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The Meaning of Bird Dogging and How You Can Earn From It

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Quick Answer

Bird dogging in real estate involves finding undervalued properties and passing the leads to investors for a finder's fee. It's a low-cost, low-risk way to get started in real estate investing, build a network, and earn income without purchasing properties yourself. Successful bird dogs thoroughly research their market and deals.


Are you an Airbnb host looking to earn some extra income on the side? Have you heard of the term "bird dogging" but aren't quite sure what it means or how it can benefit you? In this comprehensive guide, we'll dive deep into the world of bird-dogging and explore how you can leverage this strategy to boost your earnings as an Airbnb host.

What is Bird Dogging?

Bird dogging is a term used in the real estate investing world to describe the process of locating and identifying undervalued or distressed properties and passing these leads on to investors for a finder's fee. In essence, a "bird dog" acts as a scout, using their knowledge of the local real estate market to uncover potential investment opportunities that may not be readily apparent to others.

The Role of a Bird Dog

A bird dog's primary responsibility is to find properties that meet specific criteria set by investors. These criteria may include factors such as location, property type, condition, and potential for profitability. Once a bird dog identifies a property that fits the investor's requirements, they pass the lead along to the investor, who then evaluates the opportunity and decides whether to pursue it further.

How Bird Dogs Operate

Bird dogs typically work independently, scouring the market for potential deals through various means, such as:

  • Driving for dollars: Physically exploring neighborhoods to identify properties that appear distressed or abandoned
  • Networking: Building relationships with local real estate agents, contractors, and other professionals who may have knowledge of off-market opportunities
  • Online research: Utilizing real estate websites, public records, and other online resources to find properties that fit the investor's criteria

Bird Dogging vs. Wholesaling

While bird dogging and wholesaling are sometimes used interchangeably, there is a key difference between the two. Wholesaling involves finding a property, securing it under contract, and then assigning that contract to an investor for a fee. In contrast, bird dogging simply involves passing along information about a potential deal to an investor, without the bird dog actually securing the property under contract.

Skills Needed for Effective Bird Dogging

To be a successful bird dog, you'll need to develop and hone the following skills:

  1. Local market knowledge: A deep understanding of the real estate market in your area, including trends, prices, and neighborhoods
  2. Property evaluation: The ability to assess a property's potential value, repair costs, and after-repair value (ARV)
  3. Networking: Strong interpersonal skills to build and maintain relationships with investors and other real estate professionals
  4. Communication: Clear and concise communication skills to effectively convey information about potential deals to investors

Legality and Potential Risks

It's essential to understand the legal implications of bird-dogging in your area. In some states, bird-dogging may be considered a form of unlicensed real estate brokerage, which could lead to legal consequences. Additionally, there are potential risks involved, such as:

  1. Reputational risk: Passing along inaccurate or misleading information about a property could damage your reputation and relationships with investors
  2. Financial risk: If a deal falls through or an investor is unsatisfied with a lead, you may not receive your finder's fee

To mitigate these risks, it's crucial to:

  1. Educate yourself on the legal requirements for bird-dogging in your state
  2. Provide accurate and thorough information about potential deals to investors
  3. Build relationships with reputable and experienced investors
  4. Consider obtaining a real estate license to ensure compliance with local regulations

Advantages of Bird Dogging for Airbnb Hosts

As an Airbnb host, you're always looking for ways to maximize your income and grow your STR business. Bird dogging can be an excellent complement to your existing Airbnb strategy, offering numerous advantages that can help you achieve your financial goals.

Low Cost to Get Started

One of the most significant benefits of bird-dogging is the low barrier to entry. Unlike traditional real estate investing, which often requires substantial capital for down payments, closing costs, and renovations, bird-dogging allows you to get started with minimal upfront investment. In most cases, all you need is a reliable vehicle, a smartphone, and a keen eye for spotting potential investment opportunities.

Flexible Side Hustle

Bird dogging is a highly flexible side hustle that can easily fit into your existing schedule as an Airbnb host. You can dedicate as much or as little time as you want to scout for properties, making it an ideal option for those looking to earn extra income without compromising their primary responsibilities.

Opportunity to Learn About Real Estate Investing

For Airbnb hosts interested in expanding their real estate portfolio, bird-dogging provides an excellent opportunity to learn about the world of investing without taking on significant risks. By working with experienced investors and learning from their strategies and decision-making processes, you can gain valuable insights that can help you make informed decisions when you're ready to invest in a short-term rental of your own.

