I'm going to stop by the county offices....um...what should I be asking for?

16 Replies

Hi All, 

I've not gone to the county before to gather a list. Generally have used listsource. What services are available? If I bring my criteria (ie. equity, age, NOD, etc) are they able to put together a list?

I'm just not sure how it works at the county offices.



It can vary greatly from one county to another. Unless someone else here is familiar with your county you'll probably have to just go in and see. Oftentimes they won't to the work for you but can be very helpful in showing you how to get the information you want.

Depends what list you are looking for. Probate? In NJ its just a matter of going and pulling the leads yourself (tedious, better to hire someone). If you develop a relationship they may help and charge you 3 dollars per page, but they like for you to be looking for something specific. One county wanted first and last names! I would first go check it out, see how it works and ask general questions. Each county is different as @Jim Viens  said. If its doable but tedious, create a system and hire a college kid to do it. Title companies always send people there so you might even find your next hire there!

Great ideas! Thanks. That makes perfect sense. I will have different lists and questions prepared and go from there.

Alameda County, CA is the office I will be going to. 

How good is their website?  You may be able to find a lot of the data you need without going to the County.

What "County offices" are you planning to visit?

@Colleen Chapin  doh! didn't even think of that. newbie move. I will check it out. 

@Bob Bowling  Alameda County California. 

Is this for like getting address to mail yellow letters?

@Colleen Chapin  SCORE. The county had a website that allows me to get the records for the notice of default (and other issues). It doesn't list address. At least I will be armed and ready when i go to the county offices and do the research. 

@Hasan Hamdan  I like the idea of hiring someone to do this tedious work. My college aged kids and/or their friends would be PERFECT! :-) I'm hoping to learn this first time so I can understand all the resources. 

@Al C. Yes, That is the goal at this stage. I'm looking to get a target list for yellow letters plus gain some insight on some of the specific properties. I will probably end up using listsource. Is there a way to look specifically a for NOD via listsource?

@Kyle McCane I have never seen for a NOD using listsource. I haven't tried to go to the county office for a list to mail letters just once to get the information on per-forclosures.

call an attorney service who files and ask them who gathers court info.  Save time and money.  

Originally posted by @Kyle McCane:

@Bob Bowling  Alameda County California. 

Actually I meant what specific department you planned to visit.  There is no "I'm a real estate investor" office. Most investors will visit the Recorders office.  There is also the Assessors office & the Tax collectors  office, building inspectors, etc.  You will mostly deal with clerks that have no investing experience.  They will mostly be able to only answer specific questions.  If you don't know those questions or the lingo you will probably be very disappointed with your results.  

Still a nice ride to the BART Lake Merritt station and lunch on the lake or venture down to Jack London Square.  

You'll see people in the Recorders office doing research.   These are mostly people hired by entities to search public records.  You may strike up a quick friendship and get a quick 5 minute tutorial.   

Most office clerks will be able to explain exactly what they can do for you if you can articulate precisely what you want.  CA law protects the addresses of property owners pretty well.  

It's not a bad idea to understand what is the function of each county office but I think you'll be disappointed in your results without a clear expectation of what you are seeking.

@Bob Bowling Ha! I could just image myself walking around the county buildings randomly declaring "I'm a real estate investor and I'm here to make MONEY!"

Thanks for the advise. I will definitely hone my focus before I go there. 

You can't effectively replicate what you don't know by delegating a task. 

This will only create confusion but on a grander, more expensive scale.

Why don't you first figure out precisely what data you want, all the way down to data fields, and then set out to find efficient ways to pull the data, by doing the first round yourself.

In the meantime, since you are in California, subscribe to PropertyRadar so that you have quick access to property data, including equity, open trust deeds, etc. You'll also have a plethora of info on foreclosure status, if any, as that was why that site was created in the first place.

@Rick H.  Absolutely agree. Since I'm just starting out I want to try and do this initial leg work myself. I can't direct someone to the county offices if I don't know 1. which office to go to or 2. what information I can find there. 

Thanks for the tip re: PropertyRadar. I hadn't heard of it (why I love BP. learn something new everyday)! Just taking a quick look around the site it brings up another question. I was just about to push the button on listsource to pull a list for my yellow letter campaign. Do you think I could kill 2 birds with one stone by subscribing to PropertyRadar? I like that it has a mobile component for the times I go driving for dollars. 


@Kyle McCane  I use ProeprtyRadar often and the amount of data available is stunning. Technology has completely changed this business. For the price, it's a no brainer. Hi @Rick H.  

Originally posted by @Kyle McCane :

Hi All, 

I've not gone to the county before to gather a list. Generally have used listsource. What services are available? If I bring my criteria (ie. equity, age, NOD, etc) are they able to put together a list?

I'm just not sure how it works at the county offices.



Note that the county recorder typically only abstracts Grantor, Grantee, Doc #, Recording Date and Document Type. So those will be the only things you can search by at the county, though in a few counties you can also search by APN (assessors parcel number).

To get more info than that, you'll need to view the document and write it down.  If you also want beds, baths, sq ft and other property characteristics, you'll need to take that APN and go to the assessors office, the recorders office doesn't have it. If you want equity, you will need to search the county recorder for all loans on that property, determine which ones are still outstanding, and then total those up. Once you have the loan balance you'll need an estimated value - that's pretty much impossible to get at the county unless you take every recent sale from the recorder, and combine it with characteristics from the assessor. No worries though, you can get an estimate using an AVM (automated valuation model) like Zillow's Zestimate, or by getting comparable sales and calculating it yourself from Redfin, Zillow, etc. Once you have value and debt, you can calculate equity.

If you want to see parcel boundaries, try the counties GIS office, many counties makes those available, sometimes in combination with assessors data (beds, baths), for free.

If you value your time, there are other options.

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