Think you know what skip tracing is?
If you think skip tracing is just a feature that matches a phone number or email address to home or property owner… then think again.
Consider this: If you use a tool to “skip trace” phones and emails, you haven’t actually located the owner or contacted them yet. Skip tracing is what you have to do if the prospect doesn’t answer your call, or when there’s no number for the prospect at all but you want to pursue the opportunity.
In the Complete Guide to Skip Tracing, we'll cover everything you need to know to locate and connect with hard-to-find home and property owners—beyond the phone number and email address. We'll cover:
- The big picture: What is skip tracing?
- Where it comes from: The history of skip tracing
- And, of course: How and why to skip trace a property owner
- Plus: How do you know if a deal is worth it?
- Skip tracing with PropertyRadar
Let's start with the big picture…
What is skip tracing?
Skip tracing is the process of finding and contacting a person who is difficult to find or avoiding conventional means of outreach. Basic skip tracing relies on phone and email databases, often provided by tools online. However, more advanced skip tracing, for when an opportunity is worth the extra effort, often relies on more nuanced techniques such as online searches, credit reports, and criminal background checks to find and connect with home and property owners.
The history of skip tracing
For many real estate-focused businesses, skip tracing has become a sought-after tool, but it's often mistaken for what's more commonly called match-append. Match-append is simply the process of finding a person or property in an existing database and then appending data like phone and email.
However, to fully appreciate and leverage skip tracing for growing a small local business, it's essential to understand what skip tracing really is…
The term skip tracing originated from the financial services and bail bonds industries. For those businesses, skip tracing was the job of finding somebody who's skipped out on a debt or a bail bond.
This process wasn't about finding a phone number or email address. In fact, they likely already have that information, but the person wasn't answering or responding. Tracking down the person who skipped out became a series of investigative, often creative, tactics.
Skip tracing in real estate
Flash forward to today, and many services advertise phone and email append features as skip tracing. While finding phone numbers and emails (match append) is used in skip tracing, it's really just more than finding their contact information.
In fact, to make this even easier for small property-centric small businesses who need to contact hard-to-find home and property owners, the best services (yes, like PropertyRadar) have already done the match-append of phones and emails to that first part of skip tracing is built-in.
There's an important distinction: skip tracing using the available phone and email does not technically merit advanced skip tracing. It's only when you're unable to connect with the person using that information, or there's no information available, that other skip tracing techniques become appropriate—but it's where the best deals often come from.
Even with PropertyRadar, with built-in match-append and free phone numbers and email addresses included each month, there will always be owners that you can't connect with. This is especially true for vacant properties and other properties in distress.
Most importantly, if you're a real estate investor and have a property you really want, skip tracing can help you get in touch with the owner to facilitate a deal. More advanced skip tracing techniques are required in these cases. To help those who understand that the best deals often come from skip tracing, here's the advanced guide for skip tracing property and homeowners beyond phone numbers and email addresses:
How to skip trace a home or property owner
- Try the phone number and email addresses. If the person picks up the phone or answers their email, you won't need to continue with the more intensive skip tracing techniques.
- Check the mailing address. While the owner may not be at the property address, they may be at the mailing address.
- Check for a forwarding address with the USPS
- If you think the owner may be at the mailing address but is simply not answering, try working with a delivery service like UPS or FedEx. Many people will open, read, and respond to a FedEx or UPS when they won't respond to regular mail. There is a different intent behind these services that prompt people to engage the mail and deliveries sent by them.
- Start looking for other addresses associated with that person.
- Run a quick Google search. Depending on what you find, you should take other steps to contact relatives and neighbors or track down the person.
- Search the person on social media, such as Facebook, LinkedIn, Instagram, Twitter, and other platforms. Social media can also be used to look for friends, relatives, and neighbors. If you find people that that person knew, politely contact them to inquire about the homeowner.
- Reach out to neighbors. Knocking on doors or calling neighbors might help you find information about the person you're trying to get in touch with.
