Now, I don't know the Athens area at all. But here's a technique that I'd use around here, and it should work in Athens as well.
Market directly to owners of 1950s brick ranches. Don't worry if they're on the MLS or not. It doesn't matter. You may be right that some sellers have pulled their houses off the market. Others have never put them on; they figure they won't get any offers, so why bother. Your Realtor can pull up listings of all 1950s ranches, and get the contact information for the owners.
Your general pitch (or that of your Realtor) should be: "Hi. I'm interested in buying a 1950s brick rancher in Athens, and I understand you own one. I'm willing to buy it in "as is" condition. I don't mind if it has the original kitchen and baths, or whether it needs repainting. If you'd consider selling me your property, please call me at xxx/xxx-xxxx." You can smooth that out and build on that, but that's the basic message.
There are two sub-markets you especially should target. One is absentee owners. I don't know whether properties you're looking for are likely to be rentals or owner-occupied. But have your Realtor do the same search, but limit it to non-owner-occupied properties. Your pitch should be something like: "Hi. I understand that you own a 1950s rancher in Athens, and that its currently being rented out. I know that renting can come with headaches--finding new tenants, dealing with repairs, waiting for rent checks. If you'd like to end those headaches, I may be able to help. I'm interested in buying a property like yours. I'm willing to buy in "as is" condition........" and so on.
The other group to target are people who've lived in those houses for a long time...or perhaps their relatives or children. Up in Northern Virginia, communities like that have a lot of older residents who are unable to maintain those homes, and are moving in with their children, or into assisted living or nursing facilities. Or, sometimes they've died and their children are interested in selling. Your agent will be able to screen the MLS for properties in which the last sale occurred, say, more than 20 years ago. Then contact the person the tax notices are mailed to; your Realtor knows how to do that.
And a bonus tip: To reach the older people, or their relatives, contact attorneys who specialize in wills, trusts, and estate planning. That probably will take more than just a letter, though you can start with a letter. Your pitch should be along the lines of: "Hello. I understand that, from time to time, you are aware of properties that are subject to estate sales, or properties that the relatives of the owner are trying to dispose of. I am interested in buying such a property--specifically, a 1950s brick ranch. If you are aware of any such properties that someone would like to sell, I would be very interested in them." And so on.
There are a lot of other creative techniques to find such properties. But those should get you started.
Hope that helps.
I bought my 3,000 sq ft. house "By Owner" seventeen years ago for $81,900. We refinanced for twenty years at 4.5% fixed loan ten years ago, and it was valued at $145,000 back then. However, just let me try and list it with a local agent and I will find that prices in Homewood Hills have been artificially kept low. My home has be completely upgraded with new ceramic tile, hardwood flooring throughout, three brand new marble bathrooms, a granite and stainless steel kitchen, a brand new air conditioning system, and a complete re-landscaping design of my one acre lot.
If you would like a comparison, just a mile up Prince Avenue is a neighborhood called Boulevard. It is sandwiched between two extremely low income family neighborhoods full of crack-heads, and a recent influx of immigrants. However, the Boulevard area demands prices in the $300,000 price range on average, and most of these homes need a lot or even total renovation. I looked at the Boulevard area when I first came to Athens, and prices were lower on average than Homewood Hills at the time.
It just does not make any sense to me that a beautiful neighborhood like Homewood Hills is not bringing in the same price of Scummy Boulevard. You couldn't pay me to live there.
I have thought hard about his situation, and I have decided to sit here in Homewood Hills until it is paid off (got about 7 yrs left on my mortgage) and then sell it "By Owner" at a fair and decent price with a fair interest rate, and become a full time RVer. It would seem that even if I can't sell at what it is realistically worth at least I will be making thousands of dollars in interest during the holding of the note, and that should make up for the low selling price within eight years of the loan unless it defaults in which case I still own property outright, and I will rent it out to students like the realtors are doing.
1) discuss with your realtor
2) adjust your price range both up and down (you're not committing to spend, you're just researching & learning)
keep your eyes peeled, don't limit yourself so strictly to a $10,000 price range, and keep learning the market - you'll get a really good grasp of things before you know it!
If there's anything else I can do to assist, please don't hesitate to contact me at http://www.HernandoLuxuryHomes.com - I'm happy to help!