There’s no getting around it: Buying a home is expensive. And if you’re a first-time homebuyer, rising home prices can be discouraging. But there’s good news: It’s possible to learn how to find cheap houses.
Here are 17 ways you can find cheap homes for sale.
1. Look For Homes Slow To Sell
Sellers whose homes have sat on the market for a while might be willing to accept a lower offer.
“Try to keep an eye on listings that have either expired or been taken off the market,” says Eric Robb, owner of Robb Realty Group in Atlanta. “These properties are often relisted at a lower price. If you find a hidden gem like that, then you get the opportunity to score a perfect deal.”
Even if the home isn’t relisted at a lower price, the seller might be more receptive to a lower offer if they haven’t received any reasonable offers or are itching to ditch the property.
2. Look For As-Is Homes
“Most of the quality deals on the market right now are the ones that need a renovation, but buyers gloss over them because they think doing a renovation is complicated,” says Holly Meyer Lucas, founding agent of the Meyer Lucas Team at Compass, a real estate company, in Jupiter, Florida. “It’s not as complex as buyers think it is.”
3. Look For Vacant Homes
A home without occupants might look neglected from the outside. But with a little polish, a cheaper vacant home can turn out to be a diamond in the rough.
Homes may be vacant for a number of reasons. Job circumstances sometimes require a homeowner to move before they can sell their property. In other cases, the original homeowner may have died and left the property to an heir who hasn’t had the opportunity to sell it yet.
If you spot a home that you like and you think it’s vacant, start by looking up the owner’s name and contact information in local property tax records. Reach out to them to find out more about the property and to let the owner know you’re interested in buying.
4. Look For Inherited Homes
Inherited homes can be a burden for the owner’s heirs. Many simply lack the time to prepare the home for the market and put it up for sale. And since they didn’t buy the property themselves, they might be willing to part with it for a reasonable sum in a quick sale.
Start by looking at obituaries in your search area. Try to contact the family to see if they are willing to sell. While this might not be the most comfortable approach for you, consider that you might be offering the family a chance to get rid of an unwanted property without the stress of listing it and finding a buyer.
5. Look Up For-Sale-by-Owner Listings
For-sale-by-owner listings often present an opportunity for buyers to get a relatively good deal.
“As the seller doesn’t need to pay the typical 5%-6% commission fees, this cost reduction allows them to price the home lower than similar properties listed with agents,” Robb says. “Also, the sellers of FSBO homes are often highly motivated to sell, and the opportunity to negotiate directly with the seller offers more flexibility to the buyers.”
6. Expand Your Search Area
If you can’t afford to buy in the specific neighborhood you’d like to live in, consider widening your search. You could find a more affordable option in the surrounding area.
“Consider looking for suburbs and towns outside of major cities that may offer houses at more affordable rates,” says Keith Sant, founder and CEO of Kind House Buyers in Tacoma, Washington. “Additionally, look into rural and suburban areas, as they tend to be cheaper in comparison to metropolitan areas.”
7. Reach Out to Your Network
It doesn’t hurt to tell friends, family, or colleagues that you’re in the market to buy a home — and ask if they know of any affordable homes for sale.
“It’s possible your friend’s aunt is selling their home and it just went up and that you could sneak in to make the first offer,” says Eric Nerhood, a real estate agent and owner of Premier Property Buyers, based in Seal Beach, California. “Networking is helpful when it comes to finding a cheaper home because you can hear about houses for sale through the grapevine, allowing you to get a first chance at putting in an offer, or even lucking into a private sale.”
8. Talk To Local Real Estate Professionals
A good real estate professional will have a clear understanding of the local market. If you’re looking for a good deal, it’s worth consulting an experienced and trustworthy real estate agent.
“Collaborating with an experienced real estate agent who specializes in the local market can be immensely helpful in finding cheap houses,” says Dustin Singer, owner of Dustin Buys Houses in Bethel Park, Pennsylvania. “They have access to a wide range of listings — including off-market properties — and can guide you through the negotiation process. A skilled agent will understand your budget constraints and preferences, helping you identify suitable options that offer good value for your money.”
9. Ask Property Owners Directly
Don’t be afraid to ask around the neighborhood to find someone who is selling. You never know who might be looking to sell their property.
