There are a couple of different options for trying to purchase a home that is not currently on the market. If a property appears to be abandoned or otherwise not being lived in, inquire with the town or county that it’s in to see if the taxes are up to date. If not, then you may be able to acquire the property for the amount of the back taxes. If taxes are up to date, you can at least get the contact information for the owner of the property. While you’re there, see if you can get what the tax appraisal for the home is, and when it was last sold (and for how much).
There are a few ways to go about approaching the owner of the property. If the property is owner occupied, you may be able to simply knock on the door and let them know that you love the home and see if they’ll let you know first if they ever plan on selling. Another option is to write a letter to the owners stating the same thing. Often, if the owners are considering selling, they may jump on the offer and start negotiations. Or, they may just make a note of your contact information in case they ever do want to sell. The worst they can do is say no.
Another option is to have a real estate agent approach the owner. Sometimes an owner will take an offer coming from an agent more seriously than one coming from a random person. It shows that you are a more serious buyer.
In all instances, the worst the owner can do is tell you no. But, hopefully the owner will already be considering selling, and you’ll be in the right place at the right time!