How to Find the Owners of any Property – Even Vacant Ones!
We all have that image of a vacant home etched in our minds, whether it was from a scary movie you watched or a favorite book. They have a specific feeling to them — haunted, forlorn. Maybe you imagine overgrown weeds, broken windows, and boards all over the place. Well, that’s not quite what “vacant” means today.
A lot of times when people leave in a hurry, it’s more subtle than boards across the windows and doors left open. You might notice the lights have been off for a while or that all the toys are gone from the lawn. Regardless, each vacant home has one thing in common: the owner is out of the picture.
What do you do when you’re interested in a property and the owner is nowhere to be found? You have a couple of options.
Find the Owner’s Contact Information
In this day and age, there is a lot you can do from the comfort of your own home.
Use Public Records
County records are a good place to start. You can find a surprising amount of information from Netronline.com about properties all across the US. Once there, you can find details on the structure and age of the property as well as a complete purchase history.
This could give you good insight into how long the current owner has had the property. Most of these records are online. However, if you prefer going in person, you can check the local county tax office instead.
There is a caveat; not everybody updates their information with the county, and if there is an owner that left in a hurry, chances are they didn’t have time to fill out those forms.
Buy Their Information Online
Another option is to buy contact information online. This is called a skip trace, and it is surprisingly easy to do. If you know the owner’s name, you can get all sorts of information about them for just a few dollars.
Many of these companies will give you email addresses, phone numbers, physical addresses, and even the names of relatives. Nowadays, several companies offer monthly memberships that include unlimited searches. These range anywhere from $9.95/month for limited monthly searches to $199/month for unlimited searches.
Some of the most popular sites are:
- Family Tree Now (genealogy site to find records, has associated names, emails, phone numbers, and current and past addresses for free)
- Clear Skip ($0.25/lead or lower prices with paid monthly membership)
- Delvepoint (offers a free week trial to test it out and costs $1/standard person search)
You can use that information to contact them whether you prefer sending an email or leaving a voicemail. If you don’t get an answer from the owner, you could then start trying relatives to get ahold of them.
Search Engine Stalking
If you don’t want to go that route, you could simply search the owner online. Type their name into a search engine and you could be looking at pages of digital history. Maybe you’ll even find their latest Instagram post about their new home!
Adding the physical address of the property you are interested in or the name of the town can narrow down the search enormously. For example, if I type myself into Google, I receive 456,000 results in less than a second. If I type my name and town into the search bar, that narrows it down to 40,600 results. That’s better, but still a lot to sift through.
Best Ways to Contact the Owner of a Property
Maybe you want to be more hands-on, or you don’t feel like taking the time to sort through pages of results online. Or maybe you couldn’t find anything online. It happens occasionally. Either way, you have a few options left.
Ask Around About the Owners
Ask the neighbors. It’s not always a guarantee, but if you check in with the surrounding neighbors, they might know where the owner went.
I recommend checking the residents on either side of the property you are interested in and those living across the street. They’re more likely to know who owns the place than the person living at the end of the block.
They’ve surely noticed that no one is living in the vacant property already, and that’s never good for the neighborhood. Vacant homes can drop home values in an area, especially if they aren’t maintained.
Leave a Letter On the Door
You could post a big colorful note on the door with something simple like, “Hi, my name is Jane Jones and I need to talk to you. Please call me back — my number is (123) 456-7890.” Check back in a week or so to see if your note is still there.
A lot of owners will ask someone they trust to keep an eye on their property when they aren’t able to themselves. They’ll notice your note and chances are you’ll get a phone call.
If your note is gone and you haven’t received a call, try leaving a bigger and brighter note. After another week or so, if you still haven’t heard anything, you might want to explore other options for contacting the owner.
Try Calling the Owner Cold
You could try calling them if you get a phone number. This isn’t for everyone. Personally, I feel a little awkward calling someone out of the blue. Some people don’t mind getting calls, and some people do. If you opt for this route, be prepared for anything.
If you’re concerned about that opening icebreaker and the possible rejection, try out something a little more old-fashioned.
Write The Owner a Letter
If you do have a current address for the owner, send them a letter. It may seem a little dated, but sending a handwritten note or postcard can get you noticed. A lot of companies send out generic marketing materials to dozens of abandoned properties, so making yours personal is bound to get you more attention.
Here are some companies that can make your letter-writing process more streamlined:
- Standard marketing postcards from PostcardMania ($0.05-$0.12/each)
- Autopen letters from Open Letter Marketing ($0.63/each)
- Personalized postcard from Yellow Letter HQ ($0.378/each)
- Pen-inked door hangers from Ballpoint Marketing ($0.35-$0.40/each)
It can take a while for an owner to understand that you are serious about buying their property. By reaching out and making contact over time, they will begin to think about you more.
It takes an average of 6+ touches over a period of months to get in touch with a person just to see if they are willing to sell the property at a discount. That means postcards, calls, texts, letters, and even posters taped to their front door like mentioned above.
Do not give up if you don’t hear back after your first, second, or fifth attempt. Persistence pays off — after all, the tortoise won the race against the hare by keeping a steady pace. The same goes for all good things in life, even real estate investments.
Properties are abandoned for a whole slew of reasons. You will never know why this one was until you ask. Odds are the owner is already looking to offload the property, and it will greatly simplify their life once they do.
You could provide them with the resources to start a new chapter of their life through purchasing their property and eliminating any stress they might have about overgrown weeds and dusty windows. The neighbors will thank you too. It’s a win-win-win for everybody.