Skip Tracing: Ultimate Guide to Find a Property Owner

Skip Tracing

Skip trace anybody and any property using the techniques and tools in this guide and get the leads your competitors can’t.

It’s true, if you’re a real estate wholesaler, 98% of the time when your competition is door knocking and sending yellow letter campaigns, they are stopped cold when the homeowner does not respond.

In this article, I’m going to walk you through everything you need to find anybody, but in particular owners of real estate and even for an abandoned or distressed property.

These skip tracing methods can initially seem difficult or confusing, however, if you’re able to track down an elusive owner, you will be able to close sale after sale that your competition won’t.

By the time you’re done reading, you will have the tools and techniques to ease through every obstacle placed in your way.

In this article I’ll show you:

  • What skip tracing is
  • How real estate wholesalers can use skip tracing
  • How to find a property owner
  • Free skip tracing methods and websites
  • The top paid skip tracing software for use by the public

Let’s start with skip tracing basics.


What is Skip Tracing?

Skip tracing in the traditional sense is the process of locating someone who is intentional about not being found. They may have “skipped town” and their whereabouts must be traced to the present moment.

The person, known as the “skip” is typically in hiding from police or creditors and may be considered a fugitive.

The act of locating the skip, in this sense, is often best left to authorities, bounty hunters, process servers, bail bondsmen, private investigators, and other individuals equipped to approach them.

However, you may have heard the term “skip trace” used loosely in the real estate industry and wondered what it means.


What is Skip Tracing in Real Estate?

Skip tracing in real estate is the process by which an real estate wholesaler attempts to find the owner of a property, for the purpose of purchasing that property. This may be accomplished through a combination of methods, such as looking up ownership records in tax rolls, reverse phone searches, or batch skip traces, among many other techniques listed in this article.

Real estate investors and wholesalers constantly run into dead ends when trying to locate property owners to make them an offer on their properties.

For example:

  • You may want to find the new address of the owner of an abandoned home.
  • You may want the current phone number for the owner of a run-down house.
  • You received a huge stack of returned mail, marked “Undeliverable”, from a yellow letter campaign and have absolutely no idea what to do with it.


Attempting to make an offer on a distressed home isn’t the only use for skip tracing.

If you’re a buy and hold investor, you may need to locate a renter who abandoned your property without notice, or there are damages to the rental.

If you’re a fix and flipper, you may need to find a contractor who did poor work or left a job incomplete on a property rehab and can no longer be reached.

If you’re a wholesaler, you may want to obtain contact information for a particular real estate investor or potential cash buyer.

In some cases, if you don’t have a system like REI/kit that offers motivated seller lead lists already skip-traced for you, real estate wholesalers purchase lists of owner names and addresses and use skip tracing to locate phone and email data.

Then those wholesalers set up marketing campaigns using email, text messaging, ringless voicemails, and Facebook ads and Adwords ads to reach the homeowners.

Next I detail the two most commonly used ways to skip trace anybody.

Methods of Skip Tracing

Hiring a Professional Skip Tracer

A professional skip tracer has access to extensive online websites that aggregate data, meaning the data warehouses collect data from a variety of sources.

You many need to hire a professional in cases where the data company is aggregating really sensitive information such as a driver’s license number, vehicle registration records, or social security numbers.

For sensitive records like those, the data company may require proof of licensing, a background check, and a physical business inspection and so on before granting access to that data to the skip tracer, making that data unavailable to most people.

In the unlikely event that every one of the methods in this article fails, you can consider hiring a professional skip tracer to find those records, however that may come at a hefty fee.

This is because often the data provider requires an expensive subscription that makes an individual search for information on a single property by the public to be cost prohibitive.

Professional skip tracers may also implement alternative techniques that are progressively more labor intensive to obtain information — up to and including physical surveillance and in-person interviews.

At this point you might be wondering how you can possibly skip trace a property when you’re not a private investigator or a professional skip tracer. While sensitive information is off-limits, you can still access many records via a public records search.


