Some real estate owners are tough to find, and believe it or not, that's a good thing! If they're hard to find, that means that most, if not all, other real estate wholesalers and investors will give up looking for them, if they even try at all.
Now I'll admit it can be frustrating if you don't know where to look but never fear. I've compiled this real estate skip tracing page to help walk you through the process.
Below I'll walk you through the tools, techniques, and websites that can help you find those hidden property owners, but first, let's answer the question:
What is Real Estate Skip Tracing?
Real Estate Skip Tracing is the process of locating a property owner's whereabouts. "Skip Tracing" is the process of performing this task, which an investor or wholesaler may do, or it can be performed by an independent skip tracing company.
The term "skip" (as a noun) refers to the person being searched for and is derived from the idiomatic expression "to skip town," meaning to depart (perhaps in a rush), leaving minimal clues behind to "trace" the "skip" to a new location.
Now that we've defined real estate skip tracing, let's move on to the techniques, tools, and websites that will help your efforts.
Let's imagine you've driven by a vacant house and want to find the property owner so you can contact them about buying the property. The first thing to do is find the owner's name, and you can do this by checking online with your county tax assessor's office to see whose name is on the tax records.
Finding this online is typically pretty easy; just "Google" "<Your County Name> Tax Assessor's Office" and find their website.
If you are a PropStream User, you can look up pretty much any property in the country and find out who owns it and the property tax billing address.
It's also much easier to navigate than your county website, so if you're not a member, I encourage you to take a minute and check out everything it has to offer.
Now you have the property address and owner's name, so let us move on to tracking down their current location...
I love free stuff, and in today's world, there are a lot of great open-source resources for skip-tracing property owners, and currently, my favorite is Fast People Search.
Not only does their information seem pretty accurate for a free site they also provide available phone numbers, email addresses, aliases, and their relatives' names.
Once you find the property owner's name, enter it and check out the results. In many cases, you'll get lucky, and their new address will pop right up, and your job is done, but of course, that's not always the case.
Also, remember the information differs from one website to the next, so find a few favorites and check them all when looking for a property owner.
Below is a list of skip tracing websites you can check out, and remember to bookmark your favorites for later use. You can also check back here occasionally because I'll update the information on this page as new resources become available or as these become obsolete.
Highly Recommended: FastPeopleSearch.com
My favorite free search website by far! I love that it gives you instant results and doesn't try to up-sell you to a premium service. I'm praying they don't change this site and keep it just the way it is.
Highly Recommended: Microbilt.com *** You need a registered business like an LLC or DBA to sign up for an account with Microbilt.
Ask anyone in the real estate investing business for a while what the best real estate skip tracing site is, and they'll probably say TLO, and I'll admit their information is pretty darn good, but there's a small problem...
TLO doesn't want real estate investors using their services. (or so I've heard)
Now some investors and wholesalers successfully get accounts with them because they've been coached on how to do it. (or so I've heard) But my guess is if you're successful in getting an account, you might not have it long because they do frequently audit them to look at your activity (or so I've heard)
Problem Solved! Microbilt has the same great information, plus they're a leader in the Alternative Credit Reporting Business (bad credit), Which gives them access to more information that could help you find more real estate owners.
In addition to great data, Microbilt might offer you some great pricing on a skip tracing account because The Wholesalers Toolbox referred you (but I'm not allowed to say).
So fill out the form by clicking here and ask them for yourself (remember you need to have a business to apply for an account)
When I first put this page together most of these were pretty good websites, but now many redirect to other sites that will only let you view results when you upgrade to a premium membership.
Also, many of them do this weird thing like they're scanning for results and it takes forever... it's very very annoying.
I recommend the websites I mentioned above but if you like click through the list and see if you find any others you prefer to use.
Finding property owners through social media can sometimes be done in a matter of minutes, especially if the owner has a name that isn't common. I've found my fair share of property owners by searching for their name on Facebook and LinkedIn.
Once you locate someone you suspect is the owner, just send them a quick message asking if they're the property owner and if they are thinking about selling.
As basic as it sounds, just doing a quick Google search for the person might turn up some results. Skip tracing can be tedious, but you could be one search away from a good payday, so leave no stone unturned.
The best way to find someone using a search engine is to put their name (or variations of their name) in quotations. Example: "Jonathan J Homeowner" or "Jon Homeowner" and see your results; you might just hit the jackpot.
If you're not tech-savvy, this likely isn't the tool for you... But if you're a wanna-be private detective, this might be right up your alley.
Inteltechniques.com is a website designed for individuals who want to be trained in open-source intelligence techniques. I'm not recommending you sign up for their training (although it would probably be very interesting).
I suggest you take a look at their Free Tools Page, and you'll notice the links on the far left of the page for their custom search tools, giving you access to hundreds of online search resources. So for your advanced real estate skip tracers check them out at Inteltechniques.com
Another cool skip tracing is OSINT Framework which is a mindmap of skip-tracing tools for the more hard-to-find property owners.
Send Them A Letter - You can also try a few offline tricks when your online search has yet to turn up any results. First, try sending a letter to the owner of the house.
Mail it to the vacant property address and write "do not forward" and "return service requested" on the envelope. If they have forwarded their mail with the USPS, the letter will come back to you with their new address written on it.
Leave Them A Note - Secondly, try taping your letter on the door with blue or red painter's tape (easy to peel off & won't damage the door) and write "Property Owner, Confidential" on the front of the envelope.
If the owner has one of the neighbors keeping an eye on the house, the letter will get to them. We've used this method time and time again with much success.
Visit The Neighbors - Believe it or not, just asking the neighbor works well. Knock on the neighbor's door and tell them you're an investor trying to locate the owner and you've exhausted all other resources. You'll often find a compassionate person who will tell you where the owner moved to.
Using this information can help you track down more property owners, and the more skiptracing you do, the better you'll get at it.
Just use your head and follow their trail using the best online sources and offline techniques you can find, and I'm sure you'll have a lot of great success!
If you know of anything useful I haven't mentioned here, please email us at
firstname.lastname@example.org and let us know.