I am writing this article because I mentor so many people who desire to become successful in real estate; however, their life gets in the way of educating themselves. Making offers on the Multiple Listing Service (MLS) is a great way to find Sellers, yet, when you submit an offer to the Seller, the Realtor really doesn’t know the answers to the following questions. Is there a mortgage on the property? Are the Sellers in foreclosure (unless it is a short sale)? Is it a probate matter and how many heirs are in the estate? What permits have been pulled for the property and what dates were items like the roof or A/C installed (this information is sometimes provided in a Sellers Disclosure)?
After talking with a Seller and/or finding a Vacant Home, the research you do is a vital part of your business success. I provide students with over 43 ways to find motivated sellers without using the MLS. Knowing in-depth information about the Seller’s situation, ownership and mortgage balance allows me to negotiate and close more deals than just listening to what a Seller has told me. In fact, Sellers normally tell you what they want and not what they NEED. In order to make a deal work for all parties, we need to find out what they NEED, not what they want, then see how/if we can create a win-win situation.
There are many moving parts to the puzzle. I am recommending saving the following websites as favorites in your computer to be successful in your county, city and state. This allows you easy access to public records that may or may not be free, but are a necessity in order to negotiate and close transactions. Once you find your county, city and state websites, you need to spend at least 1 hour exploring it. Click on all links and call the helpline for each website to understand step by step how to research property. If you don’t understand over the telephone how they are telling you to search, they all have computers in their office that are free to the public. Go down to the county, city or state office and ask them to show you step by step and see if they have handwritten instructions. If not, then make sure you write it down step by step so you have it for future reference.
City/County Treasurer along with Property Appraiser Website – I work in multiple states and have found that each State, County and City are different. What you really need to find out is the following: Information on the taxes, square footage on the house, and permits pulled on the property. Let’s start with the Treasurer’s Office. Google search the name of your City or County Treasurer and look for Tax Information. Enter the Seller’s address and what I am looking for here is to see if the mailing address for the tax bill is different than the home address, if the property is being claimed as a homestead or is it a rental, and if the taxes are paid and the amounts. Some Treasurer’s sites will provide you information about the property and land which includes square footage, permits, purchase amount, dates and comparables.
County Website For Recording Deeds – Google search the name of your county register of deeds and look for official record search. This site is where they record all of the deeds, mortgages, and probate documents. Some websites are known by register of deeds and others are known as county clerk’s office. This allows you to search by the Seller’s name. What I have learned from many of these websites is that the less information you enter in the better. For instance, if your Seller is Jane L. Doe, I would only search by Jane Doe and I would read the instructions as some use last name first and some require commas in between last and first name. This also allows you to pull up other documents that may have been recorded against the property but did not include the Seller’s middle initial. I would sort everything chronologically by clicking on the ‘date’ column header and see if it will sort with the most current year at the top. You will also need to know your legal description of the property in question as this is how the county files official documents based on legal descriptions and not addresses. This information is provided to you by two different websites: Your County/City Treasurer or your Property Appraiser Website.
County Website For Civil and Probate –Google search the name of your county civil court or your county probate court and look for official record search. Let’s start first with the Civil Court. This site is where they record all of the civil actions against the seller such as a foreclosure action, any legal actions (divorce, credit card debts, etc.) The Probate Court may allow you to see that there is a Probate action filed and may name the personal representative; however, since this information is private, you would have to personally go to the court to view the records as to how many heirs and what assets and debts are included in the probate. Both sites allow you to search by the Seller’s name. Again, less is best when searching for a Seller (read above instructions). Sort by date, if possible, and work your way through the information. Civil actions may say ‘closed,’ but you should still open them to view the outcome of each record.
One of the most helpful sites that I like to use is www.RealtyTrac.com which has a program, costing less than $200/year, where I am able to look up hundreds of properties. I can see if they are in foreclosure, how many mortgages are on the property, date of purchase and amount, name and address of owner, comparables and lots more. I do have to say that some of their information is not always current, so you will have to look closely at dates, as with most other programs out there. If you are just looking for foreclosures, I would recommend finding a local list provider for pre-foreclosures, as RealtyTrac is more national. Remember, judicial and non-judicial foreclosure actions are listed differently.
I would recommend that even if you don’t have a property to research, use your own address or your neighbor’s address to explore and learn these websites. Print and keep this article near your computer for future reference. Remember, your success is in your hands, as I have provided you with the tools…now take action and follow through with my instructions!
Please keep sending me your questions and topics that you would like to hear about, so I can be sure to keep feeding you with the information that you need in order to kick off 2017 with high success and help you bring your Real Estate Dreams to Life!
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