I have good news and bad news for you…
You have competition.
They don’t know the strategy that you are about to learn in this article.
When a typical investor wants to find a property owner, they give up when they see that the ‘vacant house address’ matches the address of where the tax rolls say the owner lives.
When in reality this is pure gold!
The reality is that 99% of your competition disappears when you find a property with matching addresses.
Let’s discuss a few of the common or traditional ways that investors use to find “missing” property owners and then I’ll show you how the pros do it…
Step 1: Find vacant house
Step 2: Look at tax rolls to find out who owns the property
Step 3: Google search. Let’s say the owner’s name is John Smith…
- Over 1 billion results. That may take a little while. 🙂
Step 4: Find them on Facebook… now you just lost 3 hours of productivity.
Step 5: Look them up in the phone book… Phone book? What’s that? Do you even have one?
Step 6: Talk to the neighbors… let them know that you are in the neighborhood beautification business.
Step 7: Put a FSBO sign in the property with your number on it… after the angry seller calls you, let’s hope that you are still interested in the property.
Step 8: Send a letter to the owner… now we’re getting warm! This is a great strategy. But what do you do when the house is vacant and the tax rolls say that this is the owner’s mailing address?
Step 9: Do a skip trace… this is your answer to #8.
Pro Tip: If you skip steps 3 thru 7, you will save time and make more money.
Most real estate investors are not aware of step 9… and so they give up and never get the chance to contact the owners of these great properties.
In my business I use two types of skip trace services (both of which I own by the way…that’s how important I think skip tracing is for finding good deals). Here’s how I use them…
Skip trace tool #1: RealEstateSkipTrace.com (do-it yourself)
This service gives investors the ability to use our standard skip trace type search, which gives you access to information like:
- Subject (the person you’re looking for) information
- Phone Numbers
- Email Addresses
- Relative names/phone numbers
This is an automated service so you can use it any time and get an instant result and many times this standard information is all an investor needs to be able to find the seller. It’s a low cost product that we’re able to provide to our clients very inexpensively.
However, sometime a more exhaustive dossier style search is in order to find those hard to find sellers and that’s when I turn to…
Skip trace tool #2: FindTheSeller.com (done for you)
This service allows you to find property owners that no one else can.
Here’s how it works… you simply go to the site and order your skip trace. The staff at FindTheSeller.com takes the info you have and they hunt the seller down for you. They use multiple data points to get fresh contact information for you.
Here’s a breakdown of the differences in the 2 services…
Pro Tip: If you’re a member of RealEstateSkipTrace.com, when you need the higher level “Cadillac” search, you automatically get ½ off the cost of premium skip traces ordered through FindTheSeller.com!
Another way to get the sellers’ information is to see if the tools you already have access to provide the information you need.
For instance, if you are a member of VacantHouseDataFeed.com then you may not even need a skip trace. As a member of this service you get access to “NCOA” (national change of address) info from the United States Postal Service, when it’s available.
Have you ever filled out one of those “Change of Address” forms at the USPS, when you moved?
You know, the form that you complete that lets the USPS know where to forward your mail to? It usually comes with a yellow sticker on it?
That is what I am talking about when I say “NCOA” info.
When I mail a letter to a vacant house, and the owner has already filled out that change of address form, then I’m assured that my letter is going to the updated, best address for the seller, and that’s good.
What’s better is if you’re a VacantHouseDataFeed.com user you’ll see that updated address and can mail directly to it. This will put your message in front of the seller faster and without relying on the USPS to forward it.
A couple other scenarios where a skip trace is unnecessary…
- The addresses DO NOT If the tax rolls give you an address for the owner that is different than the address of the vacant house, there is a pretty good chance that it is accurate. If they are not matching, you send a letter and it gets returned, then you WOULD do a skip trace.
- The house is bank owned. Following a house getting foreclosed upon, the bank will notify the county and the tax rolls will be updated. If you see a bank as the owner of a house, there is no point in skip tracing the owner, because you can just pull up their website.
Pro Tip: I prefer matching address properties because they discourage and scare away competition.
How do you find the owner’s mailing address?
- Go down to your county court house
- If your county has it… go their website instead
- Or VacantHouseDataFeed.com
With the Vacant House Data Feed, you do not need to find out the owner info from the tax rolls, because it’s already done for you.
Just pull up the properties in your area, have a birddog drive by, call the owners with phone numbers, mail to the ones with un-matching addresses, don’t mail to the bank-owned houses, and run a skip trace on the rest.
The Vacant House Data Feed will save
you a lot of money on mailers…
A typical letter costs $1, so any cost incurred for a subscription is easily covered just from the inside information that your competitors do not know about, which of course you have the inside track on.
You get the phone number of the owner in many cases and you could simply go through the Vacant House Data Feed and call owners in your area.
I also know from working with thousands of students over the years that most investors are unlikely to call these sellers… so if you would rather send a mailer every time, here is how that works…
- Send them a letter in a standard envelope that is plain white
- Use a first-class, live stamp
- Use a friendly return address sticker or hand-write it
- Hand-write the seller’s name and address – or use a “hand writing” font.
Yes, this process is labor-intensive… but let me ask you a question… how do you sort thru your mail?
Over the garbage can… like me?
Most people are quick to throw out junk mail, but when your letter looks like it came from a friend, recipients are quick to open it.
I have received calls from sellers… months, even years later. They open the envelope, read the letter, and stash it away in case they ever want to sell.
It is important that the letter is just as good as the envelope because they wouldn’t stash it away for another day, if they didn’t think you had a good solution to their problem.
There are many things you can do to make your marketing pieces more persuasive, like:
- Writing in a conversational tone
- Using a “PS”
- Including logos
- Adding testimonials
If you do not want to use the Vacant House Data Feed… here is what you can do…
When the addresses do not match, you can send a letter exactly as aforementioned and add this little nugget of gold to the letter…
By adding “Address Service Requested” on the envelope, you compel the USPS to forward your letter AND return a copy of your letter along with the owner’s new address.
They charge about 75 cents for this service (every time a letter is returned with the NCOA info), but it is money well spent because not only does your next mailer to them get delivered to the right address (which means you are not wasting money on letters) … but you also save money on skip traces.
What should you do if you can’t see the property?
Perhaps you are interested in a certain zip code, a certain carrier route, an apartment community, a high rise building or any community that is not easy to access.
You can send a letter or postcard (using a first-class stamp) to ALL of the addresses in that group.
If you use the letter as described above but use “Return Service Requested” under the return address… USPS will return your letter to you stamped “vacant” if the house is not occupied…
Now you can use this powerful intel to run skip traces and find property owners that nobody else can.
These techniques are the exact ones I’ve used in my business since 1993. While many things have changed over the years these have proven to work the BEST when it comes to finding property owners that no one else can.
If you want to follow a simple paint by numbers style blueprint for wholesaling for quick cash… check out my blog post on flipping houses with no money, credit, or experience.
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