Public Records Search

Typically, data such as death records, marriage records, property ownership, and so on, are publicly available.  You can use the information that you have on a person, by performing a lookup in any of these individual databases.

Finding all of the various databases for the city and state in which your skip is located can be time-consuming, and may in fact require a physical trip to a town or city office.

In such cases you can turn to a publicly available people search website or software online that has already aggregated all of this information from thousands of data sources.


People Search Websites and Skip Tracing Tools

A number of people lookup websites are available for use by the general public. These resources are online white pages or yellow pages directories, social media accounts, or search engines, among others, to find and verify information about a person.

To summarize, the vast majority of data is public record and can be searched by anyone, but finding the records databases are challenging.

Before launching into the free skip tracing techniques, you should know the order of steps by which to find the property owner.


How to Find a Property Owner

In the following sections I will go over the different ways to find a property owner.

Before you start, you should gather as much information on the person as possible such as a name, an address, a phone number, an email address, a social media username and so on, or some combination of those.

When you perform a property analysis in REI/kit, we will provide you with the owner’s name and mailing address if it is an absentee owned property.  This is a good start to then use some of the following free or paid skip tracing services to get their phone number.

In order to be the most efficient with your time and money, you should generally use the easiest and cheapest ways to find owner information, and only spend more time or money as the value of that owner’s information is warranted.

Use the following ways to find a property owner in order of cost (both time and money):

    1. First collect as much existing contact information including the name, address or relatives.
    2. Use free online services such as Google, online government public records, and social accounts to find additional information
    3. Use low cost paid services to find even more information such as skip trace software listed in this post
    4. If your location doesn’t publish online records, then visit your assessor or recorder to get information in person.
    5. If the value of that contact is high, you may want to use higher cost investigative services to find your skip.

Next, I’ll go over how to skip trace anybody for free.


Free Skip tracing techniques

You can use these eight free skip tracing methods to find the property owner’s contact information, whether it be a property address, current mailing address, phone number, email address, or other identifying information.


How to skip trace a person for free:

  1. Look up tax records
  2. Check death records
  3. Search genealogy records
  4. Free skip tracing websites
  5. Ask a neighbor
  6. Use the postal service
  7. Check jails and prisons
  8. Search social media

They are listed in the order in which it makes most sense to perform them.

The first step is to look up the owner of the property at your local government office using the property’s address.


Property Tax Records

Even if the home has been left to the overgrown grass, tarped roof, or boarded up windows, property records must still exist on the home.

Property owner information is usually located at the Office of the Tax Assessor or County Recorder for your jurisdiction and is accessible via a website or a physical office visit.

If it’s available, you can find the website of the appropriate government office for your city or state at this link:

Next, look up the tax records for the property by:

  • Finding the tax assessor’s page
  • Entering the street address of the property you want to skip trace
  • Clicking on the appropriate property link to see the owner details

The name of the current owner should be listed within the property details, along with their postal mailing address. At this point, you should see if the property address matches the mailing address.

All REI/kit house flipping software subscription plans  give you this information for any property that you are analyzing, including the owner names and mailing address if it is an absentee owned property.


Addresses Match

If the addresses match, the owner likely lived in the property at some point, or still does. You now have the name of the owner and can move on to verify if the owner still lives in the property.


Addresses do not match

If the addresses are different, then it is called an absentee owned property, and there can be a number of reasons why:

  • Owner really has abandoned the property or moved out.
  • Landlord has given up on a rental property or is in-between tenants.
  • Heir inherited the property and doesn’t want to deal with maintaining the home.
  • Property is owned by an LLC, trust, or non-profit organization.


Pro Tip

If you do come across an LLC, it’s pretty easy to double-check the mailing address of the business that you saw in the assessor’s records.

In many states, a Limited Liability Company is required to register with the Secretary of State for the state where the business is located. You can quickly do an online search for “Secretary of State” AND Property’s State and then just follow instructions to do a business entity name search to retrieve their address and even the names of the officers or members of the business.

