How to Find Apartment Complexes for Sale

How to Find Your Ideal Multifamily Investment Property 

If you’re reading this article, you probably already know that multifamily investing is an incredible way to build long-term wealth. In fact, there’s a good chance you already own one or more multifamily properties of your own. However, you’re might be struggling when it comes to finding your next investment property. Fortunately, we’ve put together this quick (yet comprehensive) guide to help you find the best property for your individual needs. 

First, Know What You’re Looking For 

Maps are great, but if you don’t know your final destination, they won’t be particularly helpful. The same can be said of this guide-- if you don’t know what type of investment property you’re looking for, your search process is unlikely to yield the results you’re looking for. So, first, try to answer a few of the questions below: 

  1. Where are you looking to invest? This could be one or more markets, as well as several submarkets within them. It’s important to keep in mind, that, when it comes to finding the areas with the best potential for rent growth, submarkets are often more important than markets. 

  2. How much are you willing to invest? If you’re planning on investing alone, this could be a very specific number (i.e. you’re willing to put down $500,000 with the goal of purchasing a $2 million apartment building). However, if you’re planning on investing with partners (or even engaging in an apartment syndication deal) this number may be much more flexible, depending on the potential profitability of the property and how interested your other investors/partners are in the deal. 

  3. What type of class and size of property do you want? Different types of investors have different interests and skills, and therefore generally tend to gravitate towards different property classes. For instance, an investor interested in distressed properties would generally look towards class C buildings, while a value-add investor might gravitate towards class B properties. The number of units you want in a property is also an important factor to look at. However, it will generally be limited by your budget and the quality of the property you want to acquire. 

  4. What do you want to avoid? In addition to what you do want in a multifamily property, it’s also important to understand what you don’t want. Potential red flags could include delinquent taxes, being located on or near a busy intersection, or a property with multiple current tenants that are late on their rent. 

Ways to Actually Find Multifamily Properties For Sale

Now that we’ve gotten the first part out of the way, how do you actually find the right multifamily property? In reality, there are quite a few ways, including: 

  • Utilizing a commercial/multifamily MLS

  • Contacting commercial brokers

  • Directly contacting building owners 

  • Networking groups, online marketing, and other methods

Now, we’ll review each of these strategies in a bit more depth. 

The Obvious: Use an MLS 

Using a commercial or multifamily MLS, or multiple listing service, is one of the most obvious ways to find suitable investment properties to purchase-- but just because it’s obvious doesn’t mean it isn’t effective. Most commercial multiple listing services will give you a great idea of the prices and selection in a particular geographic area. 

However, using an MLS to find an apartment property may not help you discover the best deals-- simply due to the fact that, if an owner (or owner’s broker) is utilizing an MLS, they’re already committed to marketing their property and will often demand a higher price. In fact, the best deals may be so-called “off-market” deals-- i.e., those that are not (or have not yet) been listed on an MLS. Despite that, looking at MLS listing is still an effective way to begin the property search process. 

A few of the top commercial MLS services include: 

  • LoopNet: Generally considered the largest and best known commercial MLS, LoopNet currently has approximately 8 million registered members and 5 million monthly visitors. The service is owned by CoStar group, which acquired it in 2012. 

  • Showcase: Also owned by CoStar group, Showcase is another one of the larger commercial MLS services in the U.S. (though it also markets properties in the U.K.). The service currently lists more than 1.4 million properties for sale or lease.

  • Apartmentbuildings.com: ApartmentBuildings.com is a great service, as it actually only lists apartment buildings (how shocking!), and not other types of commercial properties. However, the service only lists properties in Florida, New York, California, Arizona, and Texas, though it will likely expand to other markets soon. 

  • CREXi: CREXi is a newer MLS service, with approximately 200,000 monthly users. However, while it is new, it’s listings are currently valued at nearly $500 billion, making it a growing force in the industry. 

  • CityFeet: CityFeet is an MLS provider that focuses mainly on office properties, but does have a noticeable selection of apartment property listings, particularly in major MSAs such as New York City, Chicago, Los Angeles, Seattle, Houston, Atlanta, and Las Vegas. 

Other options include Realtor.com, Point2Homes, and Trulia, though these services mainly focus on marketing single-family properties, rather than apartment buildings. 

Find Commercial/Multifamily Brokers to Work With 

Beyond the obvious advice of using an MLS to directly search for properties, there’s often significant value in directly contacting commercial brokers, which can easily be found via an MLS, or via a simple Google search. Contact is often best made via cold calling; simply tell a broker about your current level of investing experience, and that you’re not interested in their current listings, but that you’d like to know if they know of any properties that meet your specifications (i.e. location/price/size/building class). If you can’t get a hold of a broker by phone, emails or LinkedIn messages can work, too. While it might take a while to find brokers who are interested in helping you out, if you call enough, you’re sure to get a few who will be willing to send you deals.  

Contacting Building Owners Directly 

In some situations, it pays to source a deal as directly as possible-- and, in the world of multifamily investing, that means directly asking apartment building owners if they’d like to sell their property to you. However, unless you want to spend years driving, it doesn’t make much sense to scout out properties in person. Instead, you’ll want to be a little more efficient. 

One great way to find suitable multifamily properties is to look through county auditor websites for the areas in which you are interested in purchasing property. This website should list purchase and sale dates, building information, and a variety of other data that will be useful if you want to develop a list of property owners to contact. You might also want to look at apartment rental listings, and then use the owner contact information listed in order to determine if they are interested in selling. 

In general, you may want to avoid contacting owners who have purchased a property in the last 1-4 years, as they are less likely to want to sell to you at a below-market price (though you never know!). 

Other Methods for Locating Suitable Investment Properties 

Using an MLS, contacting brokers, and contacting property owners are just a few of the ways to find great multifamily properties. Other methods could include going to meetups, networking on LinkedIn, and finding local real estate investors to mentor you. The more action you take, the better (as long as it’s focused toward finding great properties)-- for instance, if there isn’t a good multifamily investing group in your area, start one. 

In addition, building your own personal brand can be an incredibly effective way to create your own pipeline and have deals come to you. Writing a blog, particularly on a website like LinkedIn, starting a podcast, or creating a YouTube channel discussing your real estate experience, trends, tips, and your own unique viewpoints can demonstrate your expertise to others in the industry. If you get a large enough following, this could lead to readers telling you about great deals, or, at the very least, offering to meet with you and connect you with brokers, developers, investors, and others that may know where to get them.