How To Find and Buy Distressed Properties

By Omar Popal, Production Associate

Distressed properties can be a great opportunity for real estate investors to turn a profit. These properties are often in need of repairs or renovations and can be purchased below market value. However, finding distressed properties can sometimes be a challenge. In this article, we will explore ways to identify distressed properties and turn them into profitable opportunities.

Understanding Distressed Properties: Common Causes

Distressed properties are real estate properties that are under financial, legal, or physical distress, resulting in significant undervaluation compared to other properties in the same market. These properties typically exhibit visible signs of neglect, such as structural issues, lack of maintenance, or legal burdens. Here are some of the most common reasons a property can become distressed:

    Foreclosure – The most common cause of distress is the owner defaulting on their mortgage leading to foreclosure. This usually results from financial hardship like job loss, medical bills, or similar life changing events.
    Bankruptcy – Owners filing for bankruptcy protection are often forced to sell distressed properties to pay off debts as part of bankruptcy proceedings.
    Neglected maintenance – Properties can fall into disrepair if owners lack the money or inclination to maintain their property properly over time.
    Over-leveraged investors – Real estate investors who take on too much debt and overpay can end up with distressed properties if their projects fail.
    Liens and legal issues – Properties with tax liens, title defects, pending litigation or probate proceedings can all contribute to distressed situations.
    Mortgage default – When an owner has fallen behind on mortgage payments and the lender has issued a default notice.
    Absentee owner – An out-of-town landlord has abandoned the property and is not managing or maintaining it.

Strategies for Finding Distressed Properties

Identifying distressed properties can be a challenge, but there are several signs to look out for. It is important to keep in mind that not all distressed properties are obvious. Some may be in good condition on the surface but have hidden issues that make them difficult to sell. Here are some effective strategies investors can use to find distressed properties:

    Driving for Dollars – One of the most popular strategies for finding distressed properties is to drive around neighborhoods and look for properties that appear to be in poor condition. This strategy is known as “driving for dollars.” Investors can make a list of properties and research ownership details to help gauge the situation.
    Direct Mail – Direct mail is an effective strategy in which investors send letters or personalized marketing collateral to homeowners who are behind on their mortgage payments or have properties that are in poor condition. The goal is to reach out to homeowners who may be interested in selling their properties.
    Websites – There are several websites that specialize in listing distressed properties. Notably, Zillow allows users to filter their searches for distressed properties like foreclosures and short sales. Additionally, sites like and PopStream offer detailed listings of foreclosed properties and information about distressed properties, assisting investors in their property search based on various criteria.
    Network with Real Estate Agents – Real estate agents are often the first to know when a property owner is facing financial hardship or other life events that may lead to having to sell a distressed property. By building relationships with knowledgeable agents, investors can help gain access to deals that have not yet hit the MLS.

Working Directly with Distressed Property Owners

Understanding the diverse profiles and situations of distressed property owners is crucial for comprehending the reasons behind property distress. Whether owners are facing financial setbacks, personal issues, or legal challenges, these owners often exhibit characteristics that can help investors analyze potential risks and the best strategy for approaching that particular seller.

For instance, owners of distressed properties are often highly motivated to sell, potentially at prices below-market value in order to improve their financial situation. The urgency of their circumstances creates negotiating opportunities for investors, especially when compared to traditional sellers. Additionally, owners facing legal issues such as foreclosures, tax liens, or inheritance disputes often encounter complex transactions. Investors who can navigate and resolve these issues can leverage their skillset to streamline the transaction, potentially securing discounts or better pricing. Above all, when dealing directly with distressed property owners, demonstrating empathy and emphasizing the importance of finding a beneficial solution for both parties, rather than exploiting their hardship, is key.

Purchasing Distressed Real Estate Properties

One of the benefits of buying distressed real estate is the potential of purchasing a property lower than the market value due to the state of disrepair. Investors willing to put in the work can often negotiate discounts on the sale price, which can make the property a great deal, however, careful evaluation before negation is crucial.

Evaluating a distressed property involves assessing its current value considering factors like mortgages, liens, and taxes, while estimating its post-repair potential. Careful inspection and local market knowledge can help determine a viable offer price, emphasizing the importance of conservative estimates for a safety margin. Additionally, it is important to keep in mind that most distressed properties are sold as-is and the seller is not responsible for any costs associated with repairs or renovations that need to be made.

In terms of financing, cash offers are preferred for their speed, especially as distressed sellers often seek swift property exits. Alternatively, investors can explore financing solutions such as hard money loans for speed and flexibility but at higher rates, or private money loans from reputable companies, like CoreVest Finance, accessible with a solid business plan. Each financing option caters to diverse investor preferences and financial capabilities, enabling a tailored approach to the unique demands of the distressed property market.

Bottom Line

Purchasing distressed properties is a strategic venture for real estate investors seeking profitable opportunities. By implementing a well-defined strategy, including careful evaluation of a property’s current value and post-repair potential, and gaining insights into the diverse profiles of distressed property owners, investors can successfully navigate any legal complexities and secure favorable deals. Additionally, success in distressed real estate requires a combination of sufficient resources, deep knowledge of the local market, and diligent project management. With these elements in place, investors can successfully navigate through the dynamic market of distressed properties, turning these opportunities into rewarding investments.

CoreVest is a market leader in rental loans, also known as DSCR loans, and has helped thousands of investors finance their properties and improve their holdings. For more information about how CoreVest can help you maximize the value of your rental or investment portfolios, please call Omar Popal at 415.687.3700 or email at [email protected].

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