fast property research

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In my first few years as a real estate investor, one of the biggest time-wasters I had to deal with was my research process.

In my mind, in order to feel comfortable sending out an offer on any property, I had to know everything there was to know about the deal (this was my first mistake).

As a result, I would spend a ton of time making sure I understood every possible detail about a property before making an offer. I left no stone unturned.

Now, an abundance of caution isn’t a bad thing per se, but I eventually realized this approach was hurting me.

You see – in order for me to be profitable in my business, I actually had to close a deal every once in a while. And in order to close a deal, I had to get some accepted offers.

For every ONE accepted offer I got, I usually had to send out a lot of offers, and I had to do this on an ongoing basis (not one offer per week… but more like a DOZENS of offers per week).

If I wanted to crank out this kind of volume all by myself, it wasn’t a good use of my time to spend several hours researching each property before I felt comfortable enough to send out one offer.

The math just didn’t work! If I wanted ANY hope of getting anywhere in this business, something had to change.

When you’re offering somebody 10% – 30% of their property’s market value (like I do), a lot of them are going to say “No.” That’s just part of the deal when you’re fishing for motivated sellers and offering them virtually nothing for their property. A general lack of acceptance shouldn’t take anybody by surprise.

RELATED: How Much Should You Offer For That Property?

Once I came to this realization, I knew that I had to cut the fat out of my research process – big time. I couldn’t spend a full hour (or more) researching every property I came across. If I didn’t make some drastic changes, I wasn’t going to survive as a real estate investor.

After a lot of fine-tuning and experimentation, I was able to whittle down my research process to what I considered to be the most important factors. These were the essential pieces of information that needed to be known in order for me to determine:

  1. Whether Or Not To Make An Offer
  2. How Much To Offer

This list of “bare essentials,” i.e. – the checklist that I followed to research each property, is outlined in the video below (Hint: View this video in FULL SCREEN in order to see all the nitty-gritty details).

Get the DataTree Discount!

RELATED: Are You Using the Best Real Estate Data?

Now… is this process perfect? No.

But does it tell the story and get to the bottom of the most common issues VERY quickly, thereby allowing me to send out 10x more offers as a result? Yes.

The reason I feel comfortable gathering ONLY the bare essential information is because I have a purchase contract that gives me a “back door”. In order to send out dozens of offers simultaneously and not be locked into each one, there must be a way to make non-committal offers (think of it as more of a “letter of intent”), all while being very clear about this fact and get the seller’s consent on this.

By doing this, it has allowed me to get much further in my acquisition process without having to invest countless hours of my time before the seller makes a reciprocal commitment back to me. With this approach, I can make offers on each property BEFORE I know every last detail about it, and put together the remaining pieces after I’ve gotten each acceptance and before I close on the deal.

Consider this insight from Ken McElroy, author of The ABCs of Real Estate Investing:

“Analysis is paralysis. I move on a deal when I know 70% of everything. More than that takes too long and less is too risky.”

We don’t need perfection – we need just enough information to make a reasonably educated offer.

RELATED: The Only 3 Things You Need To Make An Offer (It’s Simpler Than You Think!)

From my perspective (knowing how much time can be wasted in the research process), this approach is the only thing that makes sense to me.

Once I get an acceptance, THEN I can invest more of my time into evaluating a deal… but only if I know that I’ve got a serious seller on the line. My goal is to never spend more than 15 minutes gathering the basic data on any individual property before I make an offer. This basic data is very important and helpful, but anything beyond this tends to be overkill (especially when you have no idea whether or not a property owner will actually accept your offer).

Let me reiterate – I’m not saying YOU need to research your properties this way. This is simply my opinion, which has been formed after several years of experience and sending out tens of thousands of offers to virtually every kind of seller in the market.

If you’re looking for a “bare essentials” due diligence worksheet just like the one I use, you can subscribe to the REtipster email list and download it for free right here:

Note: I only send emails to my list when they’re particularly relevant and important – so don’t worry, signing up for this email list will NOT result in piles of junk emails in your inbox.

