Probate Real Estate - How to Find Probate Homes By Gary DiGrazia Sr
Before we dive into this, I want to caution you not to try to analyze the complete probate process. It will only impede your progress as a Probate Agent. Just try to understand how to find the properties, and as you do your research, you will become more familiar with the probate system. I still learn something new with every probate real estate transaction I buy, sell, or list. You will earn as you learn. Try to keep this in perspective.
When I first started tracking probates, I targeted an area, which included 4 cities, about 8 square miles, and a population of about 400,000. I had been selling properties in this area for the previous 14 years, so I knew the prices. I advise you to start in an area you know; otherwise, on top of working this new system, you will also have to educate yourself on the property values in order to determine the right prices to pay for your client. Stay in your area of expertise to start.
You will have two choices to start your tracking. The first option is what I did for the first 8 years, which worked perfectly. The second option is what I do today, because I don't target now and work the entire county. The choice is yours.
ORIGINAL SYSTEM PROBATE INVESTING SYSTEM (1992 "DF") Old School GDG work week
Monday through Friday, my local paper publishes legal notices, including Notices to Administer the Estate. These notices are our starting point. These notices are usually printed in the classified, local, or sports section next to the Notices of Trustee Sales that you all are probably aware of. If you can't locate the notices, call the county probate office and ask where the notices are published for your area. They are usually published in the paper in the area where the property is located, but for now, you will have plenty to work on. There may also be a legal newspaper in your County that publishes Notices to Administer the Estate; call your county probate clerk's office to ask about this. The county requires the Notice to Administer the Estate to be published in a newspaper of general circulation. This is how the word is given out so creditors can make their claims against the estate.
The Notice to Administer the Estate is placed in the paper by the estate's attorney (para-legal) or petitioner (executor) on three separate days. Each week day cut out the Notices to Administer the Estate in your paper and examines them. Only cut out the notices for that particular day, so you don't duplicate in following weeks. Now, let's look at the information you will need to extract from the notices to start your property search. (My new 2010 updated Probate Real Estate tracking system is online now).
#1 DECEASED PERSON'S NAME
When you look at the Notice to Administer the Estate there will be a name listed at the top. This is the person who passed away. The name is the first piece of information we will use to start our research. We will run an In Tax Search, checking the tax assessor's rolls, either online (MLS) or on microfiche to see if the person did in fact own any real estate in our target area. As an agent you should be able to run a Tax Search through your MLS. Note: If the deceased used any AKAs (meaning "also known as"-aliases, maiden names, etc), they will also be listed here. This is important because the deceased may own several real estate properties in our target area under another name.
#2 PROBATE COURT CASE FILE NUMBER
This is the court number assigned to this case and our reference number when we go to the courthouse. The location of the court where the file is located is also indicated in this number. In a probate, the attorney establishes a file at the courthouse where all documents related to the probate proceeding will be kept and tracked as the probate progresses. Probate Agents must know where to find these files.
In the Notice to Administer the Estate the court case number is preceded by a letter (H) which indicates this file will be stored in the Hayward courthouse file room (my area). The other sample starts with the number 2, which tells me this file will be kept at the Oakland courthouse file room. You will need to know your County codes to determine courthouse locations if you have more than one courthouse to track. Just call your local county probate department or court file room and ask how the case files are assigned at each court of interest. These files are public information and anyone can review them. In the files, you will find all-important information relating to this particular probate real estate. In my tracking court house locations (Hayward/Oakland) the court files are now preceded by RP00. Since I go directly to each of the courthouses each week, it's not a big deal.
If you are using your local newspaper, most of the Notices to Administer the Estate will be located at your local courthouse. When I first started I traveled between the Hayward and Oakland courthouses, but I spent most of my researching time in Hayward, about 3 miles from my office. Living close by is not necessary, however; you can work any area you wish. The important factor is how knowledgeable you are about the area prices. As an agent you should be on top of this through your MLS.
This gives you a idea of how I start my tracking in Probate Real Estate. As a Probate Agentthis will be part of what you do each week as you track new probates which have real estate. For my DF students we set up their courthouse the same way although there could be some adjustments in the way the files are accessed and the way they are referenced. This is part of the reason I love being a Probate Agentas most agents and investors won't do this extra work to find the properties. Now in 2010 this is all automated as most courthouses are online but we still go to the courthouses each week which are not online and do our research. It takes me about 1 hour per court house plus driving time to keep up with the new files from 3 court houses in 2 different counties where I track probates. This gives me on average 100 new probate real estate properties each month to work.
Thank you for all the comments and emails on my Probate Real Estate system and also on those of you who want to become involved with my Probate Investor or Agent Training. I am giving back to my industry what it has gstry what it has g
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