Skip Tracing For Real Estate Investors: Complete 2024 Guide [UPDATED]

Skip tracing in real estate provides a way to find owners of potential investment properties. Here’s our 2024 guide skip tracing motivated sellers!

07 min read
November 30, 2020

Real estate investing seems like a goods-and-services business. 

(You buy and sell properties, after all)

But really, it’s a people business.

You’re not so much in the business of buying and selling homes as you are in the business of speaking with, negotiating with, befriending, and building trust between yourself and home sellers.

(Heck — you’re probably pretty good at it, too!

BUT, there’s a problem.

Before you can work your “people magic” — the magic that keeps your business afloat — you’ve got to find people who are motivated to sell you their home. 

And you’ve got to do that every single month, consistently and predictably.

Easier said than done?

That’s why skip tracing is so darn useful for building a long-term investing business. 

Let me explain. 

Or REISift Can Skip Trace Your List Right Now

What is Skip Tracing and Why is it Valuable To Real Estate Investors? 

Skip tracing for real estate provides a way for real estate investors to find the name, phone number, and address of owners of potential investment properties. 

Imagine you’re driving for dollars and you get home with a nice long list of 20 or 30 different distressed homes. Some of them looked abandoned. Others were in ill-repair but looked lived-in. Still, you’re not sure if the people living in them are the owners or not.

What are you going to do?

After all, you only have the addresses.

You could go knock on the door of those homes and hope for an answer.

But that’s wildly inefficient.

Plus, if the house is abandoned, then… well, no one is going to answer. 

This is where skip tracing comes in. 

You see, skip tracing started as a way for the government (and bounty hunters) to track down debtors, fugitives, or criminals. With some savvy software, they could figure out the person’s whereabouts. 

Now, real estate investors can use skip tracing software, 100% legally, by the way, to find a homeowner’s name, phone number, current address, and email. 

You can even do that in bulk, with hundreds of addresses all at once!

See the value of skip tracing yet? 


Because now we’re going to show you how to do it.

How To Use Skip Tracing To Find Motivated Sellers (The RIGHT Way)

It might seem like there’s just one way to skip trace in real estate… you enter the address of the distressed property, get the owner’s information, and go on your merry way. 

Oh — if only things were that simple. 

First of all, you’ll usually be skip tracing 50, 100, or even a thousand properties all at once… which means that all of that data needs to be sparkly clean and well-organized, otherwise, you could repeat skip tracing addresses and waste time and money — more on that soon. 

Additionally, while most real estate investors spend a lot of effort in organizing their new leads with a CRM… they don’t do a great job of maintaining the cleanliness and efficacy of their skip tracing system, which provided those leads in the first place...

(insert knife into foot)

So here’s our 3-step system for skip tracing to find motivated seller leads… THE RIGHT WAY.

Ready For Action? If you want to go through this process with other real estate investors, check out our Data to Dollars Challenge.

1. Clean Your List

You can clean your lists manually using the method taught here.

Skip tracing a dirty list is sort of like paying a high-school student to file your taxes. 

It’s probably not going to turn out that great… and it might turn out worse than it was before you started. 

That’s because skip-tracing is only as effective as the data you provide. 

Bad data begets bad data. 

But the same is true of good data

If you organize your list, remove unnecessary information, delete duplicates, and find the owners of LLCs and trusts, then your skip tracing efforts are going to be much more effective. 

Because good data begets good data. 

Check out the video above to learn how to clean your lists, and in the next step, we’ll talk about why using a high-quality skip tracing tool (like REISift ← try it for free) is so important.  

OR you can let  REISift handle the heavy lifting for you, because  REISift will sort your data on upload and you can SKIP TRACE -ONLY- the CLEAN data!

REISift Clean vs. Incomplete Data

2. Use a High-Quality Skip Tracing Tool

While skip tracing refers to the general process of tracking down a person or their information and can technically be done manually — if you love working long hours for no reason :D — the only efficient way to skip trace your lists is by using high-quality software. 

And yes, we’re going to talk about REISift, because it’s the best. 

But we don’t take our self-given “being the best” badge lightly. 

We’re constantly trying to make our software better, more efficient, and easier to use. We’re trying to create the best data management marketing software for real estate investors EVER. 

And well, truth be told… there’s not a whole lot of competition for good REI data management. 

Most other skip tracing software will charge you for duplicate records, it won’t help you organize your data, and it certainly won’t stop you from accidentally running the same list a few weeks later. 

So we’re sort of competing against ourselves…

But that’s the best mentality to have, right? Always iterating and getting better. 

Already, members can use REISift to clean and verify their lists, run monthly USPS home vacancy checks on their lists, filter and organize their lists in tons of different ways, tag records, send or schedule direct mail campaigns, and instantly skip trace their lists.

Cool, right? 