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About the author

Seth Williams is a land investor and residential income property owner, with hundreds of closed transactions and nearly a decade of experience in the commercial real estate banking industry. He is also the Founder of REtipster.com - a real estate investing blog that offers real world guidance for part-time real estate investors.

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  1. Foster says:

    Very interesting blog! Teaches me to stop wasting time on details until under contract! Hard habit to break. Thanks.

  2. Seth Williams says:

    Thanks for your feedback Foster – I’m glad it was helpful!

  3. Daniel says:

    Seth, are the property reports included in the Bronze package for 18 bucks a month?

    1. Seth Williams says:

      Hi Daniel – absolutely. Bronze is the package I use, and it has been more than sufficient to cover all of the research I do.

  4. Daniel says:

    Seth, how to you find out about any back taxes owed? Does agentpro247 list this information?
    I am getting ready to make my first offers, but the county I am in does not list delinquent tax info online.

    Thanks
    Daniel

    1. Seth Williams says:

      Hi Daniel, good question. It’s usually pretty simple… call the county treasurer (aka – tax collector), give them your parcel number and ask them, “How much (if any) delinquent taxes are owing on this particular property?” If you’re talking to the right person, they should be able to tell you in a matter of seconds.

      1. Daniel says:

        That shouldn’t be a problem. Thanks for all your good advice, as always

  5. Daniel says:

    Seth, I was going to sign up for AgentPro247, but they are asking for a Real Estate License # which I don’t have. It’s a required field.
    I didn’t know you need one to sign up. Or could I just put in a number that I made up?

    Thanks
    Daniel

    1. Seth Williams says:

      Hey Daniel, good question. In this field, you can just put “N/A” and it will get you through to the next step. I’m not sure why this as a required field… but I guess you can just humor them and move on. Thanks for asking!

  6. carolyn says:

    You had mentioned that you purchased a course when you first got started. Could you tell the course name? I would be interested in purchasing a course.

    1. Seth Williams says:

      Hi Carolyn – sure thing. You can find out more information about the course I used at the bottom of this blog post: https://retipster.com/landinvesting

      Good luck!

  7. JK says:

    I watched the jellybean video you posted in your BP article and had tears in my eyes, as I’ve been a procrastinator, who wants to invest in RE to generate passive income to do other things in life, but haven’t done anything yet due to so called ‘reasons’. I had the opportunity to buy in places (Atlanta, Phoenix) a year or so back and that would’ve been great, had I actually done it. My (problem) is that I’m in Canada which makes it somewhat difficult to capitalize on US RE opportunities in a timely manner. I so want to buy in TX right now, but again find more reasons not to, than to do.

    Can you help?

    1. Seth Williams says:

      Hi JK,

      Thanks for your comment – I just sent you an email on this with my thoughts on your situation. I appreciate you checking out the blog, stay in touch!

  8. Amy B says:

    Seth! Your due diligence worksheet is so helpful!! Thank you so much for your willingness to share!

    1. Seth Williams says:

      No prob – thanks Amy!

  9. Karl James says:

    Seth – Thanks for the AgentPro video tutorial and the Due Diligence worksheet.

    Curiosity question – looking at the worksheet I notice a small cell formatting thing, looks like the return on investment (ROI) cells at C34, C36 and C38 are formatted a $, versus %. Was this intentional to show that for every dollar you spend you get $2.xx back versus showing the typical percentage return?

    1. Seth Williams says:

      Hi Karl. Absolutely, the idea with those cells was to show the dollar for dollar return (the amount of money you’d get back for every dollar you invest into the project). Does that make sense?

  10. William Pena says:

    Seth,

    How do you choose the best states to do your research in. I see all of the news articles about all of the best states to buy property in – but how credible are they. And last do you focus on one state/city for a while and then move to the next?

    Thanks again for the input,

    Will

    1. Seth Williams says:

      Hi Will. When I first started out, I just focused on my home state (because I was most familiar with it). Now days, I’ll make offers on anything in the U.S. As long as:

      – The numbers make sense
      – I know very thoroughly what I’m buying (and all the pros and cons that come with it)
      – I’m able to understand the tax and legal implications of each state I’m working in

      …then anything is fair game.

