When driving by a vacant house, a real estate investor will often wonder what is going on with the property. Is it abandoned? Who owns it? What do they plan on doing with it? So how do you find information about a property you are curious about?
You should begin your search by accessing public records, which are FREE to everyone.
Public records typically include who the owner is, what the status of the property is, and lots of specific information on a property.
Four Sections of Public Records
- Tax Collector
Tax collectors collect property taxes. They deal with whether the property taxes have been paid, are past due, or even tax liens. After so many years as a tax lien a property can become a dead sale or a quiet title depending on what your state has in place.
- Property Appraiser
The property appraiser is the person who determines the value of a property is, thus determining what the tax bill will be based off that value. This department puts a price on every property in their jurisdiction. This can include unoccupied land, commercial offices, houses, condos, shopping plazes, and anything else you can think of.
This is also known as the clerk or court or register of deeds. They all do the same thing which is to keep a record of every deed, every mortgage, every single deed of trust, on every piece of real estate in their jurisdiction.
- Planning Department
This is also known as the zoning department. This department has all the zoning information on each piece of real estate.
How Each Section is Helpful
There are two ways to track down and find the tax collector website for your jurisdiction.
- A site like netronline.com, and then go to public records online and choose your state, then county.
On this same site you can type in the address and it will pull it up for you.
What we’re looking for when we are looking at a vacant property as an investor that it’s still owned by the home owner, not by some bank
The Top Things to Look At
- Are tax payments up to date? If not, we know that if they aren’t paid for a long period, they’re going to have a tax lien or eventually a tax dead.
- It can help us with a parcel ID. That’s really helpful when we get into the other parts of these free public records.
- Who the current owner is
Once again using Google or NETR online, you can search by owner name or parcel ID.
Useful Information Found Here:
- What type of ownership it is
- Sales history
Property Appraiser does not tell you the exact market value, just the value that they’re basing it on.We never want to base our values on the property appraiser. I have a great video on how to determine property value, which is right here.
What You Will Learn in This Section
- Who the owner of the property is
- The latest deed of record is
- How much is owed against it
- If it’s in foreclosure
Is the property zoned for residential or commercial area?
The planning and zoning information. That’s another thing you can do on Google, is you could type in just GIS map for whatever that jurisdiction is.
See what other real estate sold for in the nearby areas recently
Between a tax collector, property appraiser, recorded records and the planning and zoning maps, you can learn a lot about a vacant property for FREE
If you are looking to pay for a service that takes all of the above free information and other public information and puts it into one place to view.
The main player in that space is CoreLogic. They have a product called RealQuest
If you’re a licensed real estate agent, the listing version of this if you will is called RealList. RealList is usually only accessible through the local MLS.
If you do have access to the MLS, you instantly have access to one of these tools
Getting in Contact With the Owner
- Send a handwritten letter. Even if the address listed is not current, it could still be forwarded to the correct address.
- Skip tracing. This is basically a private detective’s database that is used to look up people’s information.The service I typically use is called peoplesearchnow.com. I have tried over 30 and like this one the best.
Secret Hint to Finding the Owner
Talk to the neighbors! They often know information about an owner you will not find online.
If you want to learn more about how to be a very successful real estate investor, I want to strongly encourage you to pick up and read both of my books, both How to Be a Real Estate Investor as well as Real Estate Investing Gone Bad.
If you want to become a market leading, first class, full time professional, money making machine real estate investor, check out my apprentice program where me and my team work directly with real estate investors and transform them into rock stars of real estate.