Have you ever considered making extra cash by putting your sleuthing skills to work? If you’re a whiz at digging up background records, court documents, city documents, etc., then being a courthouse researcher may be a great way for you to earn extra money.
What is a courthouse researcher?
Courthouse researchers look up and report on all kinds of legal and civil records, including tax liens, deeds, lawsuits, etc., for the businesses that hire them to gather this information. Typically, these businesses are law firms, home lenders, marketing firms or background information companies.
Thanks to many public records being stored electronically, much courthouse researching can be conducted from home while sitting at a computer. However, in some cases, courthouse researchers need to physically visit the County Clerk’s office or City Hall, or the city or county courthouse, in order to gather more detailed records.
After that information is found, the researcher enters it into a database provided by the hiring company. Assuming the information is correct, she then gets paid. Most companies that hire courthouse researchers pay per researched item. Depending on the complexity of the assignment, pay rates can range from $0.25-$20/input document or record.
In essence, courthouse researching is actually one of the few legitimate data entry jobs out there.
Aren’t some records confidential?
You might assume that information on a person’s mortgage or how much tax money he owes is confidential. It isn’t. Because a person’s property is subject to city/county assessment and taxes, a lot of its fiscal information exists in the public domain. Likewise, if someone is charged with a misdemeanor or felony, that information is viewed as belonging to the public because it is the public that has paid for the court service (through taxes).
Granted, there is some restricted information out there; for example, the DoD does not release a person’s military or veteran status to anyone but the next of kin or spouse. However, that still leaves lots and lots of public information that you can be paid to research, find and report on.
It might feel intimidating or intrusive to go to courthouses and other city/county buildings and demand information on people and entities you don’t know. However, keep in mind that these buildings and their personnel exist because you, the taxpayer, are paying for them. In essence, you are their boss, and as their boss, should feel comfortable requesting help. Besides, city/county employees understand that much public data is checked and recorded by reporters, marketing and research firms, etc. Your presence as a courthouse researcher will therefore not be a surprise.
Here is a list of 10 companies that hire courthouse researchers as independent contractors:
This Ohio-based company works primarily with businesses to screen potential employees. The company reports that it contracts with over 1,500 “hands-on” court researchers. You can fill out a simple online application to be considered for a post in a given geographic area.
Here you’ll encounter an annoying “live” agent who will follow you from screen to screen, but luckily you can click her off or muffle her. This site is mostly interested in collecting information that is filed with mortgage or deed of trust documents after a home is purchased or an equity line of credit established. You can make up to $20/hour with Deed Collector, and as you get better and more efficient with your data collection, you may even earn more.
Deed Collector is currently looking for independent court researchers in very specific geographic areas, so check that first before you start applying for a position with this company.
This site pays about $12/hour for locating owner-financed real estate documents. Research work is doled out on a per-county basis and researchers are expected to regularly visit area courthouses to keep the information current. The work is not too detailed or exhausting, but it may also be just a few hours per week or month.
This site is seeking courthouse researchers who can look up tax records and liens and update addresses. The company services tax and bankruptcy attorneys, mortgage companies, CPAs, etc. who purchase its potential customer lists. As a court researcher with Information Technologies, you will probably do a lot of your research online by accessing city/county assessors’ sites. The occasional road trip may be required if you run into conflicting or missing records.
This company offers contract opportunities for courthouse researchers, and depending on circumstances, maybe a lot more. If you have different skill sets and enjoy conducting all kinds of online and offline research, definitely take a look at this company.
This site specializes in providing criminal background data (~90%), along with tax, bankruptcy and legal information to business customers. You can apply right on the site to become a court researcher; the short application form will ask you to provide your basic contact information and set a price and turnaround time for your work.
This Florida company engages in mostly criminal background research and uses “hands-on” courthouse researchers for its work. The work here can be fairly high volume and steady. The online application offered through Sentinel’s site is fairly brief and easy to fill out.
Lark Tucker has operated this one woman research company for 10 years now and regularly contracts with court and other researchers to gather data for client businesses. You can apply to be a researcher right on the Sunlark site. The amount of work you receive depends on your geography; if you live in a busy metropolitan area, you might receive enough work to keep you working full-time, but if you’re out in the boonies, you might receive an assignment once every month. The pay depends on assignment complexity and ranges from $0.50-$10.
This site is currently looking for part-time contractors who can work 10-30 hours/week for a period of 3-4 weeks. The actual work involves going out to individual city/county buildings and collecting tax liens and deeds. As a researcher, you are assigned a specific territory and will need to visit different cities/counties (either online or in person) to collect all the requested records. However, if you do complete your entire assigned territory, you get a bonus.
You might not know what to make of the odd Christian icons that appear when you go to sign up with Wolfgang Research, but the company does work with and pay contractors who make weekly or monthly courthouse visits and then enter their retrieved data into the company’s server. Pay varies from $0.25-$5/document. From the company’s reviews on Indeed, it seems that some of its researchers are satisfied with the company, while others complain about the low pay and confusing emailed instructions.