Sunday, April 26, 2015

“What’s the most difficult part … ?”

Over the years of renovating really bad houses, people have asked me often how I go about it; buying, working through each phase, and then selling.  It’s not rocket science, but it can be tricky when you’ve never done it before.  Another question that people sometimes ask me goes something like, “What’s the hardest part about fixing up a place like this?”  People want to know.  Is it nasty bathrooms or kitchens?  Is it the neighbors?  Snakes?  Dead animals that I’ve had to deal with?  Finding contractors?  Inspectors?  What’s the thing… the one challenge or issue that consistently has to be overcome on all of these pig’s ears.

It took me a few years and multiple properties to really know how to answer, but I did figure it out.  Finding the right property is the hardest part about what I do.  I look at hundreds of properties, do dozens of drive-bys, have a bunch of walk-thrus/showings, and typically make multiple offers before I actually take ownership of the right one.   There are a lot of house flipping and home renovation shows on television that show how exciting and do-able it is and in some ways it seems as if there are now even more people out there trying to find homes to fix up.  That competition may add to the challenge of the property search, but there are a lot of things that make it easier to find the right project.  It’s definitely better than it used to be in many respects. 

When I started doing this, everything was different; classified ads and For Sale signs were where the search started.  I still look for the realtor signs in front yards, but the classifieds is not too useful to me anymore.  The computer helps so much now.  It’s amazing the amount of information you can get in your living room, not to mention away from home on your mobile phone, laptop, or tablet.  You still get the best feel for an area by driving and looking or getting out and walking around, but everything is on-line now in a way that helps you do your homework even before you call to get inside a potential project house. 

Take advantage of all the on-line resources and don’t be overwhelmed by all the info.  Enjoy it.  There are so many ways to get smart on a prospective property.  Be thankful there’s so much information out there.  And I’m talking free, public info.  You don’t have to subscribe to something or pay to have someone do your research.

The real estate sites are a great place to start.  Carolina One here in the Lowcountry is an example of one of the best sites I've found.  It's extremely user friendly.  Also, county governments have property records on-line now.  They’re all different, but not too hard to get a feel for once you get logged in and start figuring them out.  Google Maps is really useful as well and seems to be getting better all the time.  You get the street view and the satellite look for a bird's eye view.  You get a great overhead shot of the property you’re interested in and everything around the house.  You can do your due diligence so much easier now which makes the search more productive.  Finding the right property is still the toughest part of what I do, but I love it too and it's part of the fun.

One suggestion to remember (comparable to the advice you'd give a young person entering the dating world):  Don't fall in love with the first or second house you see.  Finding the right property can be a long process.  It can take weeks, months, and maybe longer.  Getting hung up on one property too soon is easy to do.  Try to avoid this little pitfall and keep your business hat on without too much emotion until you own the house.  That's when the real work and the love begins.

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