NEW YORK ( TheStreet) -- Chris Lichon found her "dream" starter home as she was driving around Rutherford County, Tenn. one fine spring day. The house was on about an acre of ground, on a dead-end street, with a big pasture beside it that she could rent for her horse. It was perfect, she thought, except for one small detail. The house was not for sale. Lichon had already been house hunting for four months when she came across the 1970s ranch-style home. So when she found what she was looking for, her trusted real estate agent didn't think twice about knocking on the door and asking the question, "Would you consider selling your home?" To Lichon's surprise, the homeowners said yes. "They just asked us to give them a half hour to tidy up and then they showed us around the house," she said. Save for a few places that needed additional insulation, she found the three-bedroom, one-bath home to be well maintained. As luck would have it, the owners were a growing family of seven who had long thought about moving to a larger place. They named their price, Lichon found it fair, and just like that, the house was sold. The lesson in this story: When buying a home, don't just rely on a real estate listing or a "For Sale" sign. Trust your instincts and let your realtor do the dirty work for you.
Joshua Baris, a real estate agent for Coldwell Banker in Northern New Jersey, recently had to knock on an unsuspecting homeowner's door for his client who wanted a specific three-bedroom luxury condo in West New York, N.J. His bold step resulted in a successful sale. "If you want to succeed in this market, you really have to be aggressive and creative," said Baris. Not only is he going house-to-house, he's also sending out letters to owners of unlisted homes on behalf of his clients.