By S. Jack Butala
Finding and contacting real estate owners has never been faster and easier than it is today. Thanks to the internet and concept of a relational database nearly every pertinent fact about every property is available.
Here’s the numbers (USA);
Properties: About 150 Million
Single family residences: About 43 Million
Commercial and condos; about 40 Million.
The rest of the property in the US is vacant land. Every property has an owner and every property owner is obligated by law to pay the assessed property taxes levied by the county where the property is located.
There are 3,144 counties / parishes in the country, and they all have a different way of managing the property ownership database where they mail property tax bills each year (sometimes twice a year).
This is a lot of data to manage as a real estate investor.
Counties range from handwriting tax bills (one county in Arkansas has yet to computerize) to offering credit card auto payments and everything between.
They all have this in common; they manage a database of ownership records and as a matter of federal law, this dataset is required to be a matter of public record.
As you would think, their database quality range varies widely.
In the 1990s the large title/escrow companies realized that the services they offer could be greatly improved if they aggregated the county data and put it into usable format to provide their escrow agents the data they needed to close deals faster and more accurately.
In very quick order, managers realized this data was also very valuable to investors, oil companies, healthcare companies etc. First America Title started RealQuest and eventually separated the two entities for mission and financial reasons. Black Knight followed with TitlePro 24/7 and most recently First American created DataTree (We are licensed providers of all three).
All of these companies take assessor and financial data and aggregate it for our use as investors.
We took this a step further and created ParcelFact.com. If you have an address or an Assessor’s Parcel Number, you can out who owns any property in the county in seconds and where its located.
This is no small feat. The site manages 148M+ datasets so you can get the name and address of all the owners of all of the properties in the county and make them blind offers to purchase their property.
The very cornerstone of real estate investment is buying property cheaper than its current value. To do this, you need to make a lot of offers and to do that, you need to know who owns each property.