When most people hear the term skip tracing, they picture a TV filled with bounty hunters and excitement. And although real estate investors are not likely to employ bounty hunters, there can still be a great deal of excitement if you are searching for the owner of a property that could turn a huge profit for you.
In the world of real estate skip tracing is about gathering basic information and using it to determine where your person of interest is located and a means of contacting that person. There are actually many fields that use the same process as real estate investors rather than bounty hunters when performing skip tracing. Genealogists, marketing agencies, missing person’s organizations, insurance fraud investigators, repossession companies and employment and tenant verification services all use these techniques because they provide proven results with a very reasonable investment of time required.
It is also important to note that skip tracing is legal because you are only gathering information about someone. And to do this effectively and efficiently, you need to have a repeatable process to build a profile on each person that you are looking for.
All of the profiles that you create should include all of the following personal information that you can verify:
• Name- including first, middle and last as well as nicknames and aliases
• Date of birth
• Email address
• Physical address
• Landline and cell numbers
• Social security number
In the case of a search for a property owner, you might only begin with the person’s name from the property tax records, but any other information could be helpful and you should note anything that you find. Other information that might not appear to be important but could be useful later could include:
• Previous addresses
• High school and college of attendance
• Military service
• Previous jobs and employment information
• Names and addresses of relatives
• Names and addresses of ex-spouses
• Friends, colleagues and business associates
• Business affiliations
In some cases, you will determine that the property owner is elderly and at that point, you should always check to be sure that the owner is still alive. A search of the U.S. Social Security Death Index will answer that question for you very quickly. If the person is deceased, it is very possible that the heirs have not changed the tax documentation for the property, but now your list of relatives will save you a great deal of time.
In the case of a living property owner who you still have not located, a good starting point is a standard Internet search. This can be as simple as a Google search. A general name search is the first step so that you do not eliminate any matches due to a location that you specified. You can then begin to narrow down the search results by approximate age and using any other details that you have uncovered.
In most cases, social media is also a good resource. This is not as reliable if you are looking for an elderly property owner, but it is worth a shot as the search is free and takes very little time. Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter and Instagram are the most popular sites and can often provide a great deal of information. Even if the subjects page is not current, it can provide details about family, friends or places of employment.
Other more obscure searches could include WordPress if you believe that the person could own a blog or the site of a high school or college the person attended to see if there are pictures or information about a reunion. If your free resources don’t lead you to the person and his or her contact information, then you might need to begin searching some sites that charge a fee to use.
There are many sites that actually market themselves as online skip tracing sites. They use databases and algorithms to search for your person of interest-based on the information that you provide and the search parameters that you request. These sites normally charge a few dollars per search or some will offer unlimited use for a specific period of time. The reliability of the sites is not guaranteed so you might want to experiment with a few sites on a per use basis until you find one that you like and that provides you with good information.
There is definitely some skill needed to become an accomplished skip tracer. And if you do not have the time or interest in learning the process, there is always the option to hire a skip tracing firm to do the work for you and provide you with the contact information that you need.