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6 Ways to Find Owners of Vacant Houses

Vacant houses are usually the best deals. Obviously no one is living there, and someone would probably like to get rid of, especially if they’re making payments on it.

To make a deal, you have to find the owner. Here are some tips for finding the owner of a vacant house.

1. Tax Records

Check the tax records to see if the owner filed a new address. If so, send them a postcard or letter asking if they would like to sell their house.

vacant house

An overgrown front yard is a big clue.

2. Post Card

If there is no new address for the owner, send a postcard to the existing address and write DO NOT FORWARD – ADDRESS CORRECTION REQUESTED on the front of the postcard.

The post office will send the postcard back to you with a sticker on the front with the owner’s new address.

Why would you want to do this? Once you get the owners new address, you may want to just knock on their door instead of waiting for mail to get delivered.

Time is of the essence, especially in foreclosure situations, so you need to act quickly.

3. White Pages

Look in the white pages for people with the same last name. Call everyone asking if they know how to reach Mr. or Mrs. _______ .  Be careful here. They may think you are a debt collector. So, explain that you are interested in buying their house at such and such address.

4. Skip Tracer

Hire a skip tracer in your town. Give a local private investigator the name and last address for the owner, and they can usually find them within 24 hours. The cost is $10 – $20 per search.

5. A Note

Leave a note on the front door for the owner to find. Sometimes the owner will come back to check on mail or get more things out of the house. Leave a bright yellow note taped to the front door that says, “I’m interested in buying your house. Please call me at ###-####.”

6. The Neighbors

My favorite and most effective method for finding owners of vacant houses is to talk to the neighbors on either side of the subject property and perhaps the neighbor across the street. Once again, explain that you are interested in buying the house. The neighbors almost always know how to get in touch with the owner.

A True Story About How I Found the Owner of a Vacant House

I saw a property with an $8,000 loan balance on the foreclosure list. I knew the house was worth $125,000 to $130,000. At first, I thought this must be a Second mortgage.  But I did a little research and found out it was a First position note.

In Texas, there is one Notice of Default, and then the house is sold on the courthouse steps 21 days later. I had very little time to find the owner and try to make a deal.

I went to the house. It appeared to be lived in because I could see furniture in the house, but the yard was very overgrown and the mail was piled up on the front porch.

So I talked to the neighbors and found out the owner is a 90-year-old lady who moved to a nursing home.

Next, I called every nursing home until I found her. But they told me the lady was in a coma, so I could not talk to her.  The nursing home gave me her daughter’s name and phone number.

When I called the daughter to tell her about the foreclosure, she thought I was a scammer trying to steal the house. I agreed to come over and show her the Notice of Default and get on the phone with the lender for proof.

The payments were less than $300 per month PITI, but the daughter had been using that money for drugs. The daughter really wanted to keep the house because she thought her Mom would get better and be able to move back in to the house. She was not ready to sell, but she had no money to cure the default.

So I bought a right of first refusal option for $1,500. It was enough money to cure the default and make the next payment.

A few months later, the daughter called to ask if I still wanted to buy the house. Her Mom was still in a coma and the nursing home needed $20,000 for Mom to stay.

We Made a Deal – I Bought the Vacant House

I bought the house and everything in it for $25,000. Included were complete furnishings from a 3-bedroom house, pots and pans, dishes, a piano, some Theodore Havilland china from 1890, a car with 40,000 miles that still smelled like new leather, lots of fishing equipment, ladders and tools, and much more.

I kept some of the things (it is always fun to see what you get with houses), then had an estate sale to get rid of the rest, so I could get my contractors in to rehab the house.

A few months later and after $25,000 in rehab costs, I sold the house for $130,000.

This was all possible because the neighbors told me the owner moved to a nursing home. If I had not talked to the neighbors, I may never have found the owner, and the house would have been sold at foreclosure auction.

It was a great profit, but looking back, I would have been much better off if I had just wholesaled the house for a quick $25,000 to $35,000 profit. Rehabs tie up a lot of money and always have hidden defects. This house had foundation problems and needed 20 piers.

The Moral of the Story:

  • When you find a vacant house opportunity, talk to the neighbors to find the owner.

Best of Success and Freedom…

Jackie

P.S.  Another tip: Since this was such a great opportunity, I wanted to discourage other investors from looking for the owner. So I put a 8.5 x 11 bright yellow notice on the front door that said THIS HOUSE IS NOT FOR SALE!