And when it comes to skip tracing your lists, we’ll help you clean your list before you skip trace (which saves you money), never skip trace the same owner multiple times (which saves you money), and only charge you for matches (which saves you money).

But you know what’s even cooler? 

You can sign up for free over here and start skip tracing immediately…

Which saves you money ;-)

Ninja-Tip: At REISift, we just launched an awesome feature that tells you which records you should re-skip (because the databases that we scrape are regularly being updated with new information) — re-skipping wrong numbers every 90 days or so will help you make the most of every single lead. 

3. Make Sense of Your Data

Okay — so you’ve cleaned and skip traced your list. 

What’s next? 

Well, you’ve got to make sense of the data that you just pulled. You’ve also got to keep all of that data organized. 

It’s important, for instance, that you don’t skip trace the same list multiple times (which is literally just throwing money away).

Unfortunately, most real estate investors spend a lot of time and money organizing their existing leads, but forget which lists they have and haven’t skip traced before… this poor data management leads to a loss of marketing dollars. 

And that’s not just a real estate investing problem… it’s a business problem

(Image Source)

Most real estate investors became entrepreneurs because they wanted to carve their own path and do things their own way, but the fact remains: good business requires good data. 

If you don’t know whether your lists are clean or not, which lists you’ve skip traced before, or even what type of lists you already have, then everything becomes harder…

Running effective advertisements, cold calling, following up, sending direct mail… it all requires a difficult trek through that data jungle. 

If you’re…

  • Already lost, then, well… better late than never. With REISift, you can import your lists, organize them with tags, clean them, skip trace them, and most importantly, keep your data easy-to-use over the long-term. 

  • Not lost yet, then give yourself a pat on the back… but be careful. As your business grows, so too will the size of your data and the demands on your time. REISift will help you automatically keep your records sparkly clean so that they’re ready when you need them. 

Ready For Action? If you want to go through this process with other real estate investors, check out our Data to Dollars Challenge.

Pros, Cons, & Best Practices for Skip Tracing

Pros of Skip Tracing for Real Estate Investors:

  1. Access to Unreachable Sellers: Skip tracing allows investors to reach property owners who might not be easily accessible through conventional means, such as those with distressed properties or absentee owners.
  2. Time and Resource Efficiency: When done correctly, skip tracing can be highly efficient. Utilizing batch skip tracing, where you trace multiple individuals at once, can be a time and cost-effective method.
  3. Increase in Success Rate: By using a variety of resources for skip tracing, such as public records, social media, and specialized databases, investors can cross-verify information, increasing the accuracy and likelihood of finding the right contact information.
  4. Finding High-Equity Leads: Skip tracing is particularly effective in identifying specific types of leads, such as tax-delinquent properties, high-equity homes, and vacant properties, which are often indicative of motivated sellers.

Cons of Skip Tracing for Real Estate Investors:

  1. Accuracy Issues: While batch skip tracing saves time, it may not always provide results as accurate as individual skip tracing, leading to potential inaccuracy in the gathered information.
  2. Data Quality Dependency: The effectiveness of skip tracing is heavily reliant on the quality of the data you start with. Poorly organized or outdated data can lead to ineffective tracing efforts and wasted resources.
  3. Privacy and Legal Concerns: Skip tracing must be conducted within the bounds of privacy laws. Unauthorized use of personal data, such as hacking into private records or using information without consent, is illegal and can lead to serious legal repercussions.
  4. Costs: Although there are free resources available, in-depth skip tracing often requires the use of paid services or software, which can add to the overall expenses.

Best Practices for Effective Skip Tracing:

  • Clean and Organize Data: Before starting the skip tracing process, ensure that your data is well-organized, free from duplicates, and as complete as possible.
  • Use High-Quality Tools: Investing in quality skip tracing software can improve efficiency and accuracy. These tools often have features to clean, verify, and manage your data effectively.
  • Diversify Your Approach: Don't rely solely on one source for information. Use a combination of public records, social media, professional services, and community engagement to gather comprehensive data.
  • Stay Compliant with Laws: Always conduct your skip tracing within the legal framework to protect yourself from legal issues.

Remember, while skip tracing can be a powerful tool in real estate investing, it's important to approach it with diligence, respect for privacy, and a commitment to legal compliance.

Skip Tracing To Find Real Estate Leads? Now You Know How

Skip tracing — a process for finding the contact information of homeowners — is actually very simple. 

You just choose a tool, enter what info you have, and receive the records. 

But choosing the right tool for the job (*cough* REISift *cough*), keeping your lists clean, ensuring that you never skip trace the same list twice, and making sense of your data without getting overwhelmed by it… that’s where the challenges come in. 

And we hope that this guide has opened your eyes a little bit to how you can use skip tracing and data management to grow your real estate investing business. 

For our members, this process has made a big difference :-)

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