In a previous life, I was a real estate agent. I dabbled in investments—a rental property here, an easy flip there—but I never felt quite ready to take the investor plunge.
And after being in the Florida real estate market for twenty years, I thought it would be easy.
Everyone knows that Florida is extraordinarily diverse. From Key West to Jacksonville, you have to know your market. Moving from real estate directly to investing was a tremendous culture shock for me.
Why? Because suddenly I was a real estate professional without any leads!
As an agent, my leads always came to me. But my perspective as an investor was different. Didn’t I have to spend all my time chasing down leads?
Finding Quality Real Estate Leads in Florida
One of the challenges of finding quality real estate leads in Florida is that the state is so large and diverse. There aren’t just unique markets within the state; there are unique markets within each county. Basically, what works in one market may not work in another.
The Florida real estate market is also extremely competitive. If you’re chasing down a lead from a list, other investors are, too.
Many investors start out by buying lists: expired listings, distressed properties, FSBO homes, etc. But you’re not purchasing exclusive interest in a list. Everyone else has the same list as well. Not only may the information already be outdated, but you’re in competition with every other newbie investor in the region.
Even worse, these lists can be expensive. Now you’re paying for leads that aren’t fresh and require a lot of work to secure. Great real estate investors in Florida start with lead lists, but the most successful ones don’t stick with them for too long.
The Top Lead List Services in Florida
Leads in a market like Florida are a precious commodity. You aren’t going to find a lot of publicly available lists and the ones you do find are likely to be saturated. Here are a few sources that actually work.
Zillow’s Foreclosure Listings
Zillow does maintain a list of foreclosures, although the problem here is obvious: Once a property is on Zillow, it’s already been seen by everyone. Still, if you’re really on the ball, you might be able to catch some of these foreclosures just as they hit the market.
Another national listing site, Preforeclosure.com will show you houses that are distressed and nearing foreclosure. You do need to pay for the service, and there’s no guarantee that the houses are actually distressed or that their owners are interested in selling.
Another national site, RealtyBargains lets you pare down to county. Take a look at houses that are about to be auctioned or currently bank-owned, but again, keep in mind that everyone can purchase and look at these lists. By the time you connect with someone, they are likely to be exhausted.
Search for bank-owned properties in Florida with Hubzu. Unlike many other websites, Hubzu is free; it gives you all the information from the start. But because they are bank-owned properties, you may experience difficulties with negotiations (banks usually have a specific amount they’re willing to accept). Additionally, Hubzu’s listings are open to everyone.
Individual County Listings
In Miami-Dade County, you can pull up a foreclosure listing and handily look up auctions. The Clerk of the Court will usually have a complete list of auctions coming up soon. You don’t need to purchase these lists, but you’ll only find publicly accessible listings here—the ones that are already being foreclosed on or auctioned off.
Real Estate Services
You’ll see a lot of lead generation services like Bold Leads, Market Leaders, and RealGeeks. While they do promise to generate leads for you, they’re intended for real estate agents, not real estate investors.
As a real estate agent, I had my pick of lead generation services. But as a real estate investor, I quickly discovered that I needed a better strategy. Here’s what I did instead.
How to Generate Leads in Florida
What if you don’t want to deal with listing services? As I noted above, listing services may as well already be expired; they are lists that all other investors have and are already fighting over.
So let’s take a look at some other methods of finding leads.
1. Look at Online Marketplaces for FSBO Properties
Look for FSBO (For Sale by Owner) properties on online marketplaces such as Zillow or even Facebook Marketplace. These online listing services will help you find leads that aren’t represented by a real estate agent or broker—so you can make them a direct offer.
2. Network with Real Estate Agents and RE Professionals
Attend local real estate events, sign up for Facebook peer groups, and get to know others involved in the Florida real estate industry. By building personal and professional relationships, you’ll start to tap into other networks and find potential leads.
3. Send Out Mailers to Zip Codes and Neighborhoods of Interest
Target your marketing efforts and increase the likelihood that leads will be interested in what you have to offer by sending out mailers to specific neighborhoods. Avoid high-rental areas and focus instead on regions that have a lot of churn.
