What Is Skip Tracing in Real Estate?

Written by Steven PorrelloJuly 22nd, 20227 minute read

How it works | Costs | Best skip tracing methods | Skip tracing services for investors | Summary | FAQs

In real estate, skip tracing is the process of tracking down absentee or hard-to-reach homeowners whose property you’re interested in buying.

Skip tracing can be an effective way to land off-market deals. If you’re struggling to find property homeowners, other investors are probably struggling, too. Locate the homeowners, and you could be the first one to pitch an offer.

But, as you can imagine, skip tracing can be tedious and time-consuming, especially when you have thousands of properties to investigate. Fortunately, there are numerous skip tracing services that can automate the process, helping you find literally thousands of owners within minutes.

Learn how skip tracing in real estate works, how you can do it for free, and how you can use advanced skip tracing software to uncover more property deals in less time.

How does skip tracing work?

Skip tracing in real estate works like this:

  1. You find unlisted or distressed properties (usually during a driving for dollars campaign).
  2. Later, you or a third party do a reverse search of the address to find the property owner’s name.
  3. If you can get a name, you can then continue hunting for their contact information, such as a mailing address, phone number, and email.

What is batch skip tracing?

Batch skip tracing refers to the process of getting information on multiple property owners at once. You upload a spreadsheet or document of addresses, and the skip tracing service will process them together. Within minutes, you can get critical information on hundreds of different property owners.

How much does skip tracing cost?

A skip tracing specialist will cost anywhere from $10 to $100 per hour. A skip tracing service, on the other hand, will charge between $0.12 to $0.99 per skip trace, along with a monthly subscription fee.

Free skip tracing services

The most popular websites offering free skip tracing services are True People Search, Fast People Search, PeekYou, and Spokeo. These sites aren’t always accurate, and they may require you to pay fees for more information.

If you’re trying to track down one or two homeowners, a free service might work. But for investors dealing with high volumes of properties, they’re often ineffective (or downright frustrating).

Is skip tracing actually legal?

Yes, skip tracing is legal in real estate as long as you or a third party aren’t breaking the law to retrieve information.

🚨 Note: The term "skip tracing" is also used to describe tracking down people with outstanding debts, warrants, or bail-bonds. In some states, hunting down someone’s whereabouts is illegal, especially if it involves violence or breaking and entering.

What are the best ways to skip trace?

In general, you can conduct skip traces in three main ways: yourself, with a professional, or with an automated online service.

DIY skip tracing

The best place to find information on property owners by yourself is on country assessor or appraiser websites. Typically, you can search a property’s address and pull up information on the owners. You can also find info using online white page directories, social media, or through search engines.

✅ Benefits:

  • Cost efficient: It’s completely free to conduct a DIY skip trace.

❌ Drawbacks:

  • Inaccurate: You might come across missing addresses, disconnected numbers, and broken emails.
  • Time-consuming: You can spend hours hunting for someone's information, only to come up empty-handed. This approach isn’t realistic if you have hundreds or thousands of properties to investigate.

Hire a professional

You can hire third-party professionals through popular skip tracing websites, like Tracers, or you can find specialists on Fiverr and Upwork. Alternatively, you can ask your real estate agent if they know someone in their network.

✅ Benefits:

  • Accuracy: Many specialists boast a 98–99% accuracy rate.
  • Saves you time: You just upload your property addresses, and the specialist does the heavy lifting for you.

❌ Drawbacks:

  • Expensive: You’ll likely pay a per-hour rate, which can get expensive.
  • Not always quick: You may have to wait 24–72 hours before you get your information. Not ideal if you’re trying to close deals fast.
  • Might pay for unnecessary information: Specialists conduct skip traces for a number of professionals, including debt collectors, lawyers, and investors. Because of that, you might get information that doesn’t serve your purposes.

Use skip tracing services

Just submit a property address online, and the automated skip tracing software will find the owner information almost instantly. Some services have “batch” skip tracing, too, which allows you to upload multiple addresses and get hundreds of contacts all at once.

✅ Benefits:

  • Extremely fast: Many skip tracing services give you results within minutes. For instance, DealMachine can give you 500 contacts within 5 minutes.
  • Cost efficient: Skip tracing services are usually cheaper than hiring a specialist.
  • Built for real estate investors: Most skip tracing services are add-ons or tools within a larger real estate app or software. As such, you’ll often have access to information that can help you negotiate, such as the property’s estimated value, the last sale date, and estimated taxes.

❌ Drawbacks:

  • Not always accurate: You might get outdated information.
  • Can be expensive: Many skip tracing services are packaged with other real estate tools and software, which can cost around $49 to $99 per month.

