I am in Cherry Hill, NJ this week looking for wholesale properties and income properties. We were driving around a neighborhood yesterday and we came across a house that had sat vacant for well over a year. The winterization sign on the property stated that it was winterized at least a year ago, which leads us to believe that it was vacant for an even longer period of time. We noted the condition of the home and the address. The distressed and vacant property had about of foot of water in the basement (aka split level living area) and a lot of mold growing.
We took the information back to look up on our computer. We looked up the Camden County Courthouse website. We went into the Register of Deeds website, but they did not have an online search that we could use. We did find that the Board of Taxation had an online search feature that we used to find the property owner information and property data. The original borrower was still listed on the tax records. We took this information and went down to the Camden County Courthouse to the Register of Deeds office and did a data search there. We found out some interesting things when we performed this search. We found out that the information was NOT at all up to date. The last recorded document was in 2010 when a Notice of Lis Pendens was recorded. We know that the property has been foreclosed on, because of the management company that had their papers plastered all over the windows and doors is the company that handles the property management for one of the largest banks taking back properties in the area.
So, if that was your main source for finding out information about a distressed and vacant property, you would have been out of luck, because it was a dead end that stopped in 2010. So, now what can you do to find out more about that vacant property? You should talk to as many neighbors as possible to find out the history of the home, how long it has been vacant, and if they know who the owner is and if they have their contact information. Many times, I have found out about drug activity, sellers motivation to sell, and contact information for the current owner. I have noted the property management company listed on the property and contacted them, but in many cases it has ended up as a dead end. Occasionally, I have gained traction by calling these companies. I have left letters taped to the front door of the distressed and vacant property to gain access to a listing agent, property manager, prior owners, city officials, or other cash buyers and get them to call me. I have received a few phone calls by taking this approach. I also keep in touch with companies that do metal scrap and clean outs of bank owned properties. A lot of times, they will be called in to clean up a property prior to an agent listing the property for the owner. I offer them referral fees for every lead that we close on.
The lesson is that you can let an obstacle stop you from finding the property owner and making money of a property sale or you can try a variety of different approaches to gain access to information and profit from a wholesale property deal that most people do not even know about. You create your own opportunites and find deals that most average cash buyer or real estate wholesalers will never take the time to find. As real estate markets start to heat up and have more competition, you will need to become even more creative and aggressive in finding distressed properties to pass onto cash buyer or income properties to buy for your own portfolio.