Vacant property - Uncertainty about the owner

23 Replies

I have been following a vacant house since 2010 mostly due to having relatives on the same street.  The house is located in a Pittsburgh neighborhood that has been hot for the last few years.  Long before finding BP, a friend of mine called the out of state owner to inquire about his desire to sell.  Since finding BP, I have a renewed interest in this property. 

While doing research on the property and the San Diego owner, I discovered a few things that has me uncertain about the property ownership.  His parents owned the property.  His mother passed in 2010, and her husband preceded her in death.  The county website shows the property as owned by the husband & wife, both of which are deceased.  When I originally looked at it years ago, I assumed her son's name was on the property with her. 

It is her son's San Diego address listed for tax billing, but I discovered today that although he shared his father's first name he does not have the same middle name/initial.  The county website shows the father's middle initial, not the sons.  So that made me wonder if the estate was still ongoing?  It is going on 4 years now, so I would have assumed that would have been finalized years ago.

Is it possible that the son does indeed own the property, despite the county still having the parents listed as owners?  The last recording date for the property is over 50 years ago, something that I didn't pay much attention to a couple years ago when I first looked it up.

The property has been vacant since she passed and I know it has received multiple code violations.  I expected to see it for sale after he started getting violations, but he arranged to have the bare minimum work done and it remains vacant waiting for the next violation to come his way.  Any insight from the BP community would be welcomed.

Well if the current owner is willing to help because he wants to sell that would be a huge help. If possible maybe the son could put you in touch with the probate attorney for clarification and maybe the attorney can follow up with the county to make sure it was recorded correctly. Either way the probate attorney would be the place to start. It may have been recorded properly but not showing on the tax site the same. I have ran into similar situations where the recorded deed on file at the courthouse was correct but the pva (property value administration) just changed the tax billing address. I have found that a lot of info on the pva records and tax records are far from correct. 

Hope this helps.

Here's my newbie response.. So the way I read this it seems like you have some contact with the current caretaker of the property? It sounds like a ripe property for them to want to get rid of but it seems like the best option would be to contact them to ask what's going on. Call or send them a letter.

If you want to do your own research then you can try to track down the probate record to see what's going on with the estate. If the caretaker in San Diego is the executor then they may have some power to transfer the property to you at some point.

If he is fixing up the bare minimum and paying taxes then it could have sentimental meaning that he doesn't want to let go of it. Or he is trying to preserve the value for when he's ready to sell.

Id make a pitch for it and if unsuccessful follow up in 6-8 months. You just want to be top of mind when they finally are ready to dispose of it.

Anything is possible!  

I like that you are at least creating a hypothetical scenario. 

Unless I missed it, did you first confirm that there is a boatload of equity and profit potential, especially allowing for repairs of a house that been vacant through a number of harsh seasons?

Now, you must follow this "lead" and see where it takes you. 

 What action(s) will you take first?  Will you pull recorded documents and reverse engineer title?

Will you skip trace the Son and Dad's names and actual try to find and contact relatives (and neighbors)? 

Maybe you'll be on the Hunting Club call tomorrow. 

@Jared K.  

Thanks for your response as well.  No, I have not had any contact with the son in San Diego.  My friend left him a voicemail a couple years ago but the call was not returned.  Now that I am on BP, the thought of sending him a letter in the mail has been on my mind.  My relatives knew his mother and would stop to check on her on a regular basis to make sure she was ok.  She was very old.  The son rarely came to visit her. 

@Rick H.  

There is no mortgage on the property and values have been through the roof in the area.  The property most likely would need a total gut and rehab.  I was told by a relative that you can see the basement through a hole in the first floor.  Other than his response to the code violations, nothing is new on this property.

As for what action I will take, that I am unsure of. My spouse does not share my desire to get into REI, and I have absolutely zero knowledge regarding construction.

Learn what to do and say tomorrow on the Hunting Club call.

Account Closed Mailing a letter to the tax billing address (son) as you stated sounds like the correct path to take and a great way to start communicating with the owner. Thats what I believe would be the 1st step to take if you cant get them on the phone. 

I just dicovered that there is a searchable website for the Recorder of Deeds in my county.  The site has imaged deeds from 1993 to current, which are searchable by name.  I searched the last name and neither the mother or son have had any deeds recorded as a Grantor or Grantee since 1993.

I was able to easily locate my deed recordings.

Account Closed 

If the mother owned the property free and clear (i.e. is the deeded owner) and both here husband and her died without a Last Will In-testament (Intestate) then the only son would be granted deed. This is a little over simplified, but sounds like your situation. PA's intestate succession law would have had the surviving spouse and only child split the deed upon the mothers death. Assuming the husband is the only child's father and there are no other descendants (mother or father's parents) alive the deed would then flow to the son. If there was a Last Will In-testament then it would be probated and dispersed according to the will. Hope that helps. 

Account Closed 

I have contacts in San Diego, and would be happy to help you with the negotiation. It is quite possible that the son has done nothing about the probate. If your wife does not want you to get involved, I am open to a JV with you, since I am well familiar with the probate system, and am qualified to act as the personal representative, if the son is not interested, and just wants to sell the property, and move on with life.

@Dave Iadarola 

The mother was 90 and the father preceded her in death. 

Assuming it passed to her son, is it common for the deed to be recorded in his name? 

@Dave Metsker  

Thanks.  I appreciate the offer and will definitely keep it in mind. 

My gut is telling me is just not interested in selling at this time, for whatever reason that may be. 

If I do pursue this, my first step will be to send him a letter exploring his willingness to sell.

Account Closed  If it did pass to him and he wanted clean title he would have recorded a deed. Most title I see is not clean. When title isn't clean and he is interested in selling it is best to bring in a title company. At the time of sale he should either have a recorded copy of deed recorded in PA or an affidavit of heirship. Both should clear any title questions that come during closing allowing him to pass ownership over to you. 

There's nothing like taking massive action.

@Dave Iadarola 

Thanks Dave.  You have been extremely helpful. 

@Rick H.  

Thanks for the encouragement.  I have no doubt pursuing this would be an incredible rush for me.  So what is the Hunting Club call you are referring to? 

The Hunting Club includes a monthly Tele-conference that I started doing last month. 

The Club is a group of like-minded people who have subscribed to my free E-newsletter and share a common interest in finding and working missing and deceased owner (orphan) real estate opportunities. 

Since I'm not selling anything now, I would hope the moderators don't see this post as a shameless plug. You can shame me later when I am selling stuff.

We had fun last month with Note Guy Ellis San Jose and British sports car collector Steve Sheffield. Aside from my messy first-time handling of the phone technology, we had great content and way more people on the call than I'd have ever expected. 

It's free to Hunting Club members.

I am not certain what I would want to do with the property if I got it, but I am planning on writing a letter and mailing it this week.  

Any tips for what to put in my letter?  Any Dos or Donts?

I do have the ability to personalize it since my relatives knew his mother.  I am hoping that is enough to get him to talk to me about the property.

This post has been removed.

Great.  My post gets bumped with spam.  :(

It took a little longer than I planned to write the letter, but I dropped it in the mailbox this morning.  I realize it is a long shot, but I "must follow this lead" like @Rick H.  suggested.  Considering I see this property several times a month, it would drive me insane if I didn't pursue it.

My plan is to follow up with a phone call toward the end of next week if I don't hear from him sooner.

Good for you! You'll never catch fish without a line in the water.

Also, if you're going to have an obsession, it might as well be a profitable one.

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