Note: Not every jurisdiction will have online records search, and some counties do not make owner records public at all, such as Los Angeles County, where high profile celebrities do not want their residences available online.

Next up, if you have pin-pointed the owner’s name and they are not a business, before spending time on any other technique in this article you should find out if they are deceased.


Death Records

There are more than a few ways to find out if a property owner died. The most useful are the Social Security Death Index, and by querying Google or another search engine.


Social Security Death Index

The Social Security Administration has records on file of persons who were deceased more than 5 years ago. There are two  online websites that provide basic information based on that index for free if you register:



If the death occurred less than 5 years ago, then using an online search engine will often return more recent results.


Query a Search Engine

Try searching for: Nameofowner AND “deceased” OR “obituary” OR “passed away”

You can also include other identifiers in the search field as well such as the city and state, the property address, or even a phone number.

If you find out that the owner of an abandoned property is deceased, then it’s likely you’re going to need to talk to the heirs. You might even need to do some sleuthing as to who is executor of the estate or holds title to the property.

While probate is a complicated topic off the scope of this post, you’ll want to skip trace the relatives with all of the methods in this article that you used to find the deceased. That might include searching for obituaries (that list the surviving family) or relatives with the same last name. You can also use genealogy records.


Genealogy Records

Genealogy archives can help you locate the relatives of the homeowner you are searching for, if you know their name. Finding the relatives of a deceased owner, as mentioned, is one scenario in which genealogy would come in handy. Another is where a person abandoned their home and you would like to get a message through to them from relatives about buying their property.

Some of the more popular genealogy sites that do require registration to view basic information are and

If it appears that your skip is still alive, but you don’t know where they have moved to, you should try to piece together basic free information on them before proceeding.


Free Skip Tracing and People Search Websites

I include the following skip tracing site as it lists direct links to many of the free people search websites available today. Keep in mind that many of these link directly to only the most basic of information, and you will have to pay for more in-depth searches.

If you did a look up on the owner’s name, but it did not return a new address, then there is another highly effective way to get the scoop on an abandoned home.


Ask a Neighbor

Ask the surrounding neighbors if they know the owner’s name and where the owner might be.

Offer a simple explanation for why you’re asking, such as that you buy homes in that neighborhood and are looking for the next one.

They are bound to have some information, at the very least what the owner’s name is and possibly a location for them. If they don’t, have a post-it note or card with your contact info ready to hand to them to pass on if possible.

You may now have the abandoned property owner’s name from the tax records office or from a neighbor. If the basic information returned in the free online searches did not net you their new mailing address, you can turn to the United States Postal Service.


Use The Postal Service

For those homes where you’re not sure if the owner has moved out, send them a letter in the mail asking about their property.


Pro tip

When using this method, note that generally speaking, if the owner registers a forwarding address, you’re not likely to get notified of that new address directly from the Post Office, however, there’s a workaround.

Just include on the envelope the sentence “Do Not Forward. Return Service Requested.”

This means that rather than forwarding the letter on to the owner’s new home – assuming a forwarding address was registered – the Post Office will send it back to you labeled with a sticker of the owner’s new address.

From here you’ll be able to mail the new owner, or skip trace the new address for the owners phone number or email address.


What if you already sent out yellow letters without requesting return service and they were returned?

It basically means that you hit a gold mine, and all you have to do is follow the ore.


Returned mail means the owner probably has moved on as they are not even checking their mail, and all of your competitors who sent them mail (just like you did) aren’t getting through, either.

If you did not put “Return Service Requested, Do Not Forward” on your letters, then the amount of time that has passed since the owner of the property moved on determines what will happen to your postcards or first class letters.

Postcards: First Class Mail:  Within the first 12 months that sendee moved, mail will be Automatically Forwarded.

Postcards: First Class Mail: After 12 months, mail is Returned to Sender with the new address they have on file.

Postcards: First Class Mail: After 18 months since the sendee moved, mail will be returned as Undeliverable As Addressed and no new address After 18 months since address moved

If you don’t include your return address, your postcards and letters will be thrown away.

