How to Find Out Who Owns an Abandoned Property
An abandoned house in your neighborhood is both an eyesore and a safety hazard. For us at Lucky Home Buyers, realty consultants in Towson, Md, an abandoned house could be an attractive investment opportunity. Whatever your reason, there are some easy tips on how to find out who owns an abandoned property.
Have you ever wished that someone recorded the owner’s mailing address for every property in your area in one central location or website? If so, I have some splendid news for you! One of the easiest ways to look up the owner of a property is to look at your city or county website for the tax records or property records.
Most counties have this available online, but some more rural counties might require you to visit in person for this data. A quick search for the property address can lead you to the owner’s name and tell you whether their mailing address differs from the property address.
Keep in mind, there are some counties where this information is hard to find or unavailable to the public, but the extra work is worth the reward. Also, this information might be outdated or not updated at all; if the owner never notified the county of their new address, you are working off of old or bad data.
What does a dollar buy you these days? A gas station coffee? One-third of an energy drink? A pack of gum?
Not much, it seems. What if I told you, it could buy a scary amount of data from a person?
Skip tracing lets you pay a service to pull information on a person, typically running around $1-$5, depending on the service and the amount of information you need. Some of the big skip tracing services are actually run by credit bureaus.
In a skip trace report, you will find the absentee owner’s most recent address, their phone numbers (seriously, some have 20+ phone numbers attached to the name), email addresses, names of relatives, and sometimes the contact information for those relatives. If you want a surefire way to find someone’s most recent information in order to contact them, this is it.
Going door to door
While this method might seem too old-school to work, it’s very effective. Often, the owner of an abandoned home had some kind of relationship with the neighbors before leaving for good.
I’ve knocked on doors to be told that, “Jim went to go live with his sister in South Dakota and asked me to monitor the place,” or, “Ginny went to go live in a senior living care center across town, and the kids aren’t sure what to do with the place.”
These are two direct examples out of the few dozen I’ve experienced over the years. The neighbors know about their neighborhood, and most want to help and preserve the area. Some are sick of looking at the 6-foot-tall weeds next door. Some don’t want their home value to be affected by the blight down the street.
Finding neighbors who have contact with the owners is the goal. In the two encounters above, I could get the phone numbers and names of the owner or their kids. If you are truly there to help and are genuine, neighbors still want to help their neighbors, even if the neighbor’s house is half falling down.
Once you have the name of the owner of the abandoned property, you can plug that into your favorite search engine and see what you can find out. I typically enter their full name, followed by the city and state, for more relevant search results.
I’ve found Facebook accounts, Instagram, White Pages, company websites, LinkedIn profiles, mentions in the local newspaper, awards at 4-H Club meetings, online reviews they’ve written, and sometimes obituaries of the owner. I’ve also found absolutely nothing on certain sellers; these are typically older sellers who never got online at all and have no social media presence.
Once you have a few leads, poke around anything you’ve found to get to the next step: sending messages on social media, finding their siblings and sending them messages, etc. Don’t be afraid to dig for information that you can use to contact the seller to help them with their abandoned property. The harder they are to find, the less competition you will have.
Not all abandoned properties are forgotten, as I’ve found out many times by leaving a note on the door. Either the neighbor or sometimes a family member who still lives in town and is checking in on the property will find it.
I like to leave the note a little open, so their curiosity is piqued and they call me. Something like, “Bob, I need to urgently speak with you! Please call me as soon as you get this. 555-555-5555.” I will then come back in a week to see if the note is still there. If it’s not still there, someone got the message.
If it’s there, I’ll leave another note, this time bigger so that it can be seen from the street easily, usually on a 1-foot by 2-foot red poster board. Sometimes a curious neighbor calls; sometimes the owner, next of kin, or lawyer calls. Either way, you get a reaction and are one step closer to your goal of buying the property.
So, your superpowers helped you find the abandoned property, and these five methods will help you get the contact information for the owners. What you do with that information from there is completely up to you and your targeted marketing strategy.
I’ve led you to water. Now it’s time to drink, take action, and go help some people.
About Lucky Home Buyers
At Lucky Home Buyers, we have over 25 years of experience providing win-win solutions to help homeowners get out of their sticky situations. Issues such as foreclosure, owning a burdensome property, probate, or anything else, we focus on providing you with a compassionate solution to your situation so you can continue to do the things you love.