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Real Estate Title Search: Finding the Key Data

Aug 29, 2008
Real estate investors know that knowledge is power because to make effective offers to sellers they need some very specific property information. Knowing the exact financial situation of the property/seller is vitally important. So what type of information do you want? How can you use it? And how do you find it?

The type of information is simple but critical:
the price and date of the last sale, the amount of each mortgage, when the mortgages were taken out, the terms of the loan(s) and what other liens encumber the property.

How can you use it?
I like to construct three offers for every property with this information. For example, knowing the equity in the property can lead to an offer where the seller would wait for some or all of his equity - for a higher price: or if the existing loan terms are favorable another offer could be buying the house subject to the existing loan; or minimal equity may lead to an offer based on a short sale acceptance by the lender...the variations are endless. But the information is pivotal to how the offers are structured. Without this data upfront, you have to create offers on the fly in front of the homeowner which is not only unprofessional but also a way to invite costly mistakes.

How do we find it?
There are three sources: the seller, the courthouse or registry that holds the documents and the internet (that provides remote access to the documents at the courthouse in many cases).
Most investors collect seller information over the phone, while this is valuable I have found that many homeowners simply do not remember their key home/loan information (and I include myself in that group) or don't want to tell me the full story. So I don't rely on the seller's data but I do verify it. Initially I bought the data but that got expensive. So I began to make visits to the registry to dig for the details myself. The process involves working through the grantee and grantor (broadly buyer and seller) books and following up on all the individual book and page references. The last step which made life so much easier was to find a source of this data on line without having to pay for it on every lead.

The importance of this data being accurate will allow you to confidently structure offers before the in home visit. I have found that it boosts my confidence as I know what I can offer and what hurdles I may face so I can practice overcoming possible objections. Accurate data makes you a better more successful salesperson so make sure you have it.
About the Author
John G. Kelly is an entrepreneur who has been investing since 2003. From his own experience he has created a short course on how to find out the key financial details about a property. With that data you can confidently construct strong offers that are more likely to be accepted. You can find the course here
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