      Hope that helps!
      Seth

  11. Homesonthemarket says:

    Hey Seth, thank you for putting this blog and video together. It was really informative and clearly explained.

    1. Seth Williams says:

      Absolutely! Glad you found it helpful!

  12. Clarence says:

    Very useful, amazing tool… I haven’t used the sheet yet but I’m sure I’ll put it all to use on my next deal.

    1. Seth Williams says:

      Awesome – glad to hear it!

  13. Clarence says:

    Very useful tools, I haven’t used the sheet yet but I’m sure I will be using it on my next offer. And I certainly will be signing up for the site… thank you much Seth.

    1. Seth Williams says:

      No problem Clarence, thanks for stopping by!

  14. Philip says:

    Hi Seth,

    I listened to your BP podcast episode earlier today and have since been perusing your site; it’s very interesting. I have a question regarding initial due diligence. For the “Title, Sale & Loan Information” questions I can see from the video that Last Transfer Date, Transfer Value, and First Loan Amount can be found in the agentpro247 reports. Will the reports also show the balance of any mortgages, details about any other liens, and who is on the title? If not, where do you suggest getting this information?

    Also, is there a post regarding the additional research you perform after getting an acceptance?

    Best,
    Philip

    1. Seth Williams says:

      Hi Philip,

      It depends on which level of subscription you have within AgentPro – the Bronze subscription (which is what I use) has some of this, but not all. If you pay for the Gold or Platinum, I think it should all be included.

      And I don’t have any posts talking about the “additional research” I do after getting an acceptance (though much of this depends on what kind of property you’re trying to buy – land will be different from houses). But this is a good suggestions – perhaps I’ll write one clarifying how my entire process works from start to finish.

      Thanks!
      Seth

  15. Jeff says:

    How would you modify this worksheet (in the number crunching section) to work for a wholesale/rehab purchase?

    1. Seth Williams says:

      Hi Jeff – good question. I would probably use the same structure as laid out in this blog post: https://retipster.com/offerprice/

    1. Seth Williams says:

      Thanks Will!

  16. Derrick Coppin says:

    Thanks a great deal for information!

    1. Seth Williams says:

      No problem Derrick – thanks for stopping by!

  17. Mark Wells says:

    Thanks, Seth, for a very informative AND FREE real estate investing video!!

    1. Seth Williams says:

      You bet Mark!

  18. Hosea Smith says:

    Hey Seth, I just joined and I received your voicemail this morning. I can’t wait to converse with you and having you be a “PART OF MY SUCCESS.” I haven’t gotten my first deal yet, but soon to come. I’ve been an Investor in the Los Angeles area for about 7mos. I wanted to give-up many many of times, seems like everyone in this industry B S you, my funds are almost depleted, but I will fight to the end. I just downloaded the property research sheet, and thanks, I can’t wait to converse with you soon.

    Seth, I’ve burned ALL the bridge behind me, “There’s No Turning Back, No Retreat” We will do this, and thanks again for being a part of it !!!!!

    Hosea

    1. Seth Williams says:

      Hi Hosea, thanks for checking out the blog – it’s great to have you here! Let me know if there’s anything I can help with.

  19. Anthony says:

    Seth, Great article with tons of info. Have a question about determining a property’s market value to decide what to offer. I pulled up a detailed report from agent pro and it says the market value is 4,750$ but then i look at the comparable s in the name report and it shows a median price range of properties sold for 25,550$.. so i’m a little confused on which number is correct . Thanks

    1. Seth Williams says:

      Hi Anthony – that’s good question (as this aspect of land investing can be very confusing). Honestly, I wouldn’t put much stock in either of these numbers. Instead, try to do some of your own, independent research and come up with a ballpark determination of what YOU think it’s worth. This blog post explains how to do it: https://retipster.com/valueofland/

  20. Kevin says:

    What a wealth of information! I recently went Pro on the BiggerPockets website and finding your blog has been an amazing bonus. I’m a newbie to real estate investing & have been having a lot of trouble deciding which type of investing best fits my personality & current circumstances. I believe raw land investing may be just what I was looking for. I’m looking forward to soaking in your wisdom& please keep up the great work!
    Best regards,
    -Kevin in MA

    1. Seth Williams says:

      Thanks so much for sharing Kevin, I’m glad you found my site! I think you’re on the right track. If there’s anything I can do to help you out, just let me know.