4. Identify Distressed Properties from Taxes and Foreclosures
You can find these types of leads by searching for tax-delinquent properties, or by searching for foreclosures. I touched upon this when I mentioned county lists, but there are also software suites specifically designed to give you insights into distressed properties. The downside? You don’t always know if someone with a distressed property is willing to sell.
5. Attend Tax and Foreclosure Auctions
Another way to find quality real estate leads in Florida is to simply attend the auctions. They are held at regular intervals throughout the year. These auctions are often open to the public and can be a great source of leads. But be aware that if you purchase a house, you’ve purchased a house—frequently sight unseen. And just think about how many houses in Florida have flood damage.
6. Drive Around and Knock on Doors
Driving around and knocking on doors can be difficult with Florida’s humidity and heat. You’ll likely find that most people aren’t interested in talking to you, but you might get lucky and find a motivated seller. It’s certainly not an ideal strategy for those who are shy or who don’t like to experience rejection.
What is a “Quality” Real Estate Lead in Florida?
When we talk about a quality real estate investing lead, what actually makes for one? Here are a few key characteristics:
- First, the lead should be recent. You don’t want to waste your time pursuing a lead that’s no longer interested in selling their property. Lists are often last updated a few months prior to you seeing them. That’s forever in real estate; it’s likely those properties are already sold. Consider that if you’re looking at distressed properties, they have to sell fast.
- Second, the lead should be from a motivated seller. This means that the seller is likely to sell their property quickly, and may be willing to negotiate on price. Distressed properties are popular because you’re providing a service. You can give them the cash they need in exchange for a property that you want.
- Third, the lead should be actionable. This means that you should have all the information you need to contact the seller and start working on a deal. Some lead generation sites will tease you with a city and an estimated price, but they’re not real leads; they’re just estimates. You need to pay a hefty fee to get more information.
- Finally, the lead should be practical. Even most rehabbers don’t want a house that was recently rendered uninhabitable during a hurricane. In Florida, many homes have experienced water damage or just neglect. Frequently, you have to get eyes on the property to really assess its damage and repairs.
Where Should You Look for Real Estate Leads in Florida?
For most investors, your market is already pretty clear; it’s frequently in an area where we live, work, and know best. But if your market is open and you haven’t yet decided where you want to focus, here are a few tips:
- Start by looking at the Florida counties with the highest rate of foreclosures. These counties are Broward County, Miami-Dade County, and Palm Beach County. You’ll most likely find distressed properties here, although areas with high foreclosure rates are also areas that are better for rentals.
- In terms of city size, the largest cities in Florida are Jacksonville, Miami, Tampa, and Orlando. The largest cities have the most opportunities available, but they’re also the most competitive.
- Consider which areas are growing the fastest. This data changes frequently, but some recent examples include Daytona Beach, Fort Myers, Gainesville, and Tallahassee. High growth means more people are moving in; it’ll be easier to sell houses but harder to find them.
But there’s always an advantage to being on your home turf. If there’s an area of Florida that you know well, that may be the best place for you as an investor.
Join HomeVestors®, Get Leads To Come To You
The above tips will help you find quality real estate leads in Florida without resorting to using expired lists. But it’s going to take a lot of work. After being in the real estate industry for so long, I realized that I preferred having leads come directly to me.
And that’s when I became an independently owned and operated franchise owner with HomeVestors®.
HomeVestors® is a nationally-known brand that does the heavy lifting for you. Leads come directly to you, for example, so you don’t need to spend all your time scouting through lists and making cold calls. Now I spend my time closing deals, not finding them.
And services like ValueChek™ can help you determine whether a lead is practical for you by analyzing the cost of repairs. In short, joining HomeVestors® was one of the best decisions I’ve made in my professional career.
If you’re trying to find high-quality real estate leads in Florida, you need all the help you can get. Request more information about becoming a HomeVestors® franchise owner today.
Each franchise office is independently owned and operated.