By Cameron Dunlap

This article is about the second step in my 5-step process for quickly turning abandoned property into BIG paychecks finding motivated sellers. I like to think of these types of deals as gold mines that are simply disguised as vacant homes or abandoned property.

This is mainly because there’s not a lot of competition for them. Not only is it challenging to find vacant properties, but it can be even more challenging to find the owners or motivated sellers of these vacant houses. Oftentimes, because it is indeed more challenging, fewer investors will actually spend the time and effort searching for them (which is why this is a GREAT opportunity for you).

The Hunt Is On

Instantly, your initial reaction to trying to find these motivated sellers might be to talk to the neighbors in that specific area, by the good old-fashioned way of knocking on their door. But then you quickly learn that, maybe this isn’t the best idea. And you’re right. Actually, it’s a HUGE waste of your time (your bird dog will agree). And you know that your time is much more valuable (and much better spent) negotiating with motivated sellers and finalizing deals.

So think about it this way, if you were to get sucked into a long and drawn-out conversation with ‘Mr. Neighbor’, who is lonely and doesn’t have people to talk to on a regular basis (until you show up). Well, let’s just say that you’re about to become ‘Mr. Neighbor’s’ best friend and learn every little detail about him over the next 2-3 hours (sad, but true). Believe it or not, I’ve tried this tactic. And yes, although it might help you get the information that you’re looking for on the motivated seller, there’s a great chance that you just simply end up wasting your time.

And more often than not, this is how you fall into the typical ‘not worth your time’ category of neighborhood watch groups. Furthermore, if you do talk with people in a neighborhood watch group, you’ll most likely find out that (a) they don’t know that a house in their neighborhood is even vacant, or (b) they don’t seem to care too much. Either way, you end up getting no useful information out of them. So let me further explain some valuable options for locating these motivated sellers.

Give These a Chance

I have several tactics to share with you (and I will admit that some are better than others). But I’m sharing all of them with you so that you’re fully armed with the information, and can then decide what strategy watts best for you.

Tax Rolls

To start your search off right, you can begin with the Tax Rotls which is a list of taxable property either by township, city or county. Tax Rolls contain the name and address of the person (or entity) that is paying the taxes on the property. In other words, you’ll learn where the tax bill is mailed.

You’ll also be able to see the square footage of the house, the number of bedrooms and bathrooms, the assessed value, the most recent purchase price (in most states), etc. This is all of the data that the tax assessor maintains in order to assess and collect property taxes. There are a couple ways to access them.

First, you could march over to the Tax Assessor’s office and look up the details using the property’s address (which you probably got from your bird dog) or you’ll likely be able to find it easily on the Tax Assessor’s website for your area.

But here’s where it may become a little challenging. If the owner or motivated sellers address is listed as that of the vacant house this could be a dead end, simply because we know that no one lives there. I refer to this “dead end” situation as “matching address”.

This isn’t the end of the world, so don’t let it get you discouraged. In fact, you should actually get excited! Remember – the harder it is to find the seller, the better the deal.

So now we’re going to dig a little deeper, and if that means putting on your Sherlock Holmes’ hat or any other cliches that you can think of, then let’s get to it.

You may be thinking, “But Cam, this means more work and time on our part.” Yes, it does mean a little more work for us, but it will be worth it. So on that note, let’s dig deeper and get ahead of our competition (this is where everyone else usually gives up-but not you). Tax Rolls really are a great source of information.

Here’s another search suggestion, but I share it with a caveat.

Online Name Search

If you have the owner or motivated seller’s name of the vacant house, then you can search for more information about them online (by Googling their name and city).

But, by doing this, it’s important for you to keep in mind that you could either come up empty-handed, or in some cases, (if they have a common name) the search could bring up tOO many results to comb through, thus leaving you uncertain of where to even start. No one likes dealing with uncertainty, which is why consider this tactic a waste of time.

FSBO (not for the faint of heart)

Then there’s this one (that takes a lot of boldness, folks). You place a FSBO sign with a phone number in the yard of the vacant home. By doing this, the motivated seller will most likely hear about this and call. If and when they do call, you have to be prepared with a good and viable reason for why you put that sign there. Of course, it was accidentaL This will be a great time to ask if you were to pay all cash and close on the date of their choice, what would be the least they could accept.