“Personal interaction can go a long way,” says Eric Bramlett, a Realtor and owner of Bramlett Residential in Austin, Texas. “I remember knocking on the door of a seemingly run-down property during an early morning jog in my neighborhood. The owner happened to be an elderly gentleman who was looking to sell but hadn’t listed the property yet. We struck up a conversation, and one thing led to another, and my client ended up buying the house at a price significantly lower than the market rate.”
10. Look For Short Sales
A short sale occurs when a homeowner is unable to afford their mortgage, and the lender allows them to sell the home for less than the outstanding mortgage balance. This lets the owner get out of a bad situation, and the lender avoids the need to foreclose. Short sales present a good opportunity for buyers looking to purchase cheap homes.
11. Look For Foreclosed Properties
If a home is foreclosed on, the lender will be looking to recoup its losses quickly, giving sharp buyers a chance to get a good deal. While you might run into more upfront repairs when you buy a foreclosed home, this can be worth it if you snag a property for the right price.
“Foreclosures can be a great way to find a cheap house,” Sant says. “These homes are typically offered at deep discounts so buyers can get more bang for their buck.”
You can find foreclosed homes with the help of a real estate agent, or you can head to the next foreclosure auction in your area.
12. Check Government Programs
Government programs can help qualified buyers find a cheap house. A few options to consider include:
- Good Neighbor Next Door. This Department of Housing and Urban Development program offers discounts of up to 50% off the home’s list price to eligible buyers. Buyers must work in certain professions, such as law enforcement or teaching, and purchase a home in a qualifying area. Plus, you must commit to living in the home for at least 36 months.
- Dollar Homes. This HUD program lets qualified low-income families purchase select bank-owned — also known as real estate owned, or REO — homes for $1. The REO home must have a market value of less than $25,000 and been listed on the market unsold for at least six months.
13. Consider Cheaper Types of Homes
If a single-family home doesn’t fall within your budget, consider other types of homes that are less expensive, such as condominiums and townhouses. You also might consider a smaller home, or even a tiny home. By doing so, you might find plenty of affordable housing choices in your preferred location.
14. Look For Undervalued Homes
As you understand your local real estate market, you’ll learn the typical price for homes in the area — and might be able to quickly spot good deals in new listings.
Stumbling on a mismatch between the going market rate and the listing price presents an opportunity to buy a home for less. If you find an undervalued home, move quickly — before others find the deal.
15. Check Auctions and Sheriff’s Sales
In some areas, you can find regular auctions and sheriff’s sales of homes. If the homeowner is in a difficult financial situation, it’s possible to find a good deal at auction.
Before heading to an auction, do your homework. Find out as much as you can about a property. With the information you have, determine how much you’re willing to pay. In the heat of bidding, do your best to stick with your predetermined spending cap.
16. House Hacking
House hacking presents an unusual way to make homeownership more affordable. The idea is that you buy a bigger home than you need and then rent out the extra space to offset your costs.
For example, you can buy a duplex where you live in one unit and rent out the other, using the tenant’s payments to lower your housing costs. If you don’t want to buy a multifamily property, you could rent out extra rooms in your home through a short-term rental service like Airbnb or Vrbo.
You also could consider buying a house with a friend.
17. Look For Rent-to-Own Agreements
Some sellers agree to rent-to-own arrangements. That means you rent the property for a set period of time and pay extra rent that will be credited toward a down payment if you buy the home at the end of your lease.
Rent-to-own agreements are unusual and hard to find, but they offer a creative way to buy a home for cheap.
FAQ: Ways To Find a Cheap House To Buy
Here are the answers to frequently asked questions about how to find cheap homes for sale.
How much money you need to buy a house varies dramatically. In some areas, you may be able to buy an entire house with $50,000. In other areas, $50,000 might not be enough for a down payment.
The cost of building a house versus buying a house varies by location. If you’re considering building a house, getting quotes from a few contractors will help you determine which option is more affordable in your location.
The Bottom Line on Finding a Cheap House To Buy
Even when home prices are increasing, it’s still possible to buy a cheap house. As you test several strategies and navigate the homebuying process, do your best to be patient. Finding a cheap house to buy likely won’t happen overnight. But if you stick with it, you might find the right home to buy at a price that fits your budget.