Skip Tracing in 2024: Key Insights from Real Estate Professionals

Skip Tracing in 2024: Key Insights from Real Estate Professionals

19 min max read

Skip tracing plays a significant role in providing the personal contact details of property owners. It is a process for finding where someone is. Skip tracing techniques like Driving for Dollars help boost the efficiency and success of real estate deals. This guide will provide key insights from skip-tracing professionals who are looking to build their careers. You will learn how to get contact information for leads faster, making your investments more cost-effective.

What is Skip Tracing

What is Skip Tracing?

The term “Skip” has been around since the mid-14th century and, according to Investopedia, is generally used when referring to a person who had “skipped” out on bail or failed to pay a debt. For real estate professionals, the term “skip tracing” refers to a person being searched for with the intention of conducting some sort of business, such as a real estate transaction. Law enforcement agencies, bounty hunters, and debt collectors commonly use it to locate people for various reasons. 

Is Skip Tracing Legal?

Let’s get this common question out of the way first: Yes, skip tracing is legal! Skip tracing in real estate involves seeking the contact information for the person or people who own a specific property. As long as the information is obtained legally, it's allowed. There are a few restrictions: 

  • The Limits: The key is how you find the information. Using illegal methods like hacking, stalking, or intimidation is a big no-no. You also need to follow privacy laws.
  • The Responsibility: Skip tracers, especially professional ones,  understand the legal boundaries and will only use ethical methods to find people.

The Art of Skip Tracing

The Art of Skip Tracing in Real Estate

Skip tracing is an important skill set often overlooked by real estate professionals. This section investigates use cases for skip tracing, why professionals succeed with skip tracing and more.

In an industry where knowledge is power, mastering skip-tracing techniques can open up amazing possibilities within real estate. Let’s get into it!

Use-case 1: Finding Hard-to-Find Property Owners

One great use case of skip tracing is finding difficult-to-find property owners. There are a couple of strategies that you can use: One is utilizing records such as property and court documents, which often reveal changes in ownership or actions that may indicate the owner's whereabouts. Your local Assessor’s office or Recorder’s office will be a great resource for researching this public data. 

Related: Unlocking Property Records: How to Find Property Owners

Another popular strategy is utilizing social media. Social media platforms and professional networking websites have evolved into tools that offer clues about an owner's location. Sometimes you can even find mutual connections who could facilitate an introduction. 

More advanced skip tracers use paid databases. Paid databases provide a level of detail by consolidating information from sources to compile contact details, previous addresses, and associated individuals. 

If you really want to get face-to-face, you might try knocking on doors and networking with real estate professionals. These individuals are often well-connected and may possess indirect knowledge about the circumstances of elusive owners. This works especially well when buying in a smaller or tight-knit community. 

Combining these strategies can significantly enhance your ability to locate property owners. This can turn unproductive searches of hard-to-find property owners into successful property acquisitions.

Action steps:

  • Visit your County Assessor’s office, where you can find public information on property valuation, ownership history, and parcel data which can reveal the homeowner's name. 
  • Check with your County Recorder’s office to find recorded documents like deeds, mortgages, and liens that list the homeowner's name
  • Utilize social media platforms, professional networking sites, and subscription-based databases to gather clues about an owner's whereabouts and consolidate contact information, previous addresses, and related individuals.
  • Engage with neighborhood residents and local professionals, like real estate agents, to gain insights that may provide direct or indirect knowledge about the elusive owner's situation.

Use-case 2: Finding and Purchasing Under-valued Properties

How might you use skip tracing to find off-market real estate treasures?

This method takes finding hard-to-find property owners and puts a spin on it. Some of these property owners may be thinking about selling. This means you might have a chance to buy properties before they become available on the open market! This is especially useful for investors that are pursuing wholesale real estate or pre-foreclosure deals.  

Many real estate investors can acquire properties below market value. But how?

One way they do this is by contacting absentee owners or those with taxes, who are usually eager to sell quickly and at a discount. It is important to think about why these owners may want to sell. To be a skip tracer, you need to think like an investigator. Where would people who would be eager to sell be, where would they talk, and how would they respond best to a first message?

After investigating, make sure to utilize that information and personalize your offering for the given contact. Personalization will lead to more negotiation results. If you pitch your offering just right, you will be on your way to turning neglected properties into valuable real estate investments. 

The biggest learning curve is figuring out how to transition between scouting for properties and interacting with owners. This transition period is crucial, as the correct messaging can increase your chance of securing these hidden treasures. Ultimately, this can maximize your investment returns away from intense real estate competition.

Action steps:

  • Track down property owners who are difficult to find using skip tracing to uncover undervalued properties before they become widely known.
  • Directly engage with absentee owners or those behind on taxes, who may be motivated to sell at below-market values, leveraging the effectiveness of skip tracing.
  • Establish direct and personalized communication channels with property owners to achieve more favorable negotiation outcomes and ensure smooth transitions in the property acquisition process.

