Most out-of-town or absentee property owners become that way because they either inherited a property or, for whatever reason, were forced to relocate and failed to sell their property before they left town. Or, the property is owned by a business entity such as a corporation or limited liability company located outside the county. How do you know if a property belongs to an out-of-town or absentee owner? Simply check the property owner's post office mailing address listed for the parcel on your county's property tax roll. If the owner's mailing address is out of your county, then the property belongs to an out-of-town owner. And the farther out-of-town owners live, the better your chances are of being able to buy a low-cost real estate option on their property. I suggest that you contact the customer service department at your county property appraiser or assessor's office to see if they maintain a database of property owners residing outside the county. If not, ask if they know of a private company that maintains a database of the county's real property ownership records. However, do not resort to using the so-called shotgun mailing method to contact out-of-town property owners. The shotgun mailing method refers to contacting every property owner on a mailing list, regardless of the property's location or physical condition. Instead of sending a letter to every out-of-town property owner in your county, I recommend that you use zip codes to determine which owners to mail letters to. This way, you can target the owners of properties that are located in the areas you feel comfortable investing in. The following two companies maintain real property ownership record databases:
1. First American Real Estate Solutions: www.firstamres.com/html/home.asp
2. DataQuick: www.dataquick.com
In my county, I can order customized property data on CD-ROM from the Hillsborough County Property Appraiser's office. The property data is broken down by Florida Department of Revenue (DOR) land use or zoning codes and costs $60 per code designation. For example, I recently bought a CD-ROM containing property data for all of the parcels in Hillsborough County that are designated DOR land use code 08, which denotes multifamily properties with fewer than 10 units. I requested the following data on parcels belonging to owners residing outside the county:
1. Parcel's street address.
2. Owner's mailing address.
3. Parcel's assessed value.
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