I think there’s way too much build-up when it comes to finding out who owns a property that you’re interested in buying. New real estate investors get flustered and think that it involves doing covert spying or hacker-style data breaching when it’s so far from that. Figuring out the owner of a property is much easier than you imagine.
To find out who owns a property, head to the county tax assessor’s office and request the tax records for the property in question. This information is a public record and available to anyone. It may cost a nominal fee for the office to make you a copy but otherwise is free and readily accessible.
But it’s not just how you get that info that’s important; it’s what you do with it. So let’s talk about the nuances behind the different types of property owners, how you can contact them, and what you should say. Let’s dive in.
The Easiest Way to Find a Homeowner
So how do you figure out who owns a property you’re interested in buying? It’s surprisingly simple.
Head to the office of the county’s Tax Assessor. Property taxes are public records, so they’ll be able to help you find that information quickly. The reason they’re public is that the tax office has a vested interest in keeping that information readily available. It ensures the correct owner is listed and helps if any errors are made.
There may be a minimal fee for the copies made for you, but I wouldn’t expect to pay more than $25 – $50 for each record. The tax records may sometimes list a corporation as the owner, but this is more for investment or rental properties. More often, the owner of a single-family home will be listed as a person or couple.
What the Mailing Address Tells You
In addition to the homeowner’s name being a public record, the address to which the tax invoices are sent is also a public record. Most of the time, the property address and mailing address will be the same. When it’s not the same is when it gets interesting.
If the mailing address is the same town or state, the home is considered a non-owner-occupied property. If the mailing address is in a different state, these are deemed Out-of-State owners. This is usually then either an investment property or a second/vacation home.
Sometimes, the mailing address will even be out of the country. These are known as, you guessed it, Out-of-Country owners. Out-of-Country owners may be tough to contact, so I’d recommend using the information you get from the tax office to look them up online and try to contact them via email or even social media.
What Should I Do Once I Get the Homeowner’s Information?
Once you find out who owns the property and where they live, it’s time to start reaching out to see if they’re interested in unloading the property.
Out-of-State and Out-of-Country owners may be especially interested if the property is being poorly maintained. This tells you that they’re not invested in caring for the home and may be looking to get rid of it altogether. You can also mention the possibility of the property becoming vandalized due to it being vacant, but I’d avoid using negative marketing tactics as it could turn against you. Property owners don’t want to be told they’re not as attentive as they could be and will often get defensive. Instead, try to talk about the benefits of getting rid of the property quickly and for a fair price by selling it to you.
How to Contact a Homeowner
There are several ways you can establish contact with the homeowner once you’ve gotten their information.
Some real estate investors will send postcards that have a high-converting yet impersonal sales message. Most of the time, they say something along the lines of “We’re interested in your property and are ready to make you a fair offer! Contact me today at 212-222-2222 and ask for Ryan.”
Others will take the info from the tax assessor to do a deeper dive and reach out electronically. This ranges from email to social media to text messaging. I don’t find this to have a good ROI as too often, the emails or social media DMs will get marked as spam.
My preferred style is to do it the old-fashioned way and give them a call. You can usually get this information from a service known as a skip trace. This will pull phone numbers associated with a property and help you match that info with what you’ve pulled from tax records. If you’re not yet ready to smile and dial, you can start reaching out via text message, but this too might be seen as spam.
What to Say When You Get Them on the Phone
My phone script is elegant in its simplicity. I can send you the entire script for free, but essentially all I say is:
“Hi, my name is Ryan, and I’m looking for [Owner], is that you? Wonderful! Don’t worry, I’m not a bill collector, and you’re not in trouble!” I feel it’s always good to get that out of the way first to help them relax. “I’m looking to buy a property in the [neighborhood] area and came across your house. Would you be interested in selling?”
To be transparent, they say “no” more times than “yes,” but the yeses have driven enough business for me that it’s well worth the time involved. If they say yes, I usually set up a time to talk – I don’t try to nail them down on the first phone call as I know I’ve caught them off guard. Also, I’d like to do a little more research on the property first so I can come prepared. I won’t usually do a ton of research before this as it may end up being a waste of valuable time that could’ve been spent on another property.
If they say no, then thank them for their time and ask if they know anyone in the area who might be interested. You’d be surprised how many times this works for getting new leads. You can also ask if they’d be willing to touch base in a few months or just to keep in touch. If they’re agreeable, I will move them to a list that receives things that keep you top-of-mind now that you’ve put the idea to sell in their head. Postcards are great for this.
Finding out who owns a property you’re interested in buying is easy. It’s what you do with that information that makes all the difference. Remember that real estate investing is a numbers game, and the more times you reach out, the higher chances you’ll have to land that gem of a property.
Do you have any tips for investors looking to land their first property by reaching out to a homeowner? Leave a comment and let us know.