If you are pursuing option 1, then you will want to use an automated service for the reasons mentioned in the article. Follow the process in the article to see which registrar the domain name is located at. If it’s at a Auction House like GoDaddy, NameJet or SnapNames, I believe they publicly share if there is a backorder on a domain name but not who placed that backorder. (Any interest in a domain name may be enough for someone else to place a backorder, thereby driving interest in the domain name that may be visible to the registrant.) So if the domain is at a registrar partnered with one of these companies, then you’ll have to monitor it manually (via calendar entries based on the whois expiration data) to maintain your distance.
We do not only have Expired Domains, but you can also find lists of Deleted Domains for a lot of TLDs. Deleted Domains or Dropped Domains are available for registration and can be picked up for just the normal regfee at your preferred domain registrar! All Domains have the typical SEO relevant data, like Number of Backlinks, Archive.org Birth Date and a lot more.