7 types of oddball homes — and how to find them

Finding unconventional homes requires a bit more work than looking on the MLS, but once you are known for a niche, clients will start coming to you through referral sources and word of mouth. If oddball homes are an area you want to expand in, here’s what you should know.

On average, Americans move 11.7 times in their lives, but they aren’t always looking for a traditional house.

Clients come in all shapes and sizes, with all types of lifestyle requirements and investment goals. But how can you find unconventional properties for clients with unique needs? 

Whether you’re working with someone who wants to live off the grid or an Airbnb investor trying to stand out from the crowd, this article will cover different types of unconventional homes as well as how to find them on (or off) the market.

7 types of unconventional homes

First, let’s take a look at some of the popular unconventional homes that exist today.

1. Tiny homes

As concepts such as minimalism and sustainable living grow in popularity, so has the tiny home. In fact, the tiny home market is expected to grow by more than $3 billion by 2025.

Tiny homes offer buyers great cost-savings, which is increasingly important in the current seller’s market, as well the ability to reduce their carbon footprint.

2. Log cabins

There’s no better way to experience the mountains than by staying in a log cabin. Making s’mores around the campfire, soaking in the jacuzzi and being surrounded by nature can transport guests to another mindset. These properties are great as vacation rentals and can produce high ROI, especially during peak seasons.

3. Kit homes

For investors and buyers who want to save on costs and also don’t mind getting their hands dirty, kit homes or mail-order homes are a fun “out-of-the-box” option. These homes are directly shipped to your location and come with DIY assembly instructions.

4. Treehouses

When we say treehouse, we’re not talking about your childhood jungle gym. Modern-day treehouses are quite intricate and are a creative way to either attract adventurous travelers who want a unique experience or eco-conscious buyers who want to be surrounded by nature.

5. Off-the-grid homes

Living off-the-grid is appealing to people who want to leave the pressures of the modern world behind. No internet, no cell phones, no public utilities — just whatever you can gain from the land. Therefore, make sure any raw land you find for off-the-grid properties is equipped for homesteading.

6. Dome homes

Dome homes have a spherical framework instead of the straight edges of a traditional house. Domes can be completely spherical or polyhedrons with interconnected triangles. These dwellings have been shown to be energy-efficient, disaster-proof and lower cost.

7. Houseboats

For those that love the open sea, houseboats are an appealing option. The ability to live on the water and leave the mainland behind can be exciting. However, these are not particularly cost-effective or energy-efficient. They require fuel and extensive upkeep to keep them in a livable condition.

Why they have ‘the oddball appeal’

There are a number of different reasons why buyers and investors may be interested in nontraditional real estate. From cost-savings to diversifying their portfolio (if they’re investors taking advantage of a 1031 exchange), here’s why these homes are appealing to many people.

An memorable experience

Experiential real estate is becoming ever more important as we recover from the pandemic. Travelers want to feel authentic connections to their surroundings, using Airbnbs and hotels as more than just a place to sleep. This is why properties such as treehouses, houseboats and log cabins can produce high ROI.

Saving money

High housing prices have pushed many buyers and investors to explore different real estate options. Buying or building a tiny home or kit home could be significantly cheaper than purchasing a traditional house.

Energy efficiency

Reducing one’s carbon footprint is becoming increasingly popular. Tiny homes, dome homes and living off-the-grid all offer greater energy efficiency than traditional housing.

Diversifying your portfolio

For investors, spreading money across a few different types of investments is typically a smart bet, and unconventional homes are a good way to diversify their portfolio. 

For instance, traditional homes sit on the market for an average of 25 days, plus another 30 to 45 days for closing. An investor may find that having a steady pipeline of buyers looking to purchase oddball homes for cash may be faster than selling traditional houses.

How to find unique real estate

Typical agent commission is 6 percent, so on a million-dollar home a seller would owe a whopping $60,000 in Realtor fees. For this type of money, investors expect agents to be knowledgeable about their niche. 

But oddball properties are not as widely advertised, and some are not even listed on the MLS. Luckily, there are a few ways to overcome these challenges.

Networking

It’s not about what you know, but who you know (at least in some cases). Networking with builders and contractors who work on oddball homes and fostering relationships with bankers and estate attorneys can all be great pipelines for finding unconventional properties.

Other agents

Talk to other real estate agents who specialize in finding oddball homes. Offer to take them out to coffee or set up a Zoom meeting to pick their brain on the subject.

Real estate auctions

Auctions are full of interesting deals — you never know what you’ll find. And buyer property at auctions is usually significantly cheaper than buying it directly from the owner.

Driving for dollars

There’s nothing wrong with doing things the old-fashioned way! Get in the car, and drive around to look for unique properties. Send the owners a letter or give them a call to see if they’re interested in selling.

Wholesalers

Make connections with wholesalers that specialize in selling and/or manufacturing unique homes. This way, you’ll also know who to put owners in touch with if they want to build a tiny home or a kit home from scratch, for instance. 

While finding unique properties may require a bit more work than looking on the MLS, once you are known for a niche, clients will start coming to you through referral sources and word of mouth. If oddball homes are an area you want to expand in, then make a plan and go for it!

Luke Babich is the CSO of Clever Real Estate in St. Louis. Connect with him on Facebook or Twitter.





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