How to Be a Courthouse Researcher
Today's "I Want to Be" Series features Traci , a work-at-home guru and owner of All Stay at Home, a go-to guide for anyone looking for legitimate work-at-home opportunities and advice. One of Traci's part-time work-at-home jobs includes being a courthouse researcher, which she tells us more about in her interview. Read more about Traci's other jobs at the end of this article.
How long have you been a researcher?
I started doing courthouse research independently a little over a year ago, but growing up my father was an Independent Land Man in the oil and gas industry. He would take me with him to courthouses to check records, so I was familiar and somewhat comfortable in this setting. (Please take note: Parents, taking your kids with you these days is probably not a great idea. Times have changed. I think smoking was still acceptable in the courthouse back then.) I am from a small city by the name of Midland, Texas, which some may recognize as being President George Bush's hometown, but it is also known for a massive oil boom in the early 80s. So, I was raised around a lot of courthouse lingo that I did not truly even begin to comprehend until I began actually doing courthouse research myself.
What led you to pursue this field?
Early on in my work at home "mission" I found a variety of companies hiring people to do entry level courthouse research. This appealed to me since I had grown up around courthouses. I wanted to try something independently that I might be good at. After applying to several companies, I heard back from a gentleman from First National Acceptance, which is a bank in Michigan. He got me started doing some simple research work. I traveled to various surrounding counties doing these assignments and found I really enjoyed this type of work. While at one courthouse, I found a posting for "Courthouse Researchers and Abstractors Needed." In addition to the company I was working with, I got on with a second company. The work was a lot tougher, but the pay was decent and the knowledge I gained was totally worth it. With this second company I was doing abstract work, including chain of title research, property reports, and much more.
Are you full time or part time? If part-time, do you anticipate switching to full time?
I currently only work part-time as a courthouse researcher. I update counties every few months and turn in reports. When I started doing the research, the work load became overwhelming and a lot of the research for the second company consisted of daily long-distance travel, which put a lot of strain on my home life because my daughter was only a couple of months old, so I decided to stick with the initial company I had started with. I made a decision to stay at home as much as possible until she got older. I am still weighing my options as far as what I would like to do for a long-term career and courthouse research is definitely on my list of possibilities. Ultimately the goal with this type of field is to become an abstractor. The pay is phenomenal
and you are not required to have a college degree. This is a completely hands-on, learned career field.
What is your favorite part of doing this job?
I am a researcher by nature, even when not being paid to do so. I think it is important to enjoy what you do for a living, and gathering information is something I truly enjoy. Another thing I really like is going back in time. The records you find can be somewhat entertaining and fun to read. It is interesting to see how things change over generations and how land is divided over time.
What is one question do you get most from people about starting out?
I have been asked how to get started in general. My best advice is, if this is something you are truly interested in, the trick is getting your foot in the door. Before closing this interview, I will provide a link to several companies hiring for these positions. As mentioned, this field is something you must learn by doing. You cannot learn it from reading a book. You will want to start out by looking for companies hiring people to
"gather data." In addition to the list of companies I provide, if you can get in with a company doing simple research work, the best way to find additional leads for work in this industry is to check the bulletin boards
at courthouses and to mingle a little bit. You can also leave cards at the courthouses.
What is one myth or misconception do you want to dispel about the industry or career?
I don't know that there are any myths, but I think the idea of courthouse research can seem intimidating to some people, and the environment might feel scary at first. It is important to be confident, and if you are having trouble finding certain records, do not be afraid to ask someone who works in the county clerk's office. One thing to keep in mind is that they are being paid with your tax dollars to work for the public, which
includes you. The pay for courthouse research is not outrageous. For basic assignments and collecting various records, you can expect the rates to range between $.20 to $1.00 per record depending on the company. Sometimes accepting lower pay, even if it seems too low, when you start out can lead to better opportunities.
What advice do you have for others who want to get into a similar opportunity?
Check with the companies I am going to refer to and complete any applications thoroughly. Learn as much as you can about the terminology and basic record checking. After you are familiar with some of the basics,
you can then move on to the bigger and better assignments. If you get on with one or more of the companies hiring for entry level courthouse researchers, check the bulletin boards at the courthouses you do your
research at. Other businesses to inquire with are lenders/loan companies and banks. You can also check with local attorneys to find out if they need any legal research done. Entry level research you can expect is gather records for tax liens, probate records, and deeds of trust. You may also find companies needing criminal background records or information about civil cases.
What is the first step?
Getting your foot in the door is your first step. Once you get on with a company, my best advice is to learn as much as you can about courthouse records and documents. Learn how the system works. Each courthouse has their own records management system, and some of the names for records may vary, but learn about all you can.
What websites or books do you recommend for tips?
I really recommend visiting with an actual abstractor or title researcher about what this job entails. You can find local abstract and title companies locally through the yellow pages. To view a list of 30 companies hiring courthouse researchers you can visit: http://allstayathome.com/courthouse-research
What is your website? Blog? Twitter? Facebook?
I am the owner of http://allstayathome.com, http://allstayathome.biz, and http://allstayathome.com/blog/
The All Stay At Home Facebook Page: https://www.facebook.com/homejobsdirectory
Twitter Follow: https://twitter.com/#!/AllStayAtHome
What else do you work on when you aren't doing the research?
Aside from courthouse research, I am also an MSPA Gold Certified Mystery Shopper, Merchandiser, Content Writer, Internet Assessor for Lionbridge, and my passion is my family of websites. I am truly enjoy helping others find ways to work at home. In December of 2010, I decided to build allstayathome.com and it got a lot bigger than I ever expected. I like having several sources of income. I get bored easily, and it is nice
to have options.
I also want to let readers know that the options for finding work at home or from home are plentiful. Even more important, find something you will enjoy! Sometimes finding a career you can do independently requires some thinking outside of the box, but don’t let fears keep you from going after what you truly want to accomplish.
(Have an idea for our next "I Want to Be" article? Contact us with the work-at-home career that you want to know more about. Have a great career and want to share? Tell us about it!)
*Photo by a la vaca vegetariana via Flickr.