Today I want to talk about the goldmine of properties sitting in that stack of returned mail on your desk, and how to use skip tracing and other tools to find these property owners.
Stop and think about this for a minute; if you haven’t bothered to find an updated address for these folks, most likely neither has your competition. These other investors probably also have a big stack of returned mail just sitting on their desk gathering dust. It’s a safe bet that no one is really taking the time to track those motivated sellers down. I want that to change for you after today. These could be some of the easiest deals you to put together simply because you will have little or no competition. And, I’m going to give you a list of resources you can use to find these folks.
What Exactly is Skip Tracing?
Skip tracing is the process of finding someone. It’s that simple.
Why Should you be Skip Tracing?
You should be trying to find these property owners because it’s a lot easier than chasing deals everyone else is chasing. There are a number of free and low-cost ways to find these folks. There are also some services that require a subscription. Right about now you might be tempted to say, “I’m not messing with that”. But, let me ask you this; if you find even a few great deals a year would it be worth investing a little money? You bet.
Let’s just imagine that you have 30 (or more) investors in your area actively doing direct mail. Those are your competitors. Everyone is chasing the same deals. However, what if only one or two of those same investors were working that pile of gold on their desk called return mail? Can you see how valuable those leads are to you?
Stale Contacts (AKA Dead Leads); The Statistics
According to MelissaData.com, 2% of your contacts become stale every month. People move, they marry or get divorced. They might get a new job which leads to a transfer, some simply walk away from a property for one reason or another, and some people die. People’s address will change for one reason or another. Most folks will do a change of address with the post office. However, there are some people that never get around to doing this and they are usually the ones we are looking for.
Resources for Skip Tracing Property Owners
Let’s say that you’ve just come across a distressed property that is vacant. The house is in disrepair, the grass is a couple of feet tall, so you shoot off a postcard or letter that gets returned to you the following week. Where do you start to find the property owner?
The first place would be to look at the tax assessor’s site. However, when you do that, you see that the property owner is still listed at that address.
The next thing to do is a little door knocking. Start by talking to the neighbors. There is a good chance that one of them knows how to reach the property owner. Then I would suggest you check Google and social media. It’s funny, but people will walk away from a house then announce on Facebook that they’ve just moved to a different city or state. Do a little stalking.
What if you Still Can’t find the Seller?
Remember that most investors have given up on the lead at this stage of the game, so that gives you a huge advantage. It’s time to dig a little deeper.
Here is a list of resources for you. Be sure to check these companies out for yourself to see which one meets your needs best:
1.The NCOA (National Change of Address Database).
This is your first step. According to NCOA, 44 million consumers and businesses move every year. There are both free paid versions of this service. The paid versions are pretty affordable for getting new addresses. This is one resource you should definitely put in your toolbox.
This company is pretty well known. There are a number of free tools on their site, so you can get started for free. MelissaData will match your list against the approximate 160 million records of the USPS. This will be permanent change-of-address records for a specific period of time.
3. Find the Seller
This company is good if you just need to find one or two people. The cost is right at $10. If they can’t find the seller, you don’t get charged.
4. People Finders
This company has a subscription that costs $5.95 a month for 3 months, or if you sign up for 6 months it’s $4.95 a month
5. True People Search
This is also a membership. The cost is just under $23 for one month, or $14.96 a month if you sign up for 4 months.
6. Locate Plus
This company has a 10-day free trial, then it’s $79,95 a month so it’s a little bit pricier.
7. Batch Skip Tracing
This company is one that is specifically for real estate investors, and their pricing starts as low at 20 cents a name depending on the size of your list you need to skip trace. This one is worth checking out.
Whitepages has been around for a while. You can find a person, lookup a phone number or an address and much more. You can get started for free and get basic information. Whitepages also gives you information about relatives which can be quite helpful in some of your searches. One of their paid services is tenant screening.
This is a people search engine and free white pages. There are both free and paid versions.
Be Smart About It
Before you hit the buy button on one of those services remember to do these things first:
Take each piece of returned mail and look these folks up on Google and social media You might be surprised how many of them you can find simply by doing a quick (free) search. Secondly, take just a minute and look up the individual property that is listed on the returned mail piece on the tax assessor’s site. If it’s a property that’s still available and it’s one you would want to buy, go ahead and try to find the owner. Last but not least, if someone passed away long ago and no probate was ever opened, search for their obituary online. A close relative will likely be found in this notice. (I definitely don’t recommend this strategy for someone that passed away recently).
You will almost always be able to find the owner of the property once you know how to use skip tracing.
Well, there you have it. Take that pile of returned direct mail pieces and turn those lemons into lemonade. What if you could set up a system for doing this that got you just one extra deal a month? Pretty sweet if I do say so myself.
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