Are you working the probate angle in your real estate deals?

Bernadette Trafton, Chief Connector  Good afternoon,

Are you working the probate angle?  Working probate means spending some time at the courthouse going through probate records.  Not all courthouses are automated or have an internal network where people can go online and check recent deaths.  So, the process can be a little tedious, but, can definitely be worthwhile.  First….what is probate?

Probate is the court process used following the death of an individual to deal with the decedent’s estate. Often real estate must be sold as part of a probate or estate case. You can purchase real estate in probate either through an auction or a direct sale. Although there are differences between the two processes for purchasing probate real estate, many of the same requirements exist, no matter which procedure you use.

Ideally, you want to connect with the Executors and the Attorney involved in the case before probate is settled.  If you can connect with these folks before probate is settled and let them know that you are a cash buyer, you may get a phone call finding out what you want to offer.  The sweet spot is when the new owners are out of state and have no idea what to do with the property.  Often times they don’t want to be a landlord and they want to get out from under the property as soon as possible.  You will want to send a letter to all of the Executors as well as the Attorney.  Their information is filed within the documents that are at the courthouse.  The first thing you look for is whether or not a Fiduciary Bond has been filed.  If there is no Fiduciary Bond, there is no property involved in the estate.  So, look for this first or you will be sending letters to estates with no property which is a waste of your time and may upset those receiving the letters.  Be prepared to send the letters 6 times.  If they see consistent letters from the same investor, chances are they will call you first vs the person who only sends one letter.  And, don’t expect a greater than 2 percent return on the letters you send.  Like many other direct mail marketing campaigns the return isn’t spectacular.  2 percent is actually high.

Make sure you make an effort to build a relationship with the Attorney involved in the case.  If you build a referral relationship with them, they will notify you when they are working a case and their clients want to sell a property in your investing area.  Make sure to let them know that you are a cash buyer and have the ability to close quickly.

When you go to the courthouse, be prepared to make friends with the clerks that work at the court.  Bring them a snack…I would say donuts, but, be proactively healthy and bring some fresh fruit or something healthy and tasty for them to nibble on.  Bring a ream of paper with you.  If you give them paper, they will be more willing to let you copy items or print items depending on their system.  Realize that the folks at the courthouse are underpaid and often times stressed.  Be their ray of sunshine in an otherwise stressful day and they will be much more willing to help you and show you how their system works.

Hopefully this helps you in your pursuit to find properties.  If you have a specific area you want me to cover, let me know.  If I don’t know, I will find an article that will help you!

Happy Investing!


Bernadette Trafton, Chief Connector


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