As an investigative agency with expertise in asset searches, we’ve seen it all. At our help desk, some of the most common questions we receive about asset searches are how many kinds of asset searches are there? Are there different types for different scenarios? Keep reading to learn more about the types of asset searches, costs, and use cases.

An asset search is the research, analysis, and documentation of various types of records to determine the assets owned by an individual, group of individuals, or organization. 

Are there different types of asset searches?

Certainly, there are. In fact, there are some services that can be called an asset search that can cost you $30-$40. On the other hand, there are some asset search services that can cost you thousands of dollars. How do you know which type of asset search services to use? Well, it fully depends on your use case.

For example, if a law firm is doing large due diligence on a corporation with very complicated financial records and needs forensic accounting and analysis and historical data and documents, that could be thousands of dollars of investigative work. On the other hand, if you need just a quick electronic snapshot of potential assets that don’t have to be a hundred percent accurate, you could do some online research and get something that is called an asset search for $50-$60. It just depends upon how important it is to have the search be documented, to be performed by a licensed investigator, and to be admissible in court, those are going to be the most important things. 

How many different types of asset classes are there?

There are 12 different types of asset classes:

Bank accounts Real estate Vehicles
Corporate ownership Brokerage accounts Vessels/boats
Aircrafts Intellectual Property Judgments
Accounts receivable Uniform commercial code Liens

Sometimes people don’t want all of the assets searched, only certain categories searched. This is fine as long as you know you’re not getting a thorough complete asset search, you may only be getting one part of the asset class. And the reason why that’s important is the source of asset records does not all come from one place. The source for bank account records doesn’t come from the same place as real estate. The source for vehicles doesn’t come from the same place as corporate assets. So when you’re doing an asset search, you have to search each location for those records. For example, real estate records come from the county recorder in the county where the real estate is located. If you go to the county recorder, you can find real estate holdings for the person trying to hide assets, maybe they’re doing a quit claim deed to somebody else’s name. Maybe they’re putting titles for real estate in a third party or in a trust. You can find all that out at the county recorder, but they’re not going to have any information on bank accounts or vehicles, or corporate assets. You have to do that research in another location. Looking for corporate assets, now you have to get records from the Secretary Of State (SOS) in the state where the business is located. For bank accounts, you can have to search for SWIFT code records or check verification records. Those will have the bank account records but they won’t have real estate. So each section of asset types has records in a different location.

One of the other questions is, should you get records from a third party, meaning that there are some aggregators or “one-stop shops” that are out there like Lexus Nexus or other databases that collect records from various sources? You just put in a name you push a button it pops up on the screen. Well, that is a possibility but they’re not a hundred percent accurate. They may not have all of the records. They may not have all of the bank accounts or all of the real estate. They may only have certain locations. Some states don’t report to these electronic databases. Some states only report maybe once a year so anything newer might not be in there. So if you’re okay with having partial records you can save a lot of money. 

The other thing to keep in mind is for an asset search, every source available for records you have access to as a private civilian. A private investigator certainly has the expertise and experience to do this research, and sometimes for convenience, it’s better to pay somebody else, but there’s nothing a private investigator can do with more power and authority that you can’t do yourself as a civilian consumer. If you read about the instructions for doing an asset search, educate yourself on where the records are, and learn what the process is for extracting those records, you can do an asset search yourself and save a lot of money. A typical investigator might spend 10-15 hours of labor doing a proper documented asset search from direct sources, not from indirect but direct sources. If you’re willing to put in the time, you could do that yourself and you don’t have to pay anybody anything. However, you might have to pay some fees to get the documents. For example, the county recorder might charge you $5 for copies of deeds. The vehicle records might be $25 from DMV but by paying a couple of very small fees for documents, you might be able to put together that search yourself and analyze it and do your own research.

So, how many types of asset searches exist?

Well, there’s really an unlimited amount of different types, and here’s why. There are 12 different classes of assets, so any combination is a different type of asset search. Also, you can decide whether you want 100% documented paper results from the source or if you’re okay with third-party partial electronic records. And that throws a whole nother monkey wrench into the works where you might be okay with partial searching. So carefully construct your assets search to meet your needs. 

If you have a small judgment against a person and you don’t need to spend a ton of money on an asset search, there may be ways to get some partial, preliminary searching that at least can give you a rough idea of what you’re dealing with without having to spend a lot of money. So getting a good consultation with an investigator or a good lay of the land of your particular scenario of why you need the asset search that’s the most important thing. If you need it for court and have to be admissible, find out what the court is telling you that you need for an asset search, you might need a class one asset search. You might need an abstracted document search. The court will tell you what you need if it’s for court, if it’s for your own use now you can decide you don’t have to rely on the requirements of a court. You can just do it however you want to do it. Determining what type of asset search you need for your particular scenario is the first step in figuring out how much it’s going to cost and how long it’s going to take.

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