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Skip Tracing in Real Estate: An Ultimate Guide


Skip tracing is a term often associated with bounty hunters and private investigators. But did you know it’s also a crucial tool in the real estate industry? In a nutshell, skip tracing is locating individuals who are hard to find. 

In real estate, this usually refers to property owners who are either absentee landlords, in foreclosure, or not responsive to traditional marketing methods. Locating these individuals can open up a goldmine of investment opportunities. 

This article serves as an ultimate guide to understanding and using skip tracing in real estate, from the basics to advanced techniques.

What Is Skip Tracing? 

Skip tracing originates from “to skip town,” meaning disappearing or becoming unreachable. In the real estate context, skip tracing finds property owners who have seemingly vanished or are unresponsive.

Why is this important? For real estate investors, these are the owners most likely to be motivated sellers. They may own vacant properties, be behind on mortgage payments, or just tired of owning a property they can’t manage. By locating these individuals, you create opportunities for deals that others might miss out on.

Skip tracing involves gathering as much information as possible about the target individual. This information can range from basic contact details to more intricate data like social media activity or professional affiliations. The primary aim is to build a comprehensive profile to help you track down the person successfully.

Tools and Resources for Skip Tracing 

With technological advancements, skip tracing has evolved from a tedious manual search to a more streamlined online process. Various tools and databases are available to make your job easier.

  • Public Records: County records, voter registration databases, and court documents can offer valuable information. These are often accessible online or at local government offices.
  • Search Engines: Don’t underestimate the power of a simple Google search. Sometimes, valuable information is freely available on the internet.
  • Social Media: Platforms like Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter can offer clues about a person’s location and activities.
  • Skip Tracing Services: Many online platforms specialize in skip tracing. These services have access to vast databases and can provide comprehensive reports, although they usually charge a fee.
  • Real Estate Software: Some real estate investment software has built-in skip tracing features tailored specifically for the industry.

Each tool has its strengths and limitations. Therefore, it’s usually beneficial to use a combination of resources to get the most accurate and up-to-date information.

The Legal Aspect of Skip Tracing 

Just as with any form of investigation, there are laws and ethical considerations governing the practice of skip tracing. Failing to adhere to these guidelines can lead to legal complications.

  • Consent: You can’t use someone’s personal information for unlawful purposes or without their consent, especially if you plan to use it for marketing or solicitation.
  • Accuracy: Ensure that the information you collect is accurate. Using inaccurate data hampers your efforts and can put you in legal hot water.
  • Privacy: Be cautious not to infringe on anyone’s privacy. The boundaries between public and private information can sometimes be blurry, so tread carefully.
  • State Laws: Skip-tracing laws can vary by state. Always consult with a legal advisor to ensure you comply with local regulations.

Being aware of these legal aspects can save you from potential lawsuits and ethical dilemmas, so never cut corners regarding the law.

How to Get Started with Skip Tracing: Step by Step

Skip-tracing real estate can be a powerful technique for professionals, but knowing how to begin is essential. Here’s a step-by-step guide to help you navigate skip tracing effectively.

Step 1: Identify Your Targets

Before diving into skip-tracing, you must identify who you’re looking for. Are these absentee landlords, people behind on mortgage payments, or owners of vacant properties? Establish a clear profile of your target to streamline the subsequent steps.

Step 2: Collect Initial Information

Start by collecting basic details. If you focus on real estate, this could include full names, last-known addresses, or property identification numbers. The more initial information you can collect, the easier it will be to fill in the missing gaps later.

Step 3: Choose Your Tools

As discussed earlier, several tools and platforms can aid in your skip-tracing efforts. Decide whether you’ll use public records, search engines, specialized skip-tracing services, or a combination. Your choice may depend on the specific information you’re trying to find and the budget you have at your disposal.

Step 4: Perform Preliminary Searches

Using your chosen tools, begin with preliminary searches to gather more details. The aim is to build on the initial information you have. Look for social media profiles, online activity, and additional contact details like phone numbers and email addresses.

Step 5: Verify Information

Cross-reference the information you collect to verify its accuracy. This step is critical because acting on incorrect data can be counterproductive and may even lead to legal complications. Confirm addresses, contact numbers, and ownership details through multiple reliable sources.

Step 6: Understand Legal Boundaries

Before making contact or using the information for commercial purposes, ensure you know and comply with all legal regulations. Consult with a legal advisor if needed to confirm that you’re within the bounds of the law.

Step 7: Establish Contact

Now that you have accurate and verified information, it’s time to make contact. Whether you decide to call, send a letter, or even visit in person, be professional and respectful. Your initial communication can set the tone for all future interactions, so make it count.

Step 8: Record Your Process

Maintain a detailed record of the steps you took, the sources you consulted, and the results of your efforts. Good record-keeping is helpful for an organization and can also serve as a legal safeguard.

Step 9: Refine Your Approach

Skip tracing is an ongoing process. Take note of what worked well and what didn’t. Refining your approach will make you more efficient and successful in future skip-tracing efforts.


Skip tracing is an invaluable skill set for any serious real estate investor. It offers opportunities many consider hard to reach or impossible to find. But like any tool, its effectiveness depends on the user’s skill. Understanding the intricacies, employing the right tools, and adhering to legal guidelines can distinguish between a successful deal and a missed opportunity. Hopefully, now you have the foundational knowledge to incorporate skip tracing into your real estate investment strategy effectively.

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