Than Merrill

How To Find Investment Properties Without The MLS
by Than Merrill

Real Estate Investing Business

The secret’s out: The MLS (multiple listings service) is a great tool for investors to reference in the event they are trying to find their next deal. If for nothing else, the sole purpose of the MLS is to find and identify properties for sale in a specific market. I have had a great deal of success finding deals on the MLS, and so have many of my colleagues, but I digress. The MLS is far from the only resource one can use to find and identify deals worth pursuing. The MLS isn’t the only option made available to investors, but rather a small piece in an otherwise extensive deal finding methodology.

If you want to become a truly great investor, you need broaden your horizons; you can’t rely solely on the MLS for finding investment properties. And while I fully condone using the MLS, it’s in your best interest to use it as a compliment to a more extensive strategy. Conversely, those that rely solely on the MLS will significantly limit the amount of deals they are made privy to. So, without further ado, let’s take a look at some of the best way real estate investors can find deals without having to rely on the MLS.


If you want to learn how to find investment properties without having to rely on the MLS, all you have to do is exercise a little forward thinking and mind due diligence. That said, there are a myriad of options made available to investors looking to find their next deal, the trick is to simply know where to look. I have had great luck implementing the following techniques, and there is no reason you shouldn’t:

1. Drive For Dollars

The aptly named driving for dollars technique is exactly what you would expect: investors physically drive neighborhoods looking for telltale signs of homes that could potentially represent their next deal. And while it may sound rudimentary, I maintain that it has produced great results for those with a keen eye.

As the name suggests, driving for dollars will have investors physically get in their cars and drive the streets of their respective neighborhood — or at least the neighborhood they intend to invest in. While driving, pay special considerations to the state of each property. Is the home obviously unoccupied? How well has the yard been maintained? Is it clear the owner has neglected to keep up with standard maintenance?

The idea is to keep an eye out for those homes that have been grossly neglected. And while it’s entirely possible the homeowner is simply incapable of maintaining the property, poor upkeep is typically an indicator that the home may be “weighing” on the respective owner. If that’s the case, there is no reason to believe the owners won’t at least entertain the idea of an offer. Who knows? Perhaps the next overgrown yard you come across will be a deal worth looking into.

2. Direct Mail

In a world dominated by emails and text messaging, hand written letters may come off as out-dated or — at the very least — antiquated. People have grown accustom to the immediate nature of correspondences sent through a mobile device or the internet. It’s worth noting, however, that the pendulum is starting to swing back in the other direction. While email has become a staple for those with immediate needs, the growing need for a more personalized message has witnessed the popularization of handwritten letters. That’s right, the same snail mail email was looking to make obsolete is in the midst of a resurgence — a renascence, if you will. People are more inclined to respond positively to a piece of direct mail that has been personalized in such a way that will trigger an emotional response.

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Perhaps it’s the impersonal nature of an email, or perhaps we are all just tired of being flooded with automated responses, but there is something personal about direct mail that can’t be replicated by an electronic form of communication. Having said that, you will find few investors that are a greater proponent of direct mail campaigns than myself. There is something about placing a physical letter in a homeowner’s hand that can’t be replicated by email.

Knowing full-well that direct mail is still a viable option for finding deals, I recommend investors give it a shot. Acquire a list of homeowners (this list could be absentee owners, out-of-state owners, or recent probate and eviction cases) and draft a short, concise letter stating your intentions. As with any marketing campaign, persistence will pay off more times than not. So while you may not get as many responses as you had hoped for on your first round of letters, keep at it. It’s been proven that people won’t respond till about the third or fourth letter they get from someone.

3. Network

We have all heard it before: real estate is a people business. It could be argued that the relationships you create over the course of your career are far and away your most valuable asset. And as such, there is no reason to believe that (provided you have aligned yourself with the right individuals) those closest to you won’t ever have a deal up their sleeves, or perhaps know someone that does. Point being: you will never know if someone in your network has a deal waiting in the wings if you never ask.

It’s in your best interest to make your intentions known. Don’t hesitate to inform those in your inner-circle that you are interested in finding a deal. It’s entirely possible that someone you have established a working rapport with will know of someone looking to sell. Again, it can’t hurt to ask.

That said, I recommend expanding your real estate investing network as much as humanly possible. Go to real estate investor meet up groups, attend meetings, and don’t hesitate to hold some networking meetings of your own. Make your best effort to put yourself in front of likeminded individuals in your own industry and the dividends will likely make themselves known.

It’s absolutely imperative, however, that your efforts to network are proceeded by a selfless approach. In networking to those you are meeting for the first time, I recommend offering your services before asking for anything in return. You will find people are more likely to reciprocate their kindness if they know you are willing to do the same.

Understanding how to find investment properties has more to do with exercising a number of different funnels than it does with mastering one. The best real estate investors are aware that their next deal could come from anywhere, and the only way to cover all your corners is to commit to multiple marketing funnels. The minute you relegate your search to one medium (like the MLS), you will essentially limit your potential before you even get started. Take it from me: the more marketing funnels you can create for your investment business, the easier it will be to learn how to find investment properties.

Than Merrill
Than Merrill, the star of A&E's "Flip This House" and founder of his own real estate company and CT Homes, LLC is one of the most successful real estate investors in the nation. Than is currently buying between 9 and 10 properties every single month and in the past five years he has bought and sold a total of over 350 properties nationwide.

Than is typically referred to as the "Marketing Maven" and he coaches over 2000 active real estate investors around the country. The key to his student's rapid success and his company's exponential growth is the turn key marketing and business systems he has developed which help his students generate leads from both buyers and sellers.

Than's systems are some of the most advanced in the industry and his students around the country are experiencing unheard of success by using the systems he teaches. Than's mantra is derived from the belief that "Business Process Automation" is the key to insuring guaranteed success in any marketplace. Than is totally committed to helping other investors obtain financial freedom by teaching them the principles of smart investing.

Than Merrill is a graduate of Yale University and a former NFL football player. After a very successful college football career, he played two years with the Chicago Bears and Tampa Bay Buccaneers before moving into a career in real estate development. Than Merrill is a national speaker for many Real Estate Investment Clubs around the country and has shared the platform with some of the top speakers in the country including Donald Trump, Tony Robbins and Robert Kiyosaki at the Learning Annex events.

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