Don't let anyone (including YOU!) try to convince you that you are taking advantage of people when they may be at an Emotional Low in their life/lives.
REMEMBER, these people May Have problems and you HELP people with problems....YOU may be able to help them.
You are a Professional and you are here to help!
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 Real Estate Investor. 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 6 cities, about 13 square miles, and a population of about 750,000. I had been buying and selling properties in this area for the previous 5.5 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 investment properties. Remember, we DG_students don’t ever want to overpay for an Investment Property of any kind, EVER! 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 3 years, which worked perfectly. The second option is what I do today, because I don't target now, I work the entire county. The choice is yours.
PROBATE INVESTING Old School 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 examine 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.
#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. Working with 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 Real Estate Investors 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 Hartford courthouse file room (my area). The other sample starts with the number 2, which tells me this file will be kept at the Charter Oak 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 (Hartford/Charter Oak) the court files are now preceded by HC00. 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 Hartford and Charter Oak courthouses, but I spent most of my researching time in Hartford, about 4 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 Investor you should be on top of this through access to your MLS.
This gives you a idea of how I start my tracking in Probate Real Estate. As a Probate Investor this will be part of what you do each week as you track new probates which have real estate. I love being a Probate Investor as most 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 4 court houses in 3 different counties where I track probates. This gives me on average 110 new probate real estate properties each month to work.
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