Building a Valuable Network

As a bird dog, you'll have the chance to build relationships with seasoned real estate investors, agents, contractors, property managers, and other professionals in your local market. These connections can prove invaluable not only for your bird-dogging efforts but also for your Airbnb business. For example, you may find reliable contractors to help with repairs and renovations on your Airbnb properties or discover new opportunities to expand your hosting portfolio.

Extra Income to Reinvest in Your Airbnb Business

Perhaps most importantly, bird-dogging can provide a steady stream of extra income that you can reinvest into your Airbnb business. Whether you use your earnings to upgrade your existing properties, purchase new furnishings, or expand your portfolio, bird-dogging can help you take your hosting business to the next level.

Diversifying Your Revenue Streams

As an Airbnb host, you're well aware of the importance of diversifying your income sources to minimize risk and ensure a stable financial future. By incorporating bird dogging into your overall strategy, you can reduce your reliance on Airbnb income alone and create a more resilient business model that can withstand market fluctuations and other challenges.

How to Get Started as a Bird Dog

Now that you understand the benefits of bird-dogging for Airbnb hosts, you may be wondering how to get started in this exciting field. While the process may seem daunting at first, breaking it down into manageable steps can help you launch your bird-dogging career with confidence.

Educate Yourself on Your Local Real Estate Market

The first step in becoming a successful bird dog is to develop a deep understanding of your local real estate market. As an Airbnb host, you likely already have some knowledge of the neighborhoods, property types, and price points in your area. However, to excel as a bird dog, you'll need to take this knowledge to the next level.

Start by researching recent sales data, market trends, and demographic information for your target neighborhoods. Attend local real estate meetups and events to network with other professionals and gain insights into the market. Follow local real estate blogs and news outlets to stay up-to-date on the latest developments and opportunities.

Learn How to Identify Undervalued and Distressed Properties

To be an effective bird dog, you must be able to spot properties that have the potential for significant returns. This means learning how to identify undervalued and distressed properties that may not be on the radar of other investors.

Some key indicators of undervalued or distressed properties include:

  1. Deferred maintenance or visible signs of neglect
  2. Overgrown landscaping or accumulated debris
  3. Boarded-up windows or doors
  4. Notices of default or foreclosure posted on the property
  5. Prolonged vacancy or absence of occupants

By training your eye to recognize these signs, you'll be better equipped to find hidden gems that can yield substantial profits for your investor clients.

Understand How to Estimate Repair Costs and After-Repair Value

In addition to identifying potential investment properties, you'll also need to develop the skills to accurately estimate repair costs and after-repair value (ARV). These estimates are crucial for investors to determine whether a property is worth pursuing and how much they can expect to profit from the deal.

To hone your estimation skills, consider the following:

  1. Familiarize yourself with local construction and material costs
  2. Study comparable properties in the area to gauge market value
  3. Consult with contractors and other professionals to get accurate repair estimates
  4. Use online tools and resources to help with calculations and projections

Build Relationships with Real Estate Investors in Your Area

Networking is a critical component of success in the world of bird-dogging. To find clients and secure finder's fees, you'll need to build relationships with active real estate investors in your area.

Attend local real estate investment club meetings and events to connect with potential clients. Join online forums and social media groups dedicated to real estate investing to expand your network and showcase your expertise. Consider creating a website or online presence to promote your bird-dogging services and attract investor attention.

Consider Specializing in Certain Property Types or Neighborhoods

As you gain experience and knowledge in your local market, you may find it beneficial to specialize in certain property types or neighborhoods. By focusing on a specific niche, you can position yourself as an expert in that area and attract investors who are looking for properties that match their criteria.

For example, you might choose to specialize in:

  1. Multifamily properties in up-and-coming neighborhoods
  2. Distressed single-family homes in established communities
  3. Commercial properties in busy retail corridors
  4. Vacation rental properties in popular tourist destinations

Tools and Techniques to Find Potential Deals

To streamline your bird-dogging efforts and increase your chances of finding profitable deals, consider utilizing the following tools and techniques:

  1. Driving for dollars: Regularly drive through your target neighborhoods to identify potential investment opportunities.
  2. Property research tools: Use online resources like the MLS, Zillow, and Redfin to gather data on properties and market trends.
  3. Public records: Access public records to find information on property ownership, tax delinquencies, and other key details.
  4. Networking: Leverage your connections with local real estate agents, contractors, and other professionals to uncover off-market deals.

Working with Investors as a Bird Dog

Once you've identified potential investment opportunities, the next step is to present these deals to interested investors. Building strong relationships with investors is crucial to your success as a bird dog, as these connections can lead to repeat business and a steady stream of income.

