Finding Owners of Vacant Properties
When you locate a property that you feel is vacant, you will need to locate the owners of the property. First, talk to the neighbor’s and ask if they know anything about the home and its former occupants. A neighbor can be a gold mine of information, and people love to talk!
Make a note of all the information the neighbor’s share. Much of this info will be speculation and gossip, but there may be a bit of truth in there somewhere.
If the property is vacant, you may want to sneak a peek at any old mail that may have been delivered and not forwarded. It is illegal to take mail, but you can sneak a peek, get the name off the old mail. Any info that might help with your search. If you find the property is occupied talk to whoever lives there.
Now that you have armed yourself with as much information as you could find at the property, you will want to investigate further. Start with the county tax records
Between what I find out at the property, and from the neighbors, and from the tax records, I set out to contact the owners.
If you have the name and address, you can do a quick search using an Online phone directory www.anywho.com. You simply input the information and hopefully you will come up with a contact number.
The final step is to contact the owner directly. You want to have confidence when speaking with them. The way to gain this confidence is to be positive and friendly:
- You know the house is vacant.
- You know that it is costing the owners money in payments, insurance, taxes, or all three
- You know that they do not have a ton of interest in the property, or they would be doing something with it
Get the owners on the phone if you can and tell them that you are an investor who purchases and renovates homes in that community. Tell them that you are working in that neighborhood to help revitalize the area, and that you may be interested in buying their property.
Ask if they would be interested in selling and would they consider any offers? Be friendly and upbeat and explain that you would be interested if the deal was right.
Let them know you could make a cash offer or a term offer depending on the price. Sometimes you get lucky and they say that they want to get rid of it and basically ask you what you want to pay. Start low you can always come up. The bottom line is to acquire the property for as little money as possible.
What if you cannot find the owner?
If I cannot locate the owner? I place a “I buy houses” sign in the yard with my number on it. More often not, the owner, a relative of the owner, or a friend of the owner will call me. Most of the time, it is the owners themselves.
If they call, apologize for the sign stating that an assistant must have gotten their house confused for another home in the neighborhood, “but since I have you on the phone, what are you going to do with the house?”
Check at www.ancestry.com in the general search and see what other things they come up for the owner’s name. click on “search records,” This will allow you to check if the owner has passed away. There may be a probate record.
Search at http://www.searchbug.com by name.
You can also go to www.vitachek.com and order to order vital records.
At www.ussearch.com and search for the owner’s name for free on the main page. They will only give you cities and ages of people with the same name, but not exact addresses. You can then search www.searchbug.com, if there’s a listing in that city.
Check with www.google.com and see if the owner is mentioned somewhere.
More Traditional Resources
Go to probate court records at the county court house and check if probate has been filed. If it’s an unusual name, check files of other deceased people with the last name. Someone is the executor of the estate for you to contact.
Search through the marriage records at the court house and get the spouse’s name or find other relatives’ names.
Check if the taxes records to see who is paying the property taxes check with the tax office to see if they have the address of the person paying.
Do a title search at the courthouse or through a title company and check out all the documents filed on the property for the owners or other contact information. Check any liens, anybody with a claim on the property is usually mentioned in the documents.
Yes, it can be a lot of work, but one good deal could make you tens of thousands of dollars!