This is a mini-series on becoming a courthouse researcher. If you haven’t heard of that job before, or if you missed the first part of this series, make sure to start reading here. Otherwise, read on!
The first day as a courthouse researcher, I made a whopping $4 an hour. The second day, that hourly wage crept up to $7 an hour. That made me feel pretty good, because that meant I was making over minimum wage. I went back later that week, and my hourly wage went up again, this time to roughly $9 an hour. That made me feel really good–in rural Idaho, $9 an hour is a darn good wage. Especially for someone who has no college degree and no outstanding skills like being bilingual or being able to type 120+ words per minute. I am an above-average typer (I’m usually around 60 wpm) but certainly nothing special. Yet on only my third trip doing this job, I was making $9 an hour.
Things only got better from there. I started playing games with myself–how fast can I pull one record? What if I did searched a different way, instead of the way that the nice office lady showed me to do? I have a secret to share: The ladies in the office where you are conducting these searches are not trying to find the info in the same way that you are. Every research company conducts searches based on dates, as far as I know anyway, but the ladies in the office are almost always trying to find the info using the name of the person buying, the person selling, or the bank financing the deal.
As I started to go to more and more courthouses (I eventually covered six different counties) and talked to different office workers at each county, I realized not a single one of them knew the most efficient way for me to look up the information on their computer system. I showed several of them (very nicely of course, and only after they asked for me to) how to conduct a search using dates. Almost all of them had told me beforehand that it wasn’t possible. Moral of the story? These ladies don’t conduct the type of research that you are going to be conducting, so if they don’t know how to do it, don’t be surprised. Also, definitely don’t take their word on whether it can be done or not. I don’t care what the person says or how adamantly they believe what they say, always try for yourself and just double-check them. I was successful every time.
I’m not saying I guarantee you are going to be successful every time, but I am saying to at least give it the ole’ college try before you give up. It’s worth it. I felt great about $9 an hour, but I felt even better the next trip when I made $10 an hour. Every single trip to the courthouse there for a while was a breakthrough in the amount of money per hour that I was making. My husband used to give me a hard time if I didn’t make at least a dollar more per hour that trip than I did the trip before. How was this possible? I didn’t take the original office worker’s word on the best way to conduct the search (she showed me the LONG way around, akin to flying from Los Angeles to New York and deciding to take a “shortcut” to Antarctica on the way) and I kept trying to find a faster way to do it. I found several real shortcuts and my hourly wage jumped from $10 to $15 an hour almost overnight.
I also had a lot of time to practice. As I started to do well, making good money per hour, I started taking on more courthouses (I started out doing just one courthouse in my home town.) I was lucky because out of the six courthouses that I covered, five of the six were on the same basic computer system. Each county had their own little quirks, but the basic system was the same each time. I wish I could give you tips and pointers on how to go faster, based on what I did, but since there are so many systems in the US, and so many different quirks in each of those systems, my methods wouldn’t do others any good. All I can say is, keep trying. Every trip, push yourself to make more per hour.
At the end, I was averaging $17 to $20 per hour doing this. Not too shabby for a gal in rural Idaho with no college degree, and no special skills. Think this might be just the thing for you? Check out my next blog on why this information is being collected and what it is being used for.