marketing system is one of the best ways to ensure their calls are getting answered as quickly as possible — and that you’re able to meet with them just as quickly, too.