Good luck. If I have a pocket listing in the NorthEast part of Santa Rosa my fiduciary to my client is to expose the property to as many Buyers as I can as a property listed in the NorthEast area of Santa Rosa, single level, will no doubt generate a bidding war and result in a price my Seller will achieve benefit. That being said, many a Seller would love to hear from you as as you two could both cut out the middle-man and get a great deal from each other. I'd try the many FSBO sites on the internet. You may wish to also post ads on Craigs list stating "Cash for Properties in Distress". I personally, valuing my license, would not advise a Seller to sell to you and not achieve maximum price for their home.
I appreciate you wishing to duck below the radar in this market as you no doubt have been beat out by the many other offers in the price point in which you seek a property. Your comment, "there is nothing worth buying" leads me to belive there is nothing to buy at your price! Perhaps you're seeking your seeking the $400,000 home at $300,000.
I'd hit the FSBO's as they seem determined to "save the commision" and avoid the monster "Seller's Market" under $300,000. For your information, Feb 2008 to Feb 2009 the sub-$300,000 price point is up a staggering 626%!!!!!!!!!!! No wonder you grow frustrated as the competition is fierce! But just seeking a home in the sub-$300,000 in the NE is a stretch.
if you have cash take the advice of one of the other posts and start going after those properties going to sale on the courtsteps. Good luck! I for one will strongly advise a client to NEVER sell without first vetting their property to the entire marketplace.
If you have already seen everything on MLS, then you must already be working with a Realtor. If so, then you should keep working with them, and trust that they are doing everything possible to help you find the home you are looking for.
If you are not already currently working with a Realtor, then you need to find one. That is the best way to find what you are looking for. In today's market, "pocket listings" are harder to find. REOs (bank owned foreclosures) price their properties aggressively to entice multiple offers and get overbids. So they want the property exposed on the market through MLS. And normal sellers (the few that are out there) NEED their properties exposed to the market - just so they can get the best price possible.
Of course, being a cash buyer, you can always go to the foreclosure auctions and bid on the homes that are foreclosing. However, buyer beware. Before you go that route, thoroughly educate yourself on the foreclosure process and laws, as a good deal just might be a nightmare.
Best of luck to you in your search!
The Arend Team