Standard Bulk Rate is not forwarded or returned at all.

The main point to take away here is, that the guidelines I just posted let you know how long it has been since the person you are tracking down moved. If they moved more than 18 months ago, for example, you will receive your mail back as undeliverable.

There are a number of reasons why the mail could be undeliverable, or no forward mailing address returned to you, or it really does seem like they just fell off the map. One of these is that the owner could be in a jail or prison.


Search City, County, and Federal Jails

You can search inmates by name or number at this website:

For city and county jails, Google the name of the city AND the name of the county to find contact information for jails in the area that you believe the skip was in or is in currently.

If the person you are looking for is in prison or jail, you can contact them via mail, or even go as far as visiting them to ask them about selling the property.

No luck yet? Sometimes traces of a person who doesn’t want to be found are scattered around the internet, and social media is a good place to hunt for them, or to verify that the person you have located so far is, in fact, the person you are searching for.


Search Social Media

Social media platforms like Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter may turn up a good result, especially if the owner has a unique name.

You can use shortcuts on Google, such as: “John Doe”

This will search all of Facebook and return within search results any pages that contain an exact match of the words in quotes in your search.

You can also use AND and OR between words, as well as minus signs in front of words you want to exclude from your search, such as –John if you want to return people with the last name Subject but not first-named John.

If the person’s profile allows, you can scroll through photos, get their current location or birth date, and i.d. their friends and family to get a better idea if they’re the possible owner.

If you find someone who could fit the owner profile, reach out to them through messaging with a short and simple note, such as:


“Hi Alice. I’m Bob. I’m interested in the property on Evergreen Street in Bladen County, and property records pointed me to you. Do you own the property and are you interested in selling?”

If all of these free skip tracing methods leave you empty handed, you can call on the pros: paid skip tracing tools, websites, and apps.


Types of Paid Skip Tracing Websites

As I mentioned above, you often have to work with bits and pieces of information when skip tracing a person or property. This means that if you do have to turn to a paid skip tracing service, before you do any searches you need to determine what kind of skip tracing tool you need based on what kind of information you are missing.


One-off Skip Tracing

If you are just trying to locate a single property owner, or in-depth information on a single property owner, you can use an in-depth paid skip trace service or people search.


Batch Skip Tracing

If you have many people that you need to skip trace, batch skip tracing is the way to go.

Also known as bulk skip tracing, this method is essentially where you create a file in a spreadsheet software and you insert all of the information you have on individual rows for each property.

When you upload this bulk file, the provider you submitted the file to will run the information through their system, which will then return as much of the information that is missing as possible.

So if you submit a row with an address and a name, it will (hopefully) return multiple records for phone numbers, land line, email addresses, and other types of additional identifying information.


Mobile Skip Tracing Apps

If you are constantly out in the field driving for dollars or cold-calling on the spot, you may want to look for software that has an app available for instant people lookups.

There are many tools available to skip trace, some of which have all of these types, and others that only offer one or two.

Before I list them, and in order to understand whether they will work for you, I’ll talk about how their features are broken down.


What to Look For in a Skip Tracing Tool

First let me talk about the attributes of the major skip tracing software and mobile apps. These are the criteria by which you can judge the best skip tracing software for your business:



The ability to look up owner or property information one at a time.


One-Off Cost Per Skip

The one-off cost for a single property owner lookup.


Bulk/Batch Skip Trace

Whether a skip trace website allows you to upload a file of property or owner information.


Unlimited Skip Trace

Some providers provide unlimited skip traces for a monthly subscription cost.


No-Hit, No-Charge

If a skip trace search does not find any of the information requested, there is no charge for the skip. This is most important if you submit bulk skip trace files. It determines whether you get billed for the entire number of rows in your batch skip trace file, or just the number of rows that are returned with some information.


Turn-Around Time

The turn-around time from submission to results, to complete an order, especially on batch or bulk skip tracing orders that require lengthy processing.