It worked!

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About the Author...

Jackie Lange started her real estate investing career as a stay-at-home mom. She's been successfully buying, selling, leasing, and investing in real estate for more than 20 years and have created a "not so small" fortune from real estate.

She's bought everything from a $400 mobile home to a $20 million dollar mansion to an 18,000 acre ranch and everything in between.

Jackie says: "It does not matter what's happening with the economy. There are always opportunities to make money with real estate and people will always need a house to live in. I've created my own economy and financial security. You can too!

You can visit Jackie at: Cash Flow Depot

Comments

  1. Carol in texas says:

    Those were great learning tools&education

  2. IB (NJ) says:

    Great article and inspiring story!

  3. When you are just getting started it all seems a little overwhelming and even a little intimidating, it’s experiences like this that really tends to get you motivated! Very inspirational! Thanks for sharing.

  4. Christina says:

    Great tips!

  5. Now I know when I see that “not for sale” sign on the home. Dig deeper…Its a hot deal~~ lol.

  6. Jackie says:

    Glad you enjoyed the article. With 20 years of experience, my list of deal stories is very long. I’ll share some more deal stories soon.

    Jackie

  7. Kathleen Alfred says:

    Great story! I am a very new investor who needs advice! I found the owner of a vacant, rundown house. In it’s heyday it was one of the original landmark homes of the town where it is located. The owner lives out of state and just wanted to be rid of it, so I got it under contract last week. My first deal! I now have lots of interest from several rehabbers who want to bid on the job. First estimates place the work at $60-65K and I have it under contract for $10,000. ARV is in the $200-220K range. As the time for rehab will be about 90-120 days, I am wondering if I’d be better off wholesaling it to one of the dozen or so rehabbers who have expressed interest. I do not have the money for rehab unless I borrow it from private sources or partner with someone who has the money. Also – am wondering how to proceed with the interested rehabbers – should I do a round robin type of bidding with them to get the highest/best offer? Looking for suggestions or ideas. Thank you –

    • Jackie Lange says:

      CONGRATULATIONS on your first wholesale deal!!!

      Do not tell the buyers what you have it under contract for. You need to act quickly on this one.

      You have two choices for how to proceed:

      If you have already shown it to several potential buyers, tell them you are accepting bids until noon on Friday. They need to submit their highest and best offer. Tell them a #3000 earnest money check made out to your title company or attorney, and proof of funds or a preapproval letter from a hard money lender will be required when you sign a contract with the highest bidder at 3 pm on Friday. You should be able to close in 7 days if they have cash or a hard money loan approval

      Then take the contract with the seller and the contract with your buyer to the title company along with the earnest money check to open escrow.

      If you don’t have many potential buyers do this:

      Do a HighestBidderSale.com… Do an open house on Friday from 10 to 12. You should advertise on craigslist and put signs out so everyone knows about te Highest Bidder Sale. Have a bid sheet at the property along with an instruction sheet that says the highest bidder will be required to pay a $3k earnest money, plus show proof of funds or a pre-approval letter from a hard money lender.
      NO CONTINGENCIES. They can inspect the property during the open house only

      if you need additional help, let me know

      Keep up the good work!!

      Jackie

    • Any contacts that wilm provide funding for these deals?…i am open to suggestions from fellow investors….

  8. Brenda says:

    Love to hear more about it.
    Teach me how.!!
    Wish to learn more

    • Ariel Apparicio says:

      I would like to learn more. We are closing on our first home a dim ready to flip homes and all. Please contact me. I am in Charlotte Nc

  9. Carrie Thompson says:

    Once I find the owner’s information from the tax records, I go straight to Facebook. Almost everyone has some type of social online profile. As long as they don’t utilize the privacy settings, you’ll have access to a wealth if info!

    • Keith Mace says:

      Carrie, I’ll let you in on a little secret. If you go to Facebook while you’re on a computer you can pay a very small fee, somewhere around $1, and when you send a message to someone that you’re not friends with it does not go to their spam or others folder. It goes to them like it was a friend who sent them a message.

  10. Varnie says:

    Great article. It was very inspirational and motivating. It’s time for me to take the leap of faith and go for it. Thank You Jackie and everyone who contributed to this wonderful article. Wish you all much success in your real estate adventure. God bless,
    Varnie.

