Sure! Why not? Nothing ventured - nothing gained.
When I cannot find the right home for one of my home buyers using the multiple listing services, I resort to knocking on the door and introduce myself. The worst that may happen is that they say "no" or do not answer the door thinking you are a salesperson.
If personal safety is a potential issue or concern, why not write them a letter and mail it to them?
Should the homeowner say "yes" to a potential sale, be sure to have a real estate attorney or Realtor draw up the purchase and sale agreement using the appropriate forms for your state. The nominal flat fee that they charge you will be well worth it.
Ted Shoop - ABR, e-PRO, Realtor
Keller Williams Realty Atlanta Partners
Ask yourself why you want to do it this way though--honestly, is it because there are no homes like this on the market? you think you can save money? that particular home meets a personal need (near a relative, job or school)?
Personally, I've done this successfully for buyers--even some that were truly miracles as far as win-win for both buyer and seller. If you're considering this approach, you'll l ikely want to work with an ABR (Accredited Buyer Representative) to escort you thru the reports and disclosures and you may need to pay that agent a commission, as the seller may not want to pay any commission (or a minimal amount) due to these circumstances.
Hope this helps you and good luck on your search.
With regard to the Zillow figures they seem to be inaccurate in some areas, sometimes lower than actual sales and sometimes higher. I have a feeling, from what I've seen, their algorithm must include a larger area than would normally be averaged by those who know this Valley well.
As a buyer's agent, I have approached homeowners. A response reiterated more than a few times was, "Well, if they want to pay me my price." This leads to a discussion about agency relationships, who am I representing, etc. Next follows my dialog about market analysis and comparable properties as it pertains to pricing. Sometimes a property owner will say, "Make me an offer." You won't know if this is prompted by sincere consideration to sell, or only curiosity.
Still, approaching homeowners can be a very good strategy for locating properties that meet you requirements. Just be prepared and find that balance point of appearing serious without being over anxious.
Denise Stuart 408-893-3400
The wife absolutely fell in love with this one neighborhood home and every week after her children's soccer practice she would leave a note telling the owners how much she loved the home, etc. She kept saying that one day she would own that home and she did. It took time, but shows how persistence pays off.
Of course be sure you are represented by either a Realtor or a real estate attorney.
Because you're doing something out of the box there is a higher chance you will be able to buy in that neighborhood.