- Check with relatives. Can you find the mother, father, siblings, or adult children? You may be able to tell them that you're interested in the property and get some helpful information. Ancestry.com and other genealogy sites can be really useful when trying to trace family trees.
- Run a background check. One of the reasons the owner may not be available is that they may be in jail. If they are in prison, you can usually write to inmates after finding out what facility they're in.
- Hire a private investigator. Private investigators have access to specialized skip tracing services like TLO and Accurint, which are only available to authorized users. Through those they can often access credit reports and other secure databases that may uncover different addresses or relationships you otherwise would not have access to.
Note: Is the property owned by an LLC or corporation? Start with this article. After finding the principal behind the company, come back to this article to skip trace owners that may be difficult to find.
When should you skip trace a home or property owner?
Clearly, skip tracing can take immense time and effort. If you're a real estate agent calling on foreclosures, making 20 calls per day, you probably do not want to spend the time skip tracing.
However, professional investors know that the owners you can't find easily are the best opportunities — and are worth five times as much time and effort as the ones where you can easily find the phone and email information.
For experienced investors, the real value is when there is no phone and email. On the other hand, amateur investors who cannot easily find the owner are more likely to give up.
If it takes FedEx, private investigators, and other extreme measures to find the owner, then it's very likely that you will be the only one talking to them if you do eventually find them. In these cases, they are also very likely in a situation that makes them a motivated seller. You could have a higher chance of getting the owner to agree to a sale to help resolve a difficult financial or similar situation.
Perhaps you're an agent and your client has their eyes on a specific property, or you're an investor who wants a critical asset, then the opportunity merits going the extra mile to try and find the owner.
Skip tracing with PropertyRadar
PropertyRadar uses many techniques that offer a better match rate than other companies in real estate that use third-party phone and email match-append.
With PropertyRadar, phone and email are built it. This gives you a huge advantage because you can leverage our multi-step process to find the best match. You can also deploy the site's Trust Breaker, which finds the individuals behind trusts that other services don’t successfully find matches for.
You'll also be able to access neighbors' contact information, allowing you to easily reach out to people who may be able to give you new leads and information without having to leave your current location or drive to the neighborhood. In addition, you can use PropertyRadar's lookup tool to access the phone numbers and email addresses of relatives and neighbors.
PropertyRadar also shows other addresses associated with each person and a full list of other properties owned by the individual.
Using PropertyRadar in combination with other tools can also be helpful. For example, you might run a Google search and find out that the person you were looking for has passed away. By reviewing their obituary, you may find the people that survived them. You can then use PropertyRadar's search tool to find the contact information of the people that survived the deceased owner, who are likely now in control of the property. Then, you can get in touch with them and begin negotiating a deal.
PropertyRadar outperforms other competing services.
PropertyRadar's phone and email skip tracing (match-append) is built in.
Our tests with major mortgage companies have exceeded other vendors. We've had large call centers, compare our services to other top-tier providers, and have found that we get a better first-party contact rate. PropertyRadar's first-party contact rates are higher than the rest, meaning that PropertyRadar is best equipped to put you in touch with the right person.
Skip tracing is about quality, not quantity
When comparing skip tracing services, you may see that certain providers have very high match rates. However, half of the phone numbers may be wrong. When investing time in skip tracing, it's important to prioritize quality over quantity.
It's better to have a lower match rate with most numbers being accurate than a high match rate with bad results.
While our clients tell us that we have the best first-party contact rate, you should not expect every phone number in any service to be correct. Anything above 70% is considered very high quality in the cold calling industry. Our customers have found our data to be 80% or better.
The Ultimate Skip Tracing Checklist
- Determine whether the property is owned by an LLC or an individual
- Call phone numbers
- Send emails
- Check and try the mailing address
- Check the forwarding address
- Leverage UPS or FedEx
- Look for other addresses
- Google search the person
- Look up the person on social media
- Search for friends and family on social media
- Reach out to neighbors
- Contact family members
- Try genealogy websites
- Hire a private investigator