My Forensic Real Estate Investigation

Recently, I located what appears to be a vacant house in a very nice neighborhood in which I’d like to procure rental properties.  The landscaping has been unkempt for sometime and there’s no movement in and around the house whatsoever for weeks now.  So, I moved in for the kill.  The neighbor told me that, "The woman who owned it got married and moved to California (how ironic for me) and that when she did, this place went downhill."  It seems that it had been vacant for over 2 years.  Initial research proved that this property had been listed for sale 3 different times.  Each time, the listing price went up (weird but my assumption is that they kept pulling out equity as the value crept and raised the asking price to recpature).  The longer it sat, the more they raised the price it seems.  My realtor friend provided me the past listing details including number of days on market, listing agent, etc.

(LESSON 1:  Have an agent friend). 

These listings along with the county assessors site provided me with an owners name.  Additionally, the county site provided me a scanned image of a quit claim deed from San Bernardino County CA that a woman, listing her maiden and married names, quit claiming the Iowa house to her spouse. 

(LESSON 2:  Exploit publicly available records for free)

Next I took the names and used free Internet searches to locate the husband and wife.  I had assumed a divorce since she quit claimed to him and listed an AKA name…and my suspicion proved correct.  I reached the owner who is still living in CA via phone.  He provided a name and number of a family member that has a key to let us into the property. 

Here’s the killer, the guy owes $138k on a property that is only worth about $100k (best guess).  He’s letting it get foreclosed upon since there doesn’t seem to be a way out.  It would sell for $150k if it were up to speed for the neighborhood. 

(LESSON 3:  Following the paper trail through the investigation makes one feel like a private investigator…and that feels good)

I could give up now…but I’ve contacted my real estate teacher/mentor about creative possibilities to see if there’s SOMETHING that can be done here.  I think the worst case scenario here is that I can follow this property through to foreclosure and/or sheriff sale. 

All of this research and exploration took about 10 minutes.  The power of the internet for real estate investors is immeasurable.



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