The Complete Guide to Conducting A Better Property Search

The Complete Guide to Conducting A Better Property Search

Pop quiz.

What's something that seasoned investing pros, beginner investors, small business owners marketing their company, and real estate agents all have in common?

Answer: Their strategy for conducting property searches almost always correlates to their overall success.

As simple as it may sound, properly conducting a property search informs everything from investment strategy to marketing execution and long-term financial planning.

Are you planning on getting started searching for properties? Then, you've come to the right place.

Let's jump in.

Why we're writing this

At PropertyRadar, we're experts in helping customers connect with new opportunities found in public records.

We've helped thousands of businesses become experts in their markets by leveraging property and owner data to conduct thorough property searches.

Even if you're not using PropertyRadar, we want to help more people grow their businesses — and knowing the different ways you can execute a property search properly is a great way to do that.

Big Picture: Things to consider when conducting a property search
The Complete Guide to Conducting a Better Property Search
Method #1: Using the County Assessor's Office
Method #2: Using GIS Data
Method #3: Using County Recorder's Information
Method #4: Using County Court Records
5 Marketing Strategies to Engage Property Owners

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Big Picture: Things to consider when conducting a property search

When starting a property search, keeping a few things in mind will prevent you from going in blindly and set you up for success.

Let's take a look at a few of them.

Consider the two types of property search

There are two use cases for conducting a property search:

  1. When you want to learn about one specific property
  2. When you want to identify a group of properties based on specific criteria 

Type #1: When you want to learn about one specific property

One use case is that you're looking for a particular property because you want to learn more about it for investing, lead generation, or marketing purposes.

Historically when you've wanted to look for more information on a specific property, your search would start at the Assessor's office.

The Assessor's office has comprehensive property data, including the property owner's name, property characteristics, and zoning (more on that later). 

Additionally, you'll be able to access relevant documents about the property and see if there are any pending court actions involving the property.

Type #2: When you want to identify a group of properties based on specific criteria 

The second use case is that you want to find all properties with something in common.

For example, you might want to know about all the properties in a particular region with specific zoning. You may be trying to open up a business that requires a particular zone type.

Another example might be that you're looking for all the properties in an area with a specific property feature, like an attached garage. 

Whatever you're searching for, you want to identify all the properties in an area with something in common.

You may be doing this for marketing purposes, as you have a service or offering that would appeal to everybody with these things in common. 

Consider how you'll want to use your property search

The concept of searching for a property is universal. However, depending on your profession, the way you use a property search can vary greatly.

How realtors use property search

If you're a realtor, you may find your leads fall into two distinct buckets: leads your brokerage provides and leads you're responsible for generating yourself.

If your lead generation falls into the latter category, employing Property Search tactics through Public Records and Owner data (owner name, owner address, etc.) gives you another stream of leads to diversify your pipeline.

Realtors can use property searches to find new clients that are likely sellers due to distress or other motivations.

The reality is that most realtors won't take the time to leverage real property records, so by doing this, you'll be able to find often-overlooked off-market properties and other opportunities before competing agents.

How Investors use property search 

Any good investor knows that the best property searches include public records data.

The best property searches have an investment criteria guideline, access to complete, up-to-date public records information, and a reliable follow-up that crafts strong messaging which resonates in their market.

Investors can also run property searches to uncover more information about a specific neighborhood, subdivision, block, street, etc.

For example, suppose you're an investor looking to target vacant properties. In that case, you can run a property search based on neighborhood, subdivision, block, street, etc., to return the number of vacant homes.

From there, applying additional search criteria like owner age and equity percentage can help you understand how to market appropriately and put you in a position to deliver value to property owners.

How Home Service Companies use property search 

In general, property searches and public records data are vastly under-utilized options for home and property service companies.

By conducting a property search, home service companies can locate and connect with properties that are an ideal fit for their business.

For instance, the owner of a local roofing company can use a property search to identify all homes in a fire-prone area with shingle roofing that's over 30 years old.

From there, the owner can use public records data associated with homes in that search to return matching results for owner names, email addresses, ages, street names, etc., to craft individualized messaging that resonates with prospects.

