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The Dirty Secret of Probate Leads and How To Paddle Your Own Canoe

By working probates, agents can get ahead of the ball, not behind it or on top of it. With a shrinking distressed property market, many agents are feeling the crunch of fewer selling opportunities. A staggering amount of properties will pass through probates - literally trillions of dollars - and an aging boomer population only stands to increase the number of unlisted, unpublished, and unknown opportunities. 

Yet it begs the question, "how do I profit from probate"? Many agents mistakenly think that probate is a complicated transaction, but it is merely the court-supervised process of liquidating assets in the estate. If a property goes through probate, the heirs nearly always want to cash out - they want the money in the house. 

The first step is identifying probated properties in your backyard.

Finding probated properties is easy for those that want to invest the time to extract the data at the courthouse. While most court houses are in the stone age when it comes to technology, many counties publish this data online. The key is to what to look for, to ensure that real property is attached to the estate. Without this extra step, you can be spinning your wheels getting in front of leads that have no real estate. 

Because of the time intensity, you can easily pay a "leads" provider $5 or more per lead or more, with no guarantee that real estate is tied to the estate. Why not paddle your own canoe, and find probated properties yourself? 

Make no mistake, extracting probate filings can be timely, but well worth it. If you find that you don't have the time to do this tedious task, you can likely find someone locally to do it for you at a less cost than outsourcing it. I've put ads on Craigslist for independent court researchers and have gotten literally hundreds of responses. Of course, the person must be reliable. This is one of the drawbacks to using a probate leads company. They have little control over the day-to-day activities of a remote court researcher. They profess to have many court abstractors scattered around the country. That may be true, but the leads company wields little control over them. Oftentimes, these lead providers cannot find someone to extract data in a particular market, so they call up another provider. Which means they are re-selling someone else's data, with no guarantee of its accuracy. Worse still, the researcher can get frustrated and quit the job, leaving the client hanging out to dry. Better to exert more control by personally meeting with the researcher, have their cell phone number, and know what they are doing in real time. 

There are some companies in this space that sell a lollipop ring and pass it off as a diamond. That is, the probate lead is actually an obituary list. Perhaps you will be mailing to a nursing home. The key to knowing whether the lead is an authentic probate lead or whether or not a case number is included. Every probate file has a case number. If you do not get a case number, it is not probate! Also, you should make sure that the executor information is included, as well. This is the decision maker that has been assigned by the court to liquidate the property. 

Once you ferret out the probate filings in your locale, tenacity is the key as in all other forms of marketing. Those executors have varying times to sell. Some want to sell yesterday. Some want to sell a few months down the road after cleaning house. Some want to sell later on to get closer to the kids. In other cases, the probate process plays out, the property is reverted to the heirs, and the heirs have an itch to sell. Whatever their time frame, we can say that when they are ready to sell the property, they want to sell quick. 

Consider creating a website that is dedicated to probate. See some sample sites that are tailored to probate here. Having a probate site establishes yourself as a probate expert, builds empathy and rapport with the executor, and educates the family on the process. Many grieving families that would not otherwise warm immediately to a stranger would go to a website to access your resources and learn more about why they should work with you. 

In future posts, I'll bounce some ideas around as to what content to include on such a site. 

Till next time, A-B-C. Always be closing!

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