Related: A Deep Dive into Real Estate Property Data & Contact Info

Why Professionals Utilize Skip Tracing

Research has proven that real estate success rates can be significantly boosted by using smart skip-tracing techniques. This includes: utilizing data analytics, leveraging social media platforms, and providing ongoing training to employees on the latest digital tools.

For instance, a study conducted by the National Association of Professional Background Screeners (NAPBS) revealed that companies that upgraded their skip-tracing tools and organized workshops on tracing methods experienced a 40% increase in locating individuals on the first try.

Shifting from traditional approaches to technologically advanced methods saves time and improves the chances of making successful contacts. This allows your businesses to find deals easily. 

This move toward adopting modern skip-tracing techniques highlights the importance of progress and adaptation. Professionals who embrace real estate technology and innovation are at a distinct advantage.

Action steps:

  • Incorporate advanced data analytics for improved tracking and locating of missing clients.
  • Utilize social media platforms as investigative tools to enhance skip-tracing efforts.
  • Stay current on the latest digital tools and innovative tracing strategies to increase efficiency and success rates.

Essential Tips for Skip Tracing

Essential Tips for Effective Skip Tracing in Real Estate

Becoming a skip tracer isn’t too difficult. However, becoming an effective skip tracer requires a couple of important elements. Here are some essentital tips for skip tracing from the experts.

1. Advanced Technology

As mentioned, using the right technology already gives you an advantage. Advanced technology platforms like DealMachine can aggregate data from multiple sources and provide a comprehensive view of a property owner’s contact information. Our data updates monthly, uses the same information as 911 directories, and powers 90% of caller IDs across the US. Be sure that whatever data you choose is updated regularly so you don’t waste your time or money.

More data = more information = more personalization = more deals.

Related: 280 Million Contacts in the Palm of Your Hand

2. Networking

Networking is a no-brainer. Everyone has heard that success is not what you do but who you know. While I do not agree with that 100%, I would agree that networking with professionals in fields related to real estate, such as private investigators and legal experts, can lend invaluable insights and shortcuts in your search. Investigators may not be looking for real estate deals, but they may know where you should start looking for your hidden treasure.

3. Understand the law

Law. Law. Law. The law is not something everyone loves to grab a book and dive deep into, but it is super important for skip tracing. You do not want to violate someone’s right to privacy. Make sure to learn about the legalities surrounding privacy and data collection. Find great deals, but do not overstep legal boundaries. Overstepping can lead to potential legal repercussions. We want deals—not jail time!

4. Consistent documentation

Document EVERYTHING! I would highly suggest thorough documentation of your search process and findings. This keeps your investigation organized and prepares you for any legal verification processes. You never know when you might want to back to an old search too!

5. Patience and persistence

While not necessarily something to do, patience and persistence are key. While cool technology and networking can provide some speed, the process can still require time and repeated failures. As they say, “When you fail, try and try again.” 

By following these strategies, real estate professionals like you can transform into very effective skip tracers.

Three Pillars for Efficient Skip Tracing

The Three Pillars for Efficient Skip Tracing

Finding people can sometimes prove to be a real challenge. Luckily, a few secret weapons can make it way easier. This section will show you some tricks and tools to get the best possible information on the people you're looking for, so you can track them down faster than ever.

1. Data Accuracy

The old saying goes something like this: “garbage in, garbage out.” Having access to quality, current data is the key to finding someone in the skip-tracing world. The more accurate it is, the faster you can track them down and the less time you'll waste chasing dead ends. Keep in mind also that not all paid skip-tracing platforms are created equal—the quality of the data you’re working with will make all the difference when it comes to finding someone you’re looking for. 

If you’re more of a “do my own research” kind of person, this also applies to you. You must update your manually collected data regularly to keep things on track. Today's “good data” might not be so accurate in six months. Like checking your fridge for expired milk, you must ensure your data isn't past its prime. 

Data Aggregation

In skip tracing, data aggregation is the process of collecting information about a person from a wide range of sources and compiling it all into one central location. It's like having access to a filing cabinet that you can pull information from everywhere at once.

This isn't just about convenience. Data aggregation ensures you don't miss a hidden lead, like a past address or relative's contact. With a more complete picture, you're far more likely to connect with the owner and turn that hidden property into a real estate win.  It's like having a team of researchers working for you, giving you the edge you need to find those hidden gems.

DealMachine is a master of data aggregation. This comprehensive picture saves investors hours and frustration, allowing them to focus on what matters most – making a deal.

But this is more than just convenience. It significantly reduces the risk of missing a crucial detail. Every scrap of information, from a past address to a phone number relative, becomes a potential lead. This improves your chances of successfully connecting with the owner and turning that hidden property into a real estate win. So, ditch the scattered spreadsheets and embrace the power of data aggregation.