Another use case for home service companies using a property search is when they're looking for a building to house their business.

With public records data, commercial properties, mixed-use, and residential are all included - making it a one-stop shop to find an ideal location for a business.

Consider the differences in property searches from county-to-county

With property searches, finding everything you need can take time and effort.

Until recently, the landscape to leverage public records data for property searches were fragmented and untrustworthy.

Fortunately, with advancements in public records technology, the accuracy of information is better than ever.

However, a significant consideration when using property searches from public records data is the varying data quality from county to county.

For example, in some counties, you may find every apartment building is tagged perfectly as an apartment with the correct number of units, etc. 

However, in another county — possibly even a neighboring county — all of the apartments might be tagged as "miscellaneous residential" and may be missing critical property details you need to make decisions.

In these cases, you may be unable to tell if it is an apartment building or precisely what building type the property is. 

Often, older apartments will have little information, while newer ones will have excellent documentation. When this happens, it's typically due to the county needing to backfill records on older buildings.

Now that we've looked at the big picture and things to consider around property searches, let's review how you can conduct a better property search, no matter your industry.


The Complete Guide to Conducting a Better Property Search

With so many factors at play, knowing exactly where to look and what to look for when conducting your property search is essential.

Whether you're conducting your first property search or are a seasoned pro, you can use the following methods to ensure your property search is the best (and most efficient!) it can be.


Method 1: Using the County Assessor's Office

At its core, the purpose of the County Assessor is to estimate the value of real property within a city, town, or village.

The value estimate, or "assessment," plays a significant factor in calculating real property tax bills. Therefore, Assessor's offices are almost always required by law to keep the value estimate of every parcel up-to-date.

There are 3,142 counties in the United States, meaning there are 3,142 Assessor's offices nationwide. 

Some, but not all, have websites where visitors can search and get some information. However, it's fragmented, and different departments have different information and ways of accessing information. 

To conduct a property search, you can either go into the Assessor's office in person or use their available website to search their records from anywhere.

Based on your investing or lead generation strategy, you can specify if you're looking for records on residential, commercial, agricultural, or vacant properties.

The county records will include the property's owner and characteristics like how many beds, bathrooms, zoning details, and square footage. 

It's essential to keep in mind that there are very few counties that allow you to search records by address.

You can typically only search using a specific person's name, making it a little complicated.

For example, if you're trying to search for a property at the county recorders, you would first need to go and find the person's name and then figure out if the documents relate to the property or not.

Or, if you're searching the county court records, you would usually need to search by date as you typically cannot search by address.


Method #2: Using GIS Data

A Geographic Information System, also known as "GIS," is designed to analyze and display geographically referenced information.

With its valuable mapping and zoning information, GIS Data has wide applications and use cases in several fields like surveying and construction.

However, it's equally crucial for investing, lead generation, and marketing strategies for property-centric businesses.

GIS Data gives incredible insight into many things, including land ownership, zoning, value per acre, flood zones and wetlands, municipal boundaries, census data, points of interest, and traffic counts.

These are all essential to factor into investment criteria, lead generation strategies, and marketing materials.

If you're an investor, GIS data can enable you to spot things others may not see, like parcel boundaries in a commercial property, or reveal things like dual zoning, which can significantly impact a potential investment.


Method #3: Using County Recorder's Information

The third method is to use information from the County Recorder's Office, which ensures all public records of actions and transactions are up-to-date and appropriately filed.

County Recorders handle a massive volume of information, including notices of sale, mechanics liens, bills of sale, deeds of trust, mortgages, easements, tax liens, homestead, reconveyance, and trust deeds.

There's also the county recorder information, which includes the transaction data. You can learn about details through purchases, deeds, liens, and foreclosures through the county recorder. 

This non-confidential information can also be a goldmine for conducting property searches.

However, you should remember that while a property owner search is free, other types of searches can incur additional costs and vary by your county's office.

If you're an investor specializing in specific niches like bankruptcy or probate, the County Recorder's office is a great resource to leverage for your property search.


