You’re driving down the street and a home or apartment building catches your attention. You might be a real estate professional, a contractor that works on properties needing new windows, roofs or other fixes or you’re a passive investor looking for a new investment opportunity. The only way to know if the property is for sale or requires repairs is to contact the owner. But how do you find the owner of a property?
There are many available options that are either free or will cost you money. The choice depends on how much time and effort you’re willing to put into the search, and of course, your budget. Let’s take a deeper dive into the pros and cons of each to help you make the appropriate determination on which option to use..
Public Record Searches
Thanks to the Internet, public record searches are now more easily conducted from the comfort of your computer or tablet. Thankfully the days of going down to the county tax assessor/s office talking a number and waiting in line are mostly history. We’re starting with the tax assessor’s office because the truth of the matter is that if someone owns a property, they’re paying taxes on it. Old fashioned but nonetheless effective.
Trudging through a complicated government website is not an easy task, and finding the exact page of the property and its owner can be challenging. It’ll be a lot easier to find the property owner’s name if you have a property identification number. Getting that on a government website can be tricky, because each county has different names for the property identification number. And finding the right website to search can also be a time-consuming problem.
One way to make that easier is to use NETROnline, which is a database with links to various public records websites, like tax assessors, tax collectors and county recorder’s offices. Just click on their map to find the state you’re looking for and you’ll get hooked up to multiple links that will help you find what you’re looking for.
Another option is to go to a local title company. They may charge you for searching, but since they do this for a living they know their way around various websites and they can save you a lot of time and money. The downside is they often do this for their clients with the expectation that they will generate business by doing this. If they don’t know you, don’t expect them to drop everything to get your search going.
There’s also a U.S. Title Record search, which is a private company that provides property ownership details for a minimum fee of $19.50, just by entering the property’s address and zip code. The results are instantaneous.
One of the problems with public records searches is that many properties are not listed in their databases, including the tax assessor’s database, due to out-of-date information or some other reason. Surprisingly, the workaround when this happens is to do it the old-fashioned way – walk around the neighborhood and talk to neighbors, asking if they know who owns the property. The responses may surprise you, as long-time residents often have this information.
There are online companies that offer paid searches to help you find the owner of a property. One is PropertyShark, but there are others, including PropertyScout and Trulia. You’ll pay for the searches, but you’ll get a lot of information on specific properties you’re searching including owner names.
No matter which approach you take, once you have the owner’s name, you’ll want to verify its authenticity. Here’s why – many records are old, years’ old, and can be out of date. In other instances, such as as building for sale by owner (FSBO), owners sometimes use fictitious names so people don’t contact them. To verify a name, use Nuwber, an online tool that will give you the real identity of an individual using their address, phone number or email address. Once you have that accurate information you’ll be able to contact them about their property.
Advanced Platform Searches
For investors, real estate professionals, home and property-focused businesses like solar companies, floor cleaners, HVAC installers, electricians and plumbers, among others, getting the name of the owner of a property is critical. When that’s the case, it’s worth the cost to acquire an advanced platform software that will aid in the search to find the identity of the owner of a property. These platforms provide data including the owner’s name, phone, email and often social media profiles.
One of the top platforms is PropertyRadar thanks to its many features and ease-of-use, but there are many other platforms on the market. Some of the top contenders are Real Geeks, Boomtown and Pacesetter. They are all targeted to help real estate professionals, investors and contract service companies find owners and build marketing lists and programs to generate new business.
Whether you use a free public records search, paid searches or advanced platform searches, there are many different ways to find the owners of a property quickly and accurately.