Real agent Belinda Anderson, of Bloomfield, New Jersey, has built out a simple and effective way of getting great probate leads.
What’s a probate? Well, a probate is when somebody dies without bequeathing their property to somebody or some group. In these instances, the state is obligated to take over the sale. They are obligated to ensure that the property is sold at the best price - so a state attorney or representative must hire a real estate agent.
Probates are all a part of the public record - so, as you can imagine, a probate lead is attainable by any real estate agent, so long as they can put in the time and effort. We checked in with Belinda to get a little more detail on how she goes about it. Here are her steps:
Step 1: Belinda goes to the physical courthouse in Newark (465 Dr Martin Luther King Jr Blvd, Newark, NJ ). If a person has passed away in Essex county, NJ their records will be kept there. In most counties, you can go to the clerk of the court. If the court clerk's office does not maintain a separate probate division, request to speak with a staff member who deals with probate cases.
In Belinda’s case, she goes to the vault, which is just a room with a lot of books. She signs in and brings her laptop for easy recording. She makes an excel spreadsheet to record name, address, executors, attorney information, etc.
Step 2: She searches probates from DOD (date of death) and pulls the most recent probates. She then works her way back. She mostly only records the names of people from specific towns that she is marketing to.
Step 3: She goes home and pulls up Garden State MLS. She searches the owner’s last name and the town they resided in to see if they actually owned the home listed in the probate record or another home in that town. Sometimes the elderly do own a home and move to live with a relative in the same town at the time of their death.
Step 4: If they own the home she sends mail to the address of the executor. Sometimes it’s a spouse or child in the same home. It's best to mail to them over a course of 6 months because they may not be ready to deal with the death or the home yet. See here for a letter template (or download a Microsoft Word file here if you don't have a Google e-mail account).
Belinda likes that these are free leads and mentioned that this is an easy process to train someone else to do for you. In the past, she has sent a relative in the past to do the research for her.
There are a number of private services in operation that provide similar information about probate leads. However, the reliability of these services is not uniform. You likely are best served doing the direct research yourself.
One tip would be to cultivate great relationships with other parties involved in this process, such as probate attorneys and other professionals involved. As you develop connections with these professionals, they may begin to contact you directly when they prepare to file an estate case with real estate.