Action steps:

  • Cast a Wide Net: Gather information from a variety of sources, including public records, utility bills, social media, and even past neighbors (following privacy regulations).
  • Centralize Your Data: Organize all collected information into a single, searchable hub. This eliminates the need to juggle multiple sources and saves you time.
  • Conduct regular data audits and updates to ensure information remains current and accurate.

See Also: Transforming Real Estate: DealMachine's Data Leap

2. Technology

In today's world, technology is a game-changer for skip tracing. Gone are the days of endless phone calls and dead ends. Now, businesses have a whole arsenal of powerful tools at their disposal. This often means a much more seamless process overall. 

But it's not just about speed. Some skip-tracing platforms can access live public records, such as credit bureaus or 911 directories. This can provide more up-to-date phone numbers and addresses than static public record searches.

Some platforms also offer social media analysis, which might involve using a person's name, old address, or even the names of relatives to search social media platforms for potential matches. However, it's important to remember that social media privacy settings can make this a less-than-perfect solution.

Artificial Intelligence

Imagine sifting through mountains of data, looking for connections and patterns that would take forever by hand. That's what AI-powered databases can do! They can find those hidden links in a flash. Real estate investors commonly use AI-powered CRM systems to track the contacts they acquire through skip tracing. 

AI can help make sense of your data and can also be a big help in determining what to do next. Having a name is one thing, but effectively communicating with that person is another. DealMachine’s real estate AI assistant, Alma, helps real estate professionals with various tasks, including role-playing conversations with homeowners and writing cold call scripts. This approach speeds up the process and significantly improves the success rate. 

All these tools add up to one thing: efficiency. You can find people faster, with fewer resources. That means more time and money for your business to focus on what it does best.

Action steps:

  • Look into platforms that offer features mentioned in the text, such as access to live public records and social media analysis. Choose a platform that best suits your needs and budget. 
  • Consider using a CRM system with AI capabilities to manage skip-tracing data and gain insights. This can help you identify patterns and prioritize leads.
  • Explore AI assistants like DealMachine's Alma to help with tasks such as writing cold call scripts and role-playing conversations. This can improve your communication efficiency and success rate.

3. Communication Channels

Stuck trying to contact a potential seller? Finding the right communication channel for someone who's gone off the grid is like cracking a code in real estate. Traditionally, skip tracing meant hours on the phone and sifting through dead ends. 

Thanks to modern technology, there is now a treasure trove of communication channels available—phone numbers, emails, address information, and even associated family members, as well as social media channels. The more channels you have available, the faster you can reach that seller and turn a cold lead into a hot deal. 

One incredibly popular contact channel for real estate investments seeking to communicate with leads is direct mail. With direct mail, you can reach out to large swaths of leads at a time and even personalize the communication to fit the recipient, increasing response rates by up to 50%. The cool thing is that DealMachine can facilitate this entire process, even sending automated follow-up mailings

Action steps:

  • Phone calls, emails, and even social media can all be valuable tools, but knowing which will work best is hard. It’s important to collect as many details as possible and keep them in one place. The more options you have, the faster you can reach that elusive seller and turn a dead end into a potential deal.
  • Effective communication can transform a cold lead into a hot deal. Try out several different methods, including direct mail. Consider personalization for a higher response rate.

How to Skip Trace Like a Professional

How to Skip Trace Like a Professional (Step-by-step)

Ever encountered a potentially lucrative property with an absentee owner? Don't let that dead end stall your deal. Skip tracing, the art of locating missing parties equips you with the skills to track down those leads and unlock hidden opportunities.

Here's a comprehensive approach to transform you into a skip tracing pro:

Step 1: Compile Comprehensive Data

A thorough understanding of your subject is crucial. Gather all available information on the owner, including full name, prior addresses, phone numbers (even disconnected lines), and email addresses. Public record resources, such as property tax records, can provide valuable insights into ownership history and potential aliases.

Step 2: Leverage Public Record Databases

Municipal and county clerk's offices and online public record databases offer a wealth of information. Explore marriage licenses, voter registrations, and past property ownership records. These documents can unveil past addresses, associated names (like spouses), and sometimes even up-to-date contact details.

Step 3: Master Online Research

The internet presents a vast landscape of information waiting to be explored. While search engines are a starting point, don’t hesitate to dive deeper. Explore professional licensing registries, past business affiliations, and niche online communities. Remember, social media can offer valuable clues, but prioritize ethical practices and respect user privacy settings.

Step 4: Utilize Social Media Strategically

Social media platforms can be powerful tools for skip tracing. Strategically search for the individual's name, nickname, or even the property address itself. Look for connections with relatives, friends, or past colleagues who might possess current contact information.

