How to Start Skip Tracing in Real Estate: A Beginner’s Tutorial

Skip tracing, often used by investigators and law enforcement, has played a significant role in the real estate industry. Why? Because locating elusive or non-responsive property owners can open doors to valuable investment opportunities. But how do you get started with skip tracing, especially if you’re new to the real estate game? 

This beginner’s tutorial breaks down the key steps, tools, and tips to help you become proficient in skip tracing for real estate. Read on to uncover a secret weapon many successful real estate investors swear by.

Why Skip Tracing in Real Estate?

Before delving into the how-tos, let’s first establish why skip tracing is vital for real estate professionals. Skip tracing helps you locate property owners who may be highly motivated to sell but are difficult to reach through traditional means. These could be owners of distressed properties, vacant lands, or properties in pre-foreclosure. Finding these individuals could give you a competitive edge, presenting opportunities others may overlook.

Basic Terminology

Understanding the language used in skip tracing can help you navigate the process more smoothly. Here are some terms you should know:

  • Target: The individual you’re trying to locate.
  • Data Aggregator: A company that collects and provides data.
  • Query: A specific search term or parameter.
  • Batch Skip Tracing: The process of skip tracing multiple individuals at once.

Knowing these terms can make your journey into the world of skip tracing easier to navigate.

Tools You Will Need

A carpenter is only as good as their tools, and the same holds for skip tracing in real estate. To start, you’ll likely need:

  • A Computer: For online searches and data storage.
  • Skip Tracing Software or Service: To access specialized databases.
  • Public Records Access: For free information from government websites.
  • Spreadsheet Software: To organize and analyze data.

Investing in the right tools can streamline the process and increase your chances of success.

Step-by-Step Guide to Start Skip Tracing

Navigating the world of skip tracing requires a strategic and well-structured approach. Here’s an expanded, detailed step-by-step guide to get you started on the right foot.

Step 1: Define Your Objectives

Before even opening your computer, you need to have a clear objective. Who exactly are you looking for? Are you focused on owners of distressed properties, landlords who live out of state, or vacant properties? Understanding your target audience will significantly narrow your search and help you effectively tailor your skip tracing tactics. List what characterizes your ideal targets to guide your efforts better.

Step 2: Gather Preliminary Data

The first step in the process is compiling known data on your targets. This information serves as your starting point and can include names, last known addresses, property tax details, or even social media profiles. You can gather this information from public records, your databases if you have them, or from online searches. The more data you have initially, the more hooks you have to reel in the elusive information you seek.

Step 3: Choose Your Tools

Decide which skip tracing tools you’ll use. Will you employ a paid service or go through public records? Your choice will depend on your specific needs and budget.

Step 4: Conduct Searches

With your tools in hand and your preliminary data at the ready, it’s time to conduct your searches. Utilize various query options to dig deep into databases or online platforms. If using more than one tool, cross-reference the data for accuracy. Use filters, tags, and keyword searches to find the most relevant information.

Step 5: Validate and Verify

Always double-check the information you gather. Verify the details by comparing data from multiple reliable sources. The last thing you want is to reach out to the wrong person or make decisions based on incorrect data. Validation is a critical step that can save you time and effort in the long run.

Step 6: Understand the Legal Aspects

Before making any form of contact, it’s crucial to understand the legal boundaries that govern skip tracing. Laws regarding what kind of information can be used for commercial purposes vary. If in doubt, consult with legal advisors to ensure you are not infringing on privacy laws.

Step 7: Establish Contact

You’re now ready to initiate contact after obtaining and verifying all the necessary details. Whether you choose to do this via phone, email, or in person, ensure that your approach is professional and respectful. Your initial interaction sets the tone for future dealings, so make it count.

Step 8: Record Your Process

This step often gets overlooked, but it’s crucial. Record your action, from the initial search to the final outreach. This will help you refine your methods over time and serve as a legal record proving you adhered to all regulations and guidelines.

Tips for Effective Skip Tracing

As you embark on your skip-tracing journey, here are some pro tips:

  • Be Persistent: Skip tracing requires patience. Don’t get discouraged if results don’t come immediately.
  • Think Like Your Target: Understand their potential motivations and needs to tailor your approach.
  • Always Be Ethical: Stick to the laws and ethical guidelines that govern skip-tracing activities.


Skip tracing is more than just a fancy technique; it’s a strategic approach that can significantly boost your success in the real estate market. The process may seem daunting as a beginner, but with the right tools and a systematic approach, you’ll be skip-tracing like a pro in no time. This tutorial offers a basic framework to get you started. The next step is to get out there, roll up your sleeves, and begin tracing your way to potentially lucrative real estate deals.


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