Method #4: Using County Court Records

County Court Records are a bit more straightforward.

Typically, when conducting a property search, investors, agents, and home services companies will use county court records to find judicial foreclosure information.

If you're looking to take County Court records a bit further, most online sites will also allow you to search liens, notices, and orders.

With these methods in mind, let's move on to an example of how you can reverse engineer a property search.

Reverse engineering property searches

During a property search, you can reverse engineer your search to find missing pieces of information and give you what you need to make strategic decisions.

For example, let's say there's a situation where you're conducting a property search in a county that did not tag any of the apartment buildings appropriately but instead tagged them as "miscellaneous residential."

You're searching for an apartment but getting an incorrect number because the number of units was incorrectly tagged. Consequently, you cannot do a miscellaneous residential plus unit search.

However, you discovered the county collected a water tax based on the number of bathroom fixtures in the entire building. 

Since they accurately counted the number of bathrooms, you can take that information to help you learn more about the apartment complex.

You know that houses do not have 20 bathrooms, so when you do a miscellaneous residential plus bathroom search, you may be able to find all of the properties that are residential apartments that have more than five bathrooms. 

There is a good chance you're talking about an apartment building if it's a residential building with more than five bathrooms. 

While this is just an example, the point we're trying to get at here is that public records can often fill in the blanks when conducting a property search. So if something seems wrong, feel free to dig a bit deeper into other records to try to make sense of the situation.

5 Marketing Strategies to Engage Property Owners

Now that we've taken a look at the ways to find properties, let's explore a few of the ways you can reach out to and connect with property owners.


Introducing yourself, your company, or your service over email is the first step in connecting with distressed property owners. 

Calling / Texting

Once you’ve made contact with property owners, following up with calls and texts is a great way to build rapport with anyone who’s opted into receiving phone communication.

Direct Mail

Any form of a physical piece of marketing or promotional material sent through the mail.You can connect with property owners with postcards, letters, brochures, etc. 

Door Knocking

Door knocking is a direct approach you can use once you’ve identified a property in the area. You can approach the property and talk to owners and neighbors and learn more about the property and the property owners.  

Online Ads

Search and Social Media ads are a great way to spread awareness. A huge benefit is the ability to control how much or how little you spend per day. 

What's Next?

Property searches, when done correctly, are an incredibly effective process that helps power many of the best investment, lead gen, and marketing strategies.

Using public records in your property search reveals a wealth of knowledge that makes your strategy more targeted, relevant, and even neighborly. You'll even put yourself in a position to find opportunities your competition won't see.

However, it's important to remember it can be difficult and take a lot of time to access the necessary information to fulfill your search requirements. 

How to conduct a better property search with PropertyRadar

Simply put, PropertyRadar offers the most powerful property search tool ever created.

PropertyRadar pulls data together from multiple sources, so it lets you look up a single property in numerous ways — using a name, a phone number, or an address. 

You can find all the properties that somebody owns, even if they have 100 different company names, by searching for a mailing address.

You can also find all parcels with specific characteristics in common using our search tool. Then, you can learn more about what those properties may have in common from our insights and each property profile. 

With PropertyRadar, you can search by address and see all relevant documents without doing all the work. 

Furthermore, PropertyRadar provides you with the contact information of an individual related to your property search, including email, phone number, and more.

Once you've done a core property search with traditional resources, you can return to PropertyRadar and begin an advanced property search using the information you uncovered during step one. 

How PropertyRadar is unique 

While most of our competitors' tools do not give you multiple ways to view the results, PropertyRadar offers many dynamic ways of viewing your property search results. 

For example, we have a card view — where you can see which ones have phone numbers and emails in a graphic, user-friendly format.

We also offer a spreadsheet view, where you can choose which columns you want to see and sort by any of the columns. Next, the map view lets you see the properties that meet your criteria. Finally, there's also the split view that combines both map and spreadsheet views. 

You must buy and export the records to view them with other property search tools. However, PropertyRadar allows you to view the results immediately without exporting them.

The most powerful property search tool. Ever. 
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