Step 5: Consider Professional Skip Tracing Services

Skip tracing can be a time-intensive undertaking. Professional skip-tracing services can offer a valuable solution if you've exhausted all available resources. These services allow you to gain access to specialized databases and advanced techniques that can unearth even the most elusive leads. Be sure to price shop; skip tracing services can get expensive. That’s why DealMachine provides investors with unlimited contact information and various other tools to help facilitate real estate transactions from start to finish. 

Step 6: Reach Out – Make the Contact

With your verified information, you can initiate contact. Craft a professional message that clearly explains your purpose and the value proposition you offer (whether it's buying their property or resolving a title issue). Be persistent but respectful, and remember that the first attempt might not always be successful. Try several different contact methods and see what works best. There is no right or wrong way to reach someone–it will likely differ for each individual. 

Remember: Persistence is Key

Uncovering hidden leads requires dedication. Don't be discouraged by initial setbacks. Consistent effort and a well-defined strategy will empower you to track down those missing parties and unlock the full potential of your real estate endeavors.

See also: What is Skip Tracing, and How Do You Do it?

Frequently asked Questions

Frequently Asked Questions

Skip tracing can be a powerful tool for real estate professionals, but it also raises some questions. Here's a breakdown of some common inquiries to shed some light on this practice:

1. What is skip tracing, and how does it apply to real estate?

Skip tracing is the process of locating someone's contact information, typically when they've gone off the grid, or their details are no longer readily available. In real estate, this translates to finding property owners who might be interested in selling, even if they haven't listed their property publicly.

2. Why would a real estate agent or investor use skip tracing?

There are several advantages. Skip tracing allows you to reach motivated sellers who haven't considered selling yet. This can be a goldmine for uncovering potential deals before they hit the open market. Additionally, you can use skip tracing to reconnect with past clients or find heirs to inherited properties.

3. Is skip tracing legal?

Yes, skip tracing is legal as long as you rely on publicly available information and ethical practices. This means using resources like public records, property databases, and social media (with caution and respect for privacy settings). It's crucial to avoid violating privacy laws or resorting to deceptive tactics.

4. What tools can help me with skip tracing?

There are various tools at your disposal. Many real estate platforms offer skip-tracing features as part of their subscriptions. Public record databases and specialized skip-tracing services can also be valuable resources. However, always check their pricing and data accuracy before committing.

5. How much does skip tracing typically cost?

The cost can vary depending on the service or software you choose. Some offer pay-per-trace options, while others have monthly subscriptions. It's wise to compare features and pricing before making a decision.

Don’t want to mess with all the added costs? Check out DealMachine’s unlimited contact information

6. Are there any ethical considerations when skip tracing?

Absolutely. Respect for privacy is paramount. Always prioritize using publicly available information and avoid tactics that could be perceived as harassing or intrusive. Be transparent about your intentions when contacting the person you've traced.

7. Does skip tracing always work?

Unfortunately, no. While skip tracing can be quite effective, there's always a chance the information you find is outdated or incomplete. Additionally, some people are very adept at staying off the grid, making them difficult to locate.

8. What are some alternative ways to find motivated sellers?

Several strategies can be employed alongside skip tracing. Consider driving for dollars, attending foreclosure auctions, or networking with local experts who might have leads on potential sellers.

By understanding the ins and outs of skip tracing, you can ethically and effectively leverage this tool to expand your reach and uncover valuable opportunities in the real estate market. Remember, it's just one piece of the puzzle—combining skip tracing with other prospecting techniques can significantly enhance your success rate.

How DealMachine is Revolutionizing Skip Tracing

DealMachine's latest release has transformed the game in skip tracing. Unlike traditional software that charges per lead, DealMachine offers unlimited phone numbers and contact information for every new plan. Real estate investors can now access comprehensive data like age, marital status, gender, language preference, and even educational background and occupational information without worrying about additional costs.

  • Unlimited Access: Free skip tracing with unlimited phone numbers and contact information for all new plans.
  • Comprehensive Data: Includes date of birth, age, gender, marital status, language preference, mailing address, previous address, phone numbers, and email addresses.
  • Advanced Data Points: Access to details like educational background, occupational group, occupation, net asset value, and estimated household income.
  • Monthly Updates: Automatic monthly updating of contact information for members.
  • New Filters and Flags: Enhanced features like contact age, contact type, phone number, and people flags for quick identification.
  • Color Coding on Phone Numbers: Easy recognition of active and inactive phone numbers with color coding.
  • High Match Rate: Over 150 data points with an 80%+ contact match rate for properties.

See Also: Mastering Skip Tracing with DealMachine's New Release

Sources for more information

Benjy Nichols

About Benjy Nichols

Benjy has been a media specialist at DealMachine for the last 2.5 years. He produces, writes, shoots, and edits our media content for our member's DealMachine and Real Estate education.