Wondering if courthouse research is a good for finding notes? It seems this question is making the rounds again, which is undoubtedly due to someone selling a “How To Find Notes at the Courthouse” training course for note brokers.
Let me start by asking a question in return.
Pardon my directness but… What year are we in? Is it 1981 or 2011?
The information found at the courthouse can help you find and qualify leads. There are just much easier and faster ways to accomplish the same thing.
So let’s cut to the chase and make the same point I carefully explain in our online training.
“There is only one time you need to waste time physically visiting the courthouse to find notes. That is when the courthouse records are not online.”
Look, the courthouse does contain the recordings of all real estate documents for their county. And back in the 1980’s I also spent time wading through microfiche and handwritten ledgers. In fact before I was officially in the note business full time I worked for an attorney that owned a title company in a small town. One of our clients was a local note buyer that paid us to develop a list of leads. (Later I became the note buyer but that’s a different story).
But now? The last time I was at the courthouse was for jury duty!
Finding Notes with Online Courthouse Research
These days most counties have all recording data available online (including that rural area in Washington State previously mentioned). You can view the index of recordings, separate them out by document type, and scan for sellers that carried back the financing for the buyer. You can then view the Warranty Deed, Mortgage, Trust Deed, or Real Estate Contract in PDF format and print a copy (if needed).
Next you can visit the website for the County Tax Appraiser to get a feel for the current assessed value, sales history, property type, and other important indicators of whether there is enough equity to pursue the deal.
Yes, there are some tricks to finding the information online, but it’s still faster than a visit to the courthouse.
Now if a county does not have their records online it makes sense to physically visit a courthouse to research leads (or better yet hire someone to do it for you). But that number is dwindling. I’d estimate over 90% of records are available online (but there is opportunity in that other 10%).
So why go to the courthouse if the records are online?
If you LIKE going to the courthouse by all means knock yourself out. Personally my time is limited and I prefer to use more efficient ways to accomplish the same thing.
Simplify the Note Finding Process
Which leads us to the next question. Is it worth your time to spend a full day in front of the computer screen or at the courthouse to generate just 50 to 100 leads?
Well, the same basic information is available from a list provider for about 10 cents per name. That’s about $2.50 to $5.00 for an equal number of unqualified leads, which saves the time from wading through all the records just to find a seller financed note deal.
But what if you want to qualify the note is a good candidate for a note buyer before spending your money on mailing?
Now that you have the lead just research the documents and values through the online records. Yes, there will be some leads you won’t mail to but you can always separate them into a file to contact at a later date when they have more seasoning or equity.
Here’s one more way to simplify your note finding efforts. Work with a good list provider like Advanced Seller Data Services (ASDS) that lets you specify what sort of leads you desire (including things like equity, seasoning, location, property type, and even the seller’s proximity to the property).
Scott Arpan of ASDS recently shared his wealth of knowledge on direct mail for the note business in an hour-long interview that is available in the member’s area of the Finding Cash Flow Notes online training.
He even provided his excel worksheet that helps calculate costs, response rates, close rates, and anticipated returns. Plus we have a video walk-through that shows how to find the note information online including samples of proven letters, postcards and mailing schedules that get results.