Best skip tracing services for real estate investors

Service
Subscription cost
Cost per trace
Batch lookup?
$99/mo
$0.14

$99/mo
$0.12

$58/mo
$0.17*

$39/mo
$0.14

N/A
$0.20

* After first 100 traces.

DealMachine: Best for driving for dollars

What is it: real estate software with a heavy focus on driving for dollars (D4D), including batch skip tracing

Cost: $99 per month + $0.14 per skip trace

✅ What we like:

  • Instant skip tracing. Skip trace happens in real time, so you don’t have to wait for hours or days for results.
  • Supremely accurate. Owner data is 96.5% accurate.
  • Batch skip tracing. DealMachine can process 500 records per minute.
  • Effective direct mail. After skip tracing, you can send postcards with your own photograph of the property attached.
  • Carrier identification. DealMachine tells you which phone numbers are mobile and which are landlines, helping you send SMS to the right devices.

❌ What we don’t like:

  • Pricey. You’ll need to pay at least $49 per month for a basic plan to access DealMachine’s skip tracing services.

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PropStream

What is it: real estate software with a heavy focus on pulling lists, includes skip tracing tools

Cost: $99 per month + $0.12 per skip trace

✅ What we like:

  • No info, no charge. PropStream doesn’t charge you if a skip trace fails to bring up information.
  • Free "Do Not Call" flagging. You'll know if a phone number is on a DNC list.

❌ What we don’t like:

  • Inconsistent accuracy. Many users have reported incorrect and outdated information.
  • Steep learning curve. If you’re looking for simple skip tracing services, PropStream isn’t it. The software is by no means intuitive, and it may take some time to get used to it.
  • High cost. At $99 a month, PropStream is one of the more expensive skip tracing softwares.
  • No LLC skip tracing. Doesn’t offer skip tracing for companies.

Skip Genie: Simplest to use

What is it: skip tracing software designed with real estate investors in mind

Cost: $58 per month gets you 100 searches. After that, you pay $0.17 per skip trace.

✅ What we like:

  • Accuracy. Skip Genie’s new 5.0 version makes it one of the most accurate skip tracing services out there.
  • Simple interface. Just input a name or an address and you’ll get data.

❌ What we don’t like:

  • Too basic for the price. Skip Genie is a skip tracing service — that’s it. For the same price, other services also offer driving for dollars features.
  • No direct marketing. You can’t send postcards or messages through Skip Genie.
  • No instant batch skip tracing. You’ll get batched results within 48 hours.

Batch Leads: Best for bulk campaigns

What is it: lead generation platform with skip tracing services

Cost: $39 per month + $0.14 per skip trace

✅ What we like:

  • Bulk mail campaign. You can send direct mail to all your leads instantly.
  • Get the "golden address." Batch Leads helps you find a property owner’s preferred mailing address.

❌ What we don’t like:

  • Expensive add-ons. The basic plan doesn’t cover text messages ($69/mo) or lead lists ($59/mo for 10,000 leads).
  • Poor customer service
  • Bland features. Even for higher level plans, you won’t get key D4D features (like route tracking) or comprehensive data on properties.

Batch Skip Tracing: Best for simple lookups

What is it: basic skip tracing service that lets you pay by the result

Cost: $25 minimum + $0.20 per skip trace

✅ What we like:

  • Pay-per-skip result. Instead of a monthly subscription, you pay $0.20 per skip result. If the trace doesn’t bring back data, you won’t pay — perfect if you want to conduct only a handful of skip traces.

❌ What we don’t like:

  • Potentially expensive. If you're trying to find information for thousands of properties, $0.20 per skip trace can add up quickly.
  • No additional features. You won’t get additional marketing, D4D features, or lead generation.

Summary: Skip tracing for real estate investors

  • Skip tracing is the process of tracking down a homeowner whose property you’re interested in buying.
  • You can skip trace yourself, hire a specialist, or use an automated service.
  • DealMachine is the best skip tracing service for investors who drive for dollars.
  • Batch Skip Tracing is great for investors who only want a skip tracing service with no additional features.

FAQs about skip tracing in real estate

</p><p>DealMachine and PropStream have the most advanced <a href="#best-skip-tracing-services" onclick="globalTOCClick('#best-skip-tracing-services');" data-link-type="jump-link">skip tracing softwares</a>.</p><p>

</p><p>PropStream charges $99 for a monthly subscription, after which skip tracing will cost $0.12 per transaction. <a href="#best-skip-tracing-services" onclick="globalTOCClick('#best-skip-tracing-services');" data-link-type="jump-link">Compare top skip tracing services.</a></p><p>