  21. Jimmy says:

    Enjoyed the video until we got to your spreadsheet. Are you really suggesting offering $13.8k on a house worth $150k that needs no repairs? That’s 9.2% of a your quick sale price.

    Real estate investors get a bad name from far too many people doing practice similar to this. Finding a good deal is very important, yes, but taking advantage of people who are desperate or dumb is not only unnecessary but in my opinion, unethical. 9% is a joke.

    1. Seth Williams says:

      Hi Jimmy,

      I am – and based on your comment, I don’t think you fully understand how my business model and thought process works.

      I’ve thoroughly explained it in this blog post. Take a look, and maybe you’ll get a better understanding of where I’m coming from.

      That being said – if you still disagree, I’d love to hear your thoughts at the bottom of that article.

  22. Ella says:

    I couldnt believe there is an easier and quicker way of researching for properties in the US since it has a very wide market. Well, thanks to this post. It really helps!

    1. Seth Williams says:

      Thanks for sharing your thoughts Ella! I’m glad you found it helpful.

  23. CONRAD says:

    how would i get a promo code for agent pro 247?

    1. Seth Williams says:

      Hi Conrad, it’s actually the the “Partner ID” code you’re looking for – and it’s CFGRSH. Enter this in during the checkout process and you should get the discount.

  24. Lee says:

    Great information Seth,
    thank you very much for sharing!!

    1. Seth Williams says:

      Sure thing Lee!

  25. Scott Thomas says:

    Great article, I just have one question I’ve been struggling with. How can you determine the property size. Most counties I look at have great information on their GIS sites, but it never actually lists the lot size. What am I missing?!?

    1. Seth Williams says:

      Hi Scott – if you can’t find this information either from the county or from AgentPro247, you could use the Google Earth Ruler tool (it’s not the most “exact” way to get the measurements, but it could at least get you within the ballpark). If you know approximately where the property boundaries are, you could measure the area in square feet and determine the acreage that way.

  26. Luis says:

    Seth – I’m amazed by your knowledge and by your generosity.
    Thank you for helping us understand how to profit in real estate.

    1. Seth Williams says:

      Absolutely Luis! Thanks for the kind words. 🙂

  27. Ben Sealey says:

    Thanks for the info on this website. I am listening to a podcast over at simplewholesaling.com and it brought me to your site. Good stuff.

    Thanks,
    Ben

    1. Seth Williams says:

      Awesome! Thanks for letting me know Ben. Glad you got something out of that conversation. 🙂

  28. Salima says:

    Hello thank you sooo much for great help, Pllease i couldny create an account (contract info)please yr help

    1. Seth Williams says:

      Hi Salima – I’m not sure I understand. Were you unable to complete the checkout process in AgentPro247?

  29. Greg says:

    SETH, Thanks for the great tutorial. I looked and do not see a “Bronze” package on the site? Do you still use these guys and if so what package would be a good substitute. They do seem much more expensive now. Or do you use a different service?

    Thanks!
    Greg

    1. Seth Williams says:

      Hey Greg! Yeah – I still use them, but unfortunately – they just jacked the prices up quite a bit in the past month. I think it’s still a worthwhile expense IF you’re going to use it regularly… but I agree, the buying decision just got substantially tougher now that it’s way more expensive than it used to be.

      If you’re looking for some other options out there (depending on what your needs are), you can always check out this blog post too: https://retipster.com/real-estate-data

  30. Michael Stagger says:

    Hey Seth ! I enjoyed this video on researching properties..I am a subscriber of Agent Pro but did’nt know how to use the info on the property reports to help me when it comes to making offers..And thanks for the Due Dilligence worksheet… Awesome video…

    1. Seth Williams says:

      Thanks Michael! I’m glad you enjoyed it!