How to Approach and Pitch Deals to Potential Investor Buyers

When reaching out to investors with a potential deal, it's essential to be professional, concise, and informative. Start by crafting a compelling subject line that immediately captures the investor's attention and highlights the key features of the property.

In your pitch, provide a brief overview of the property, including its location, condition, and potential for profitability. Be sure to include relevant data points, such as the estimated repair costs, after-repair value (ARV), and potential return on investment (ROI). Use clear, easy-to-understand language and avoid industry jargon that may confuse or alienate potential investors.

Establishing Your Credibility and Reputation

To build trust with investors and establish your credibility as a bird dog, it's important to be transparent, reliable, and consistent in your dealings. Always provide accurate and up-to-date information about the properties you present, and be prompt in responding to investor inquiries and concerns.

Consider creating a professional portfolio that showcases your past successes, testimonials from satisfied investors, and your knowledge of the local real estate market. By demonstrating your expertise and commitment to delivering quality leads, you'll be more likely to attract and retain high-caliber investor clients.

Determining Your Fee or Commission Structure

Before presenting deals to investors, it's crucial to have a clear understanding of your fee or commission structure. Typically, bird dogs earn a flat fee or a percentage of the deal's value for each lead that results in a successful transaction.

When determining your fees, consider factors such as:

  1. The complexity and potential profitability of the deal
  2. Your level of experience and track record as a bird dog
  3. The prevailing market rates for bird-dogging services in your area
  4. The specific needs and preferences of your investor clients

Be transparent about your fees upfront to avoid any misunderstandings or disputes down the line. Consider offering tiered pricing options or package deals to accommodate different investor budgets and preferences.

Providing Clear and Thorough Information on Deals

To help investors make informed decisions, it's essential to provide clear, detailed, and accurate information about each property you present. This may include:

  • Property address and legal description
  • Current condition and any known issues or defects
  • Estimated repair costs and timeline
  • Comparable sales data and market analysis
  • Potential rental income and cash flow projections
  • Zoning and permitting considerations
  • Any additional relevant information or documentation

By providing comprehensive and well-organized information, you'll demonstrate your professionalism and commitment to helping investors succeed.

Building Long-Term Relationships with Reliable Investors

Finally, focus on cultivating long-term relationships with reliable and experienced investors who share your values and work ethic. By consistently delivering high-quality leads and exceptional service, you'll establish yourself as a go-to resource for their investment needs.

Stay in touch with your investor clients even when you don't have an active deal in the works. Share market insights, industry news, and personal updates to maintain a strong connection and keep your services top-of-mind.

As you build a loyal network of investor clients, you'll create a solid foundation for your bird-dogging business and unlock new opportunities for growth and success.


In this comprehensive guide, we've explored the meaning of bird-dogging and how it can be a valuable tool for Airbnb hosts looking to earn extra income and expand their real estate investing knowledge. By leveraging your local market expertise and networking skills, you can identify profitable investment opportunities and connect with experienced investors to build a successful bird-dogging business.


Is Bird Dogging Legal for Airbnb Hosts?

Yes, bird-dogging is generally legal for Airbnb hosts, as long as you comply with your state's real estate laws and regulations. However, it's essential to research the specific requirements in your area and consider obtaining a real estate license to ensure full compliance and protect your interests.

How Much Can Airbnb Hosts Earn as Bird Dogs?

Airbnb hosts can earn anywhere from a few hundred to several thousand dollars per deal as bird dogs, depending on factors such as the property's value, the investor's preferences, and your level of experience. As you build your reputation and track record, you may be able to command higher fees and secure more lucrative deals.

What Are the Best Ways for Airbnb Hosts to Find Bird Dogging Deals?

Some of the most effective ways for Airbnb hosts to find bird-dogging deals include driving for dollars, networking with local real estate professionals, attending investment club meetings, and leveraging online resources like the MLS and real estate marketplaces. By consistently prospecting and marketing your services, you can create a steady stream of leads and opportunities.

How Can Airbnb Hosts Balance Bird Dogging with Managing Their Rentals?

To successfully balance bird dogging with managing your Airbnb rentals, it's important to create a clear schedule and set aside dedicated time for each activity. Consider delegating some of your Airbnb management tasks to a trusted team member or virtual assistant, and use tools like property management software to streamline your operations. By staying organized and focused, you can effectively grow your bird-dogging business without compromising the quality of your Airbnb hosting services.

Reveal your property’s rental profitability

Buy this property and list it on Airbnb.