By Rich Urban of South Florida Investors
“Vacant – Boarded Up Houses” are my FAVORITE DEALS for quick turnaround flips. You’re talking about someone that cares so little about the property that they’ve left it to decay. The owner of that house should be begging you to take their junk house off of their hands. Except, the only problem is, the owner has completely vanished without a trace…Or so it may appear!
In these times of computers and the Internet, It’s a very rare occasion when someone can’t be tracked down. Every homeowner leaves little clues, and it’s your job to piece them together. If you want to be successful at this, you need to have a system and you need to follow it exactly as I’m describing it to you. If you only do one or two things, you may get lucky…but if you do them all, you’ll almost always get your “Mark”. I suggest you print up the following Ten Step Plan and follow the process every time you track down a seller.
The Ten Step Plan To Finding Homeowners “Bloodhound Style”
1. Place A Flier in the door stating that you buy houses in any condition & stick one of your “I Buy Houses” bandit signs right in the front yard.
2. Ask The Neighbors….Not Just immediate neighbors. I always go Four houses out on each side and across the street. You should be able to get bits and pieces of information from each person. Don’t be afraid to ask questions..Leave your card and offer money (if you buy the property) for any information that they may “remember” after you leave…Ask & You Shall Receive!
3. I go to Whitepages.com or you could call 411 – You’ll find about half of them right here!
4. Visit your local Tax Assessor’s Office. Check the “Mailing Address” to see where the tax statements are headed. ALSO, I ALWAYS run that person’s name to see if they own other property in hopes that there are more abandoned junkers that we can cut a deal on. Sometimes a new mailing address will be on other properties as well.
5. Run the name through the clerks office and look at all the recorded docs and court indexes for that person. You can often get a good picture of what’s going on, and sometimes even some other addresses or addresses of relatives, etc. This is where your detective skills kick in. You want to scour through and see if you can find anything…divorce filings, new loans, liens, Law Suits. If their salary is being garnished, the employer’s name and address will be their for you.. Many times you’ll see that the individual is in jail or just got out of jail. You can usually find their attorney or a new address off of the arrest info. If they’re in jail, you can call the prison and set up a visit with the inmate.
6. Send out a letter and put “Address Service Requested” on the envelope. Make sure that the address is hand written on the envelope and regular stamp is used (NO BULK RATE)
7. Hire a Skip Tracer. usually use “FINDTHESELLER.COM” because they’re pretty inexpensive and they’re pretty good at finding people that I can’t with very limited info. It usually takes 24 – 48 hours to get a match but you can be trying the other methods while you’re waiting.
8. If it’s a unique last name, I’ll start calling everyone in the phone book within the area…hoping to get a relative. I’ve been surprisingly successful with this “Shot Gun” approach. If the name is something like, “Johnson” or “Jones”…I wouldn’t even attempt it..:)
9. Voter Registry – You can get updated addresses
10. Place the lead in your file in case another clue arises in the near future (Property goes into foreclosure, neighbors call you, someone calls on the sign, etc).