Send a Letter

You also have the option to send a letter to the owner. Personally, I use the automated mail manager that’s built into iFlip Real Estate- my business automation CRM (and it works great for this)!

Okay, so let’s say that the Tax Roll address of the owner or motivated seller matches the address of the vacant house. Well, by mailing a letter to that address with “Address Service Requested” on it, you would be sent that forwarding address from the USPS and your letter would then be forwarded to the owner. This is a good strategy. But – if you’re like me and you prefer the ‘straight-forward method’ – just go directly to skip tracing.

Why Skip Tracing Is The Best

Plain and simple, skip tracing is the heavy hitter’s method of locating missing, motivated sellers. All that you need for a skip trace is the owner’s first and last name (and remember, you can get this info from the Tax Rolls) and the vacant home address. Yes, that’s allyou need.

Initially, when I first acknowledged the significant amount of value that skip tracing had to offer to real estate investors, I immediately knew that I had to create the fastest (and easiest) way to cash in on deals that your competition couldn’t touch. So it was then that I decided to create a skip-tracing business called Find the Seller.

Because the fees for skip tracing vary, I humbly suggest that you check out where you’ll find the industries most competitive pricing. Then consider that was founded by and caters specifically to Real Estate Investors.

Hide & Seek Revealed

As investors, oftentimes, the motivated sellers that we’re searching for aren’t leaving any kind of trail (or bread crumbs) behind to help us locate them. Or perhaps they’ve recently moved out and the new trail hasn’t been made public just yet.

Investor or not, we are all human, and as we progress through our daily lives, we leave a trail of where we are and what we’re doing. And that trail folks, is relatively available to professional skip tracing services.

Why Skip Tracing Is Worth It

The reality is-quality skip tracing really ‘digs’ in for you, primarily searching for those hard-to-find details and clues that will ultimately help locate the motivated vacant house owners.

Oftentimes, skip tracing will search for other properties (past and present) that may be in the seller’s name. Then, it’ll provide the data on the neighbors of that property, and neighbors from a previously owned properties who may have info about the former owner.

A skip trace can help determine if the seller is actually deceased. If this is the case, then the house is most likely in probate and a skip trace could help find the seller’s heirs.

Skip tracing will often provide the seller’s “associates.” This can be anything from a colleague, or business partner, to a co-borrower, to a co-insurer to an ex-girlfriend or ex-boyfriend. In other words-people who are somehow tied to the person that you want to find.

Skip tracing might also provide AKA names. These may include: past married names, maiden names or the misspelling of a name on a credit application. Whatever it may be, skip tracing can cut through all ambiguities like that.

For example, my last name is Dunlap, but a common misspelling is Dunlop. At some point, I have filled out paperwork and the person typing it into their electronic system misspelled it – and boom – I have an alias. It happens a lot. No matter what the instance is, a good skip tracing service will be able to detect this, instantly clearing it up.

Also, skip tracing should be able to tell you if the seller has filed for bankruptcy – and let me tell you, buying houses from people in bankruptcy is a phenomenal strategy. Think about how motivated that seller might be!

One last important note! In regard to unlisted phone numbers, periodically, when people are filling out the applications, they’ll write their cellphone number on it, but the question is: Why?

Many people don’t even have a landline home phone any more. Instead they just use a cell phone as their primary source of contact. So, even if their phone numbers are technically unlisted, (yes, the White Pages are still around in digital versions) when they enter their cell phone number on an application, that instantly gets saved into a database (that a good skip tracing company can access) and BOOM! There you have it.

About Cameron Dunlap…

Cameron Dunlap began his investing career back in 1993. His very first deal was a rehab project and he walked away with $12,000 in his pocket. Although it took nearly 16 weeks to complete, he’s never looked back and continues to invest in real estate today. He knew from that experience that this would be his passion.

After only a few years in the business, Cameron Dunlap had done more deals than most people do in a lifetime. He had amassed millions and soon people were asking him for advice on how he was doing it. He was invited on stage by one his close mentors to share his story and his experience with a few students. His down=to-earth personality and get things done attitude resonated with the audience and soon he realized how much of an impact he had on people .

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