  11. Katherine Love says:

    Wow !! A lot of good tips and lots of fun. I need to find ways to get funded and am working on one now. . I think this is a very interesting and useful site.
    I would love some ore tutoring. I have some experience. Thanks

  12. Matthew Ray says:

    I just moved to a lake community and have seen quite a few vacant unkept homes that have a lot of potential but I have very limited resources to be able to buy them myself and am in the process of rebuilding my credit. My question is how can I do this without having to use my own money and credit?

  13. Jeanne says:

    Matthew,

    I hope you’ll take a look around this site. There is a TON of information on buying real estate with No Money, No Credit. Here is one great article: http://www.creonline.com/blog/how-to-build-a-portfolio-of-rentals-without-banks/

    Please browse this site, especially the other Blog articles. You can navigate the different topics on the right side of the Blog.

    ~Jeanne E.

  14. Efrain Gallardo says:

    Jackie, I am impressed with your deal. Do you have a good skip tracer in the Houston area?

  15. Shelissa Evans says:

    Hi Jackie~

    Sharing your stories and providing helpful information to this platform is absolutely wonderful. I have been wholesaling in St Louis for the past year now. I have read so much information over the past 1.5 years however reading about your success as a female investor is very exciting and motivating. I would like to ask you a couple of questions if time permits within your schedule, if you are extremely busy, I do understand.
    Congratulations on your continued Success!

    Thank you,
    Shelissa~

  16. Keith Mace says:

    Jackie,
    Great information and I loved hearing about how you did a deal in the story format. While researching the loan, how can you tell whether it is a first or a second? To be more clear if it’s a second how do you know there is a first involved. I’ve done some research online and banks sell notes and sometimes you can’t tell if it’s been truly paid off or sold.

  17. David Robinson says:

    I do receivership for the court of cooking county,I don’t have enough real buyers.

  18. Kendra says:

    Where do you find a “foreclosure list”? And how did you find out it was the first mortgage?

  19. Tonja McCarter says:

    Thank you for share this

  20. Carol Schermer says:

    What a shame to take advantage of poor people.

    • Jeanne Ekhaml says:

      Carol, what would these people have done otherwise? They had a choice to accept or decline or counter. They got the money they needed and they didn’t have to pay a Realtor commission on a hard to sell property.

  21. I’m confused. The daughter was not the owner of the house. How could she legally convey title?

    • Ramona E Dawson says:

      There’s documentation in every state that allows an individual to have someone take care of their property or their assets if they are considered legally incompetent

  22. Penny says:

    I agree that the daughter and lady werr taken advantage of!

    • Jeanne Ekhaml says:

      Penny, what would these people have done otherwise? They had a choice to accept or decline or counter. They got the money they needed and they didn’t have to pay a Realtor commission on a hard to sell property.

  23. Louise says:

    So you’re not ashamed to have bought that house for 25k Rehab 25k and sold it for 130k? I call this greed on the back of the daughter and taking advantage of her. Shame on you!

    • Steve says:

      The house was in foreclosure anyway and nobody was putting in the work to get it sold otherwise. if the daughter had a brain she would have done it herself right?

  24. Carolyn says:

    I have a situation…I have leased a condo for Year and found out the condo would be auctioned within 30 days
    My landlord who I paid rent to for a year disappeared , he never showed his face …Oct 7, 2016 the condo was
    Auctioned…no one bided on the Sheriffs auction… The bank now has procession of my condo…a few days after the action they came to confirm that I occuppied the townhouse…and. delivered a letter saying they would offer me money for the keys to re-locate …I have 7 days to respond….

    Question: should I negotiate or make an offer to purchase this condo from the bank?
    Can I negotiate a land contract to purchase ? Or just take the offer of Money for keys.

    CJE

  25. Kingsley says:

    At the deeds office when giving them erf number , street name and area they are able to get you a print out of the owner of the property . Which I think saves time and my wish is to get a few addresses of properties that are vacant and i have spotted , which software is used ? as am more interested in it .

  26. OK Cash Home Buyers says:

    Really good stuff to share

  27. Sooner House Buyers says:

    Great!!! It is very helpful for us

  28. Owner Finance OKC says:

    Thanks for the post!

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