Monthly Subscription Cost

Many skip tracing websites do charge a monthly subscription cost. Some include a specific number of skips in the subscription, while others charge for skips above and beyond the subscription cost.


Contract Term

Subscriptions run month-to-month, or long-term, with terms that may allow you to cancel at any time. For high-volume batch skip tracing providers it’s likely to be a long-term contract.


Unused Skips Roll Over

Generally speaking, skips included in a subscription expire at the end of each month, unless otherwise noted.


Skip Trace a Business

Sometimes you need to skip the address for a property where the owner is a business entity or trust, such as an LLC or a non-profit entity such as a church.


Mobile App Available

If a mobile skip tracing app is available, either a stand-alone or provided with a skip trace website subscription. These can be incredibly useful if you drive for dollars, since you can look up property owner information on the spot.


Accuracy Rate

A skip tracing services’ stated accuracy rates. The higher the percentage, the better, but accuracy also depends on what data source the skip tracing service relies on, and the level of data clearance, such as “credit bureau-level data” or “credit header data.”


What are the Best Skip Tracing Software?

The best skip tracing software can only be determined by your specific business model and your data needs, but below I have broken down the REI/kit components according to the list above, as well as the top people finding websites.


Top skip tracing website


REI/kit gives you the ability to import your contacts then run them through our multi-source skip tracing engine at some of the lowest costs in the industry.


One-Off: Yes
Cost Per Skip: As low as $0.10 cents per skip trace

depending on plan.  No minimum orders. DNC check is included in every skip trace.

Offers Bulk/Batch Skip Trace: Yes
Unlimited Skip Trace: No
No-Hit, No-Charge: Yes
Turn-Around Time: Immediate
Monthly Subscription Cost: See pricing
Contract Term: Monthly, all marketing tools included.
Unused Skips Roll Over: No
Skip Trace a Business: Yes
Accuracy Rate: Credit-bureau data as high as 70%
Mobile App Available: No
Additional Services Provided: REI/kit is a complete real estate investing system including Motivated Seller Leads, Automation Campaigns for Text, Email, and RVM, Websites, CRM, Virtual Phone Numbers, Marketing, Deal Analysis, Deal Marketing


People Search Tools


Spokeo is unique in this list in that it has been aggregating social media records since 2006, so you can search by social media username to return basic information.


One-Off: Yes, for specific report types.
Cost Per Skip: Various.
Offers Bulk/Batch Skip Trace: No
Unlimited Skip Trace: No
No-Hit, No-Charge: No
Turn-Around Time: Instant or within a few minutes.
Monthly Subscription Cost: $19.95 per month, or 3 months at $14.95 per month. Returns all possible related data with the exception of court records and historical records.
Contract Term: Monthly, cancel anytime.
Unused Skips Roll Over: No, search credits expire at the end of each month.
Skip Trace a Business: No
Accuracy Rate: Unknown
Mobile App Available: No
Additional Services Provided: Offers a “Search Concierge” service if you do not return results or want help with your search.



Website and Mobile People Search Apps


BeenVerified provides both a desktop and mobile experience.


One-Off: Yes
Cost Per Skip: Included in subscription.
Offers Bulk/Batch Skip Trace: No
Unlimited Skip Trace: Yes
No-Hit, No-Charge: No
Turn-Around Time: Instant
Monthly Subscription Cost: $26.89 per month, or $17.48 per month billed in total of $52.44.
Contract Term: Monthly
Unused Skips Roll Over: N/A
Skip Trace a Business: Yes
Accuracy Rate: Unknown
Mobile App Available: Yes
Additional Services Provided: Unlimited criminal records and background reports.




By now you should be able to springboard your search for ANYONE, but in particular hard-to-find owners of abandoned or run-down properties. I detailed what skip tracing is, how real estate wholesalers can use skip tracing, and methods to find a property owner.

You also now have a variety of free skip tracing tips and techniques that will help you launch your search.

Finally, I listed the top skip tracing websites and batch skip tracing data powerhouses, so that you can make an informed decision.