The much anticipated follow up is here. In the second part of the ultimate driving for dollars guide we will discuss tracking down difficult to find owners of vacant properties, and includes some additional tips to employ when driving for dollars. The more difficult it is to find the owner, the less competition there will be and that means more opportunity for you. This is a continuation of my Driving for Dollars series, if you missed the first installment click here to read it first.
If you drive for dollars long enough you will stumble upon circumstances where the owners address is not available. This creates a problem, how will you market to this lead if you don’t have their information? There are a few red flags to look out for that indicates additional research will be required to find the owner address. Some of the more common situations are shown below.
- Scenario 1: You drove by a property that was clearly vacant; however, your Central Appraisal District (CAD) displays the property is still owner occupied. This is typically due to the appraisal district not yet updating their records, which can sometimes lag behind 3 to 4 months. For example if you drove by a property that looks like the image below, and your CAD indicates the owner still lives at that property, you need to continue your research to find the owners address because obviously they no longer live there.
- Scenario 2: Returned yellow letters or postcards that were returned due to failed delivery
- Scenario 3: When you research the property on your local CAD and you discover the owner address section contains no data. This may come in the form of being completely blank or display “No Data” (as shown in the image below) or perhaps a place holder such as “Current Owner”.
Using Deed of Trust and Public Records to Track Down Owners
This is the first step in the process; we will pull data from public records and use it to mine Google for owner information. When your CAD lacks sufficient information you will use the Deed of Trust recorded in your counties public records to track down the owner. To find your counties public records simply Google search “[your county name] public records” and you should be able to find it.
The deed of trust will display all parties involved within the transaction, from grantors to individuals with power of attorney (as shown in the image below). This data is invaluable when attempting to locate the owner of the property.
Mine Google for Data
Once you have searched public records it’s time to take the owner (and any of the grantors names recorded in the Deed of Trust) and start plugging them into Google search. For starters try searching their full name as displayed in the Deed of Trust. If that yields few results try combining their name + local phone area codes (as shown in the image below). This can often reveal:
- Landlines or Cell Phone Numbers of the Owner or Grantors
- New Address of the Owner
- Any Websites they own
- Company PDF contact sheets
If you are unable to locate the owner, but able to track down one of the grantors, you can often get the contact information you need by reaching out to them. Sometimes you will find PDFs or About Us profile sections on company websites and you can use this for updated contact information. If you find a website they own you can do a “who is” on the domain and retrieve information that way as well.
If all of the above fail, you might consider utilizing a Skip Trace service. If you take some time to research using the methods discussed earlier, you should not need to use a skip trace 9 times out of 10.
Leave a Note on the Property
Tape a note to the properties front door and or garage in case the owner returns to their abandoned property. You can bet if they find a note taped to their garage or front door, they will read it. You never know when the owner may return to collect mail or check on the house. You can write the notes manually if you would like, or you can print out a stack of them using a handwritten font. Either way, bring a stack of them with you into the field.
Exchange Business Cards with Neighbors
Often time’s neighbors are willing to divulge information on the abandoned properties owner. After all no one wants a vacant property sitting next door and dragging their property values down with it. If you see a neighbor outside strike up a brief conversation, hand them a business card, and many times they will provide helpful information.
Recruiting an Army of Mailmen Bird Dogs
When driving for dollars keep a look out for mailmen of any sort. I approach them on their route, briefly introduce myself and my business and hand them a card that explains what I am looking for. Explain to them if they find a house that fits your criteria, and you are able to close on it, they will collect a handsome referral fee. Mailmen know what’s going on in a neighborhood better than you do, since they drive these subdivisions every day. Get to know a few of them and you will be richly rewarded.
Avoiding REO Heavy Neighborhoods
In my previous blog post someone emailed me a great question, and I thought it would benefit many of you to address it here. How do you determine if a subdivision is potentially REO heavy before driving it? The answer is by utilizing your local CAD you can quickly sort through a subdivision and get a rough idea. As illustrated below, you can view the list of individual properties with the subdivision along with the owner’s name. You can quickly look through the subdivision at a glance and determine a rough density of REOs. This way you can include or discard subdivisions before wasting time or gas money driving them (assuming you want to avoid REO properties). Alternatively, use the MLS if you have access.
Thanks for reading, hopefully with a little bit of legwork and persistence you will discover some gems when driving for dollars. Take action and you will reap results. If you have any questions, please leave them below and I will do my best to help.