Where to Find Information on Abandoned Homes and Other Properties. Skiptracking and other Techniques.

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An investor on our forums recently posed a great question that others out there can learn from. I thought it would be a great idea to share with the rest of you.

“Theres been a property at the end of my street that has been abandon for close to a year+ now. At no point did a for sale sign go up but I haven’t seen anyone living in it at all. The family just kind of picked up and left . . . I guess in short my question would be where do I go to find out more about the house?”

Abandoned properties provide a great source of leads for investors. There are many reasons why someone might abandon a property, but with the right info, savy investors can easily locate the owners of these homes and possibly even get a great deal on them!

One of our members, Wheatie, suggested the following:

You can start with the county recorded for the county where its located. They will have someone down as the owner. May not be correct, address may not be correct, but its a place to start. You can try just sending it a letter with forwarding requested and see if it goes anywhere.

This is great advice! We’ve even made it easy for investors to find their local recorder/assessor’s office online with our free directory of county records’ offices.

Another member, Brandon Schlichter, suggested another path for investors to take:

You can always trace back the history and maybe find a prior owner. Asking neighbors is always a good thing to do (You can get deals from them too!).

Prior owners and neighbors are fantastic resources. I’ve used neighbors to find information on properties in the past and they love to share what they know! Neighbors are a treasure trove of information on any home or other property. I always like to chat with them before making an investment.

A final suggestion that should surely prove to be helpful comes from another member, username REI.

The technical term that some will use is skip tracing. If you search on the term then you will find leads to services or individuals that can do the work for you. Some are rather modest in their costs. Some investors use the net plus pay for a skip tracer as some have access to professional databases that are closed to the public. Some databases are too expensive for a 1 off use.

If you’re willing to pay, then skiptracing services are absolutely worth it. They can simplify and speed up the entire process for you.

All in all, if you try all three of these suggestions and still can’t find the owner of the property, you might be striking out. Maybe a detective would prove to be helpful, but the question that arises is “is it worth it?”.

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About Author

Joshua Dorkin (@jrdorkin, Google+) is the founder and CEO of BiggerPockets.

16 Comments

  1. I actually wrote and teach a class in Dallas called, “How to Find Abandoned Houses & Owners.”
    The advice offered above is all great. One bit of advice I can offer that adds to the advice given on the mail is this….

    Send a letter to the house, addressed to the owner of record. DO NOT write “Or current resident” on the envelope! However, make sure you do write on the front of the envelope, “Return Service Requested.” This means if the person listed on the envelope does not live there, the letter will be returned to you. BUT…. if the person left a forwarding address, the post office will put a forwarding address sticker accross the bottom of the envelope. Now you know right where they are.
    Not bad for less then $0.50!

    • Donald Thompson on

      Jim,
      I am considering house hunting as a secondary source of income. Can you tell me where I could get some information on how to find these abandoned homes? I live in the western suburbs of chicago. I would think that there are alot of homes out there. Maybe you could guide me to some books to read. Any information you give would be helpful.

      Thanks ,
      Donald Thompson

  2. I remeber there use to be a list on the either the city or the county’s web site for boarded up houses. I live in Salt Lake. I am not able to find it. But I know it existed and it was a fast way to compile the list.

    Then apply the techniques decribed in the other replies.

    Good Luck

  3. Josh-
    Thank you for the advice about the three ways to track down the owner of an abandoned property. I really like what Jim added about the forwarding address. I like things that work and are cheap.

  4. sissi de gavour on

    i am lookin for an old abandoned farm with a few acres to live as a primary home with my dogs cats and other animlas. i am geting a government grant. please help, no mater where it is; maybe in the catskills,salmon river area., if i am not asking too much, what about one old old house front lake ,lots of centenary trees ho boy! that would make my day thankyou Sissi.

  5. Its good point that you say it in this post..all i want to add is you still can perform to search public record in online on the net…….it is much more easy and also you will have various data from the report in order to know more about the house that are selling .

  6. Does ANYONE know what I can do to get funding to purchase a large home (about 6 bedrooms) with at least an acre, but nothing too fancy, could be a fixer. I have been searching for years on how to get some kind of grand to open a home for Pregnant teens in the Foster Care System to help and teach them to care for their babies and to provide Independant Living Skills, Oportunity to complete High School/College, Job Search training, etc. I am very passionate about my venture and have taken the Foster care Courses with two different agencies, but am having a hard time finding a home to Purchase in my price range.
    Please Everybodies help is VERY WELCOMED & APPRECIATED.

  7. sucetta baggett on

    i live in jackson county alabama and i found a old house in the woods beside a cave with a natural spring its beautiful land but the house has trees growing through it and its pretty much been abandoned for atleast fifty years. it has no address so what do i do?

  8. Done everything for abandon house next door! Recent was Jan. 2014
    And it says bank owns it, when calling bank they don’t know anything on property?
    So help what to do in this sort of issue?

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