      Yeah, AgentPro247 is one of those programs that is really helpful, but only if you know all the ways it can be put to use. 🙂

      Best of luck to you!

  31. Thomas says:

    Seth Williams,

    Can you tell me what sites used to FIND people and current ph numbers and addresses. When you talk about delinquent tax sales, the List, It means the excess funds that are left over from the sale of the property. Researching and doing due diligence is part of this process. This is some of the things NO ONE talks about when getting involved with these businesses.

    1. Seth Williams says:

      Hi Thomas – there are actually a few different stages of being “tax delinquent” that people often get confused.

      Stage 1: When a person has delinquent property taxes, but they still own the property.
      Stage 2: When a person has delinquent property taxes, and the county has seized the property in tax foreclosure (i.e. – the person no longer owns their property.
      Stage 3: When the seized property is sold off to a new investor, and any excess proceeds (i.e. – any amount that was paid in excess of the delinquent tax balance) can be claimed by the original property owner in some states (but not all).

      If you’re interested in pursuing excess proceeds for a property you own/owned, you might find this blog post helpful: https://retipster.com/tax-sale-overages-excess-proceeds

  32. mike says:

    Great informations thanks

    1. Seth Williams says:

      Sure thing Mike!

  33. Jerryll says:

    The real issue to me is that on my websites we boast that we buy any and all properties no matter the location. My issue with the “research” stage is that you have to go and look at the property. Sometimes these properties are REALLY far away. A 2 hour drive there and an other 2 hour drive back gets male quick especially when the house is just a bad investment. I am trying to figure out a way to make this entire process a lot more efficient…

    1. You could always use a service like WeGoLook, or simply hire someone on Craigslist to go and get some pictures for you.

  34. Alex says:

    Is AgentPro247 still around? Clicked the link in this post – to AgentPro247.com – and the site doesn’t load. Tried this on a few different days and on different computers. Still not loading. Any idea what’s going on?

    1. Really? That’s odd – it’s still loading for me. Here’s the URL I’m using: https://www.agentpro247.com

  35. Lis says:

    Do you know if the Agent Pro247 changed its website? The one that shows is different from yours in the video

    1. Yes, they did change the home page and the pricing about a year ago. It’s still the same service, but the pricing options are significantly higher now. The higher prices are unfortunate, but honestly – I still think it’s one of the better values on the market, compared to how much every other service costs.

  36. Patrick says:

    Hello Seth,

    Excellent information you are putting out.

    Is there a way to find out Tax Defaulted properties before they are actually listed for Auction and the Time clock starts.

    I’m in California, some counties wait for the property to be 3 years delinquent before going to auction, if I wanted to contacted these owners as soon as they go 2 Years delinquent, what is the best process.

    Thank you

    Patrick

    1. Hi Patrick, absolutely! Check out this blog post, where I explain how that works: http://retipster.com/delinquent-tax-list

  37. Will says:

    I’m re-starting RE and find the whole wholesale, land geeky thing very interesting, so I’m i study mode and hope to start soon. So/and thanks to you, Seth. FYI I’m a semi-retired gent who insists on conducting himself accordingly (as a gentleman) and only (try to) surround himself with scrupulous associates. My current partner happens to be one of these people.

    1. Thanks for reading Will! I hope you’re able to find a lot of help here on the site.

  38. Alex says:

    Seth, this is a great video! I noticed that on the datatree menu there were other lien reports for HOA, etc…just wondering how reliable this is with datatree. Do you also order these? Or do you just end up having to call the HOA or county to find out about any outstanding liens or encumbrances on the property? Thanks – I’ve watched about 8 of your videos so far and they are great!

    1. Hi Alex – thanks for asking! You know, I actually haven’t even tried to order those yet, but my hunch is that the reliability of them depends on the county and how well it keeps track of HOAs within its jurisdiction. If it’s a massive HOA, then the county will probably have some decent info about it… but if it’s a tiny one (with 5 properties in it), then I wouldn’t expect a lot of helpful information. It’s probably not a bad idea to pull it just to check it out, but I would still do some cross-checking directly with the HOA to make sure it’s all accurate and up-to-date.

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