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Property Search – The Best “Free” Ways to Find Properties

Property search is an essential skill as an investor and the better you get at it, the more successful (and profitable) you will become. There are 2 main components to property search: how to find that ‘golden nugget’ before anyone else does and how to get these properties directly from the source. I always say that the best lists are the ones you create yourself. I am not a big advocate of purchasing ready-made lists from mailing houses or data services. If you know where to locate the best data yourself for property search, not only it is free (or almost free) information, but it is always the most viable, since it has not been overly used by other investors (like the data from some of these data services tend to be.) I can honestly say that in almost 30 years in the business, I have never purchased a mailing list for real estate prospecting. All my leads have come directly from public sources and demographics searches.

Property Search:

Before doing a property search, you need to have gathered some important data. As an investor, if you are a wholesaler or ‘flipper,’ you need to concentrate in an area of high-turnover, especially cash sales. The easiest way to locate this area is by doing an MLS (Multiple Listing Service) search or having your agent perform such search and look for especially cash sales. It is also a good way to build a cash buyers’ list, since people or entities who have bought for cash recently are prone to be looking for more properties. If you want to buy and hold, your property search should be targeting more for areas where there is a good rental demand and low vacancies. Again, the MLS can help you in identifying these areas. Once you have pinpointed these areas, a way to find properties for free, which are in some kind of distressed ownership situation, is to go through public records. Public records are updated daily. A great resource site to locate offices within your county for the Recorder of Deeds, Collector of Revenue or Tax Assessor, and other public records offices, is NETR Online. At these public offices, you can locate filings of properties in default (mortgage pre-foreclosures,) tax delinquent properties, probate, divorce filings and more. Once you have obtained these lists from public records, your job will be to research and narrow down these lists to the areas and properties you are targeting. All this research can be done via a computer and it is free. Now what do you do with this list? You can send a direct marketing piece or get phone numbers for the owners (better approach) and call them to find out if they are interested in selling the property in question.

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