5 Proven Strategies for Finding Vacant Houses

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There’s no doubt that vacant, abandoned and forgotten houses are the #1 way to find the best deals and make money in the real estate investing market today, especially in competitive markets. There are houses sitting vacant, ready for a new beginning, on every block you drive down. Thousands of real estate investors across the country are buying these properties and using them as tools for financial freedom.

Since 2004 I’ve sent nearly 150,000 postcards, letters, and other direct mailers to motivated sellers. These sellers have homes they’ve inherited and don’t want, pre-foreclosures that they’re about to lose to the bank, delinquent real estate taxes, divorce, bankruptcy and other forms of distress and motivation.

Over the past 14 years we’ve perfected 5 Proven Strategies for finding vacant off market houses.

First, let’s review quickly what some signs that a house might be vacant in your market are:

  • Tall grass/weeds
  • No cars in driveway
  • If snow is on the ground, no tracks from cars or footprints
  • Notices taped to the door/windows
  • House appears empty and in disrepair
  • Visible utility shut off notices
  • Boarded up or broken windows
  • Power or gas meter gone

Now I want to share with you 5 PROVEN steps that can help you find the best vacant homes in your area before anyone else gets them.


Driving for Dollars

The number one FREE way to find a vacant house is driving for dollars. This is simply jumping in your vehicle and driving around neighborhoods looking for houses that might be vacant.

For many of us, we are in our car driving somewhere at least once a day – whether it’s going to work, running errands, taking the kids to school, etc. Every day, we are probably passing by vacant houses that we aren’t noticing because our mind is elsewhere. Now that you think about, tomorrow when you are on your way to the store, start being more aware of your surrounding neighborhoods and what potential deals might be right in front of you.

Maybe you can take a different route to work or drive down a new side street on the way to the gym each day. Always bring a notepad and pen with you so you can write down the address of the potential vacant property. On a good day, you should easily be able to find at least 20 vacant houses to go home and research.

Many investors are not willing to put in the extra work or not willing to take the extra time, but we’ve flipped dozens of houses we personally found driving for dollars.

Trust me, I’m not “TOO PROUD” to drive for dollars when I regularly make $15,000 to $50,000 from the vacant houses I find.

Property Scout/Bird Dog

A property scout is someone you hire or partner with to look for vacant houses for you. This can be any average person who might be looking for a little extra income. College kid, a work from home mother, realtor – anyone who wants to scout properties for extra cash.

The idea behind hiring property scouts is to free up your time to put deals together and work on building and scaling your business instead of working IN your business. Your time is much better spent making offers, but if you are just starting out, you will most likely be your own property scout for a while.

I usually pay a property scout $5 per lead they bring me. I require the address and four photos of the property. The pictures consist of the address, the street sign, a picture of the house and a photo proving the house is vacant – all time and date stamped.

For $5 more per property, the property scout can go to the local tax accessor’s website and find out who owns the property. They need to write down the owners name, address, and the numbers of beds and baths, square footage and tax assessed value of the potential deal. I don’t want to spend hours looking up owners, so it’s usually well worth it to have the property scout do this as well.

I have my scouts create a Google doc spreadsheet that they share with me so we can share all the information. Make sure as soon as a potential deal is found, you get the information about it quickly because time is of the essence when it comes to vacant properties. The first person to contact the owner usually always wins.

When we close a deal, I usually like to give my property scout a few hundred dollars as a bonus for the good find. If you do not have a large budget to pay property scouts, tell them you can pay $100/week for 20 leads/week.

I make sure to pay them within 1-2 days of when they turn in the leads. Everyone appreciates being paid in a timely manner and the better you treat them, the more leads they will bring you.The property scout will be a tax-deductible expense for you.

To find a property scout, create a posting on Craigslist that says something like “Property Scouts and House Hunters Wanted”. Give them a short job description of what you are expecting them to do. There are thousands of people looking for jobs right or some extra income; you should have no problem finding several to start working with.

Garage/Estate Sales

A great place to find a vacant house right BEFORE it becomes vacant is at a garage sale. When someone is going to move, many times they have a garage sale to get rid of their unwanted items. It never hurts to ask if they are looking to sell.

Estate sales are another good place to look. If you see an estate sale advertised, always write down the address. Going to the estate sale might not be the best use of your time because a lot of times the sales are run by a third-party company and heirs are not present. My suggestion is to look up the owner on record and send them a letter.

Postal Workers

In most cases, postal workers know where all of the vacant houses are. When a house is vacant, the post office stops sending mail to that address so the mail doesn’t pile up. When they do this, they put a vacant slip in the mailbox of that property.

You can contact local postal workers in the neighborhoods you are interested in buying in and ask them if they can provide you with a list of all vacant houses on their route. You can offer to pay them $5 a lead or work out a way to pay them for their time.


Last but not least, you must constantly advertise your business. I am consistently advertising and telling everyone I meet that I buy vacant houses. To advertise, you simply create signs that say “I Buy Vacant Houses” or “Cash For Houses” with your phone number.

Some places I suggest advertising this are:

  • Facebook (personal page and real estate groups)
  • In the local paper
  • Craigslist
  • Meet Up
  • REIA Clubs
  • In local grocery stores (they usually have free bulletin boards you can post on)
  • In local coffee shops (they usually have free bulletin boards you can post on)

To learn how to locate the property owners, determine your offer and much more, check out the incredible discount we are offering on one of our most comprehensive quick start systems to get you started cashing big profit checks fast.

In the Flip System, not only will I show you exactly how to locate and find vacant properties using these free and dead simple strategies, but I’ll also show you the techniques I use to flip these for quick cash. After flipping about 700 houses, we’ve perfected our investing system down to a simple 5 step system.

Be Daring,

Josh and the SREC Team

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