One “Painful” Tip You Can Start Using Today to Get More Deals

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Living in Orange County, residential lots for small contractors are extremely hard to come by.

The same is true for commercial land with the coveted “LOCATION! LOCATION! LOCATION!” characteristics.

That means we have to get out and, as we call it having come from a more rural area, beat the bushes to find opportunities that may not be obvious, or properties for sale that aren’t listed, etc.  In fact, we recently closed on a parcel like that, and it has a beautiful view of the ocean.

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Don’t Be Afraid To Go Out Of Your Car

In real estate, when looking at property the number one rule? Get out of your car!  Now of course if you’re in an unsafe neighborhood, this won’t apply.

Pain May Be Involved

Many times agents and/or investors will drive around and ‘look’ at properties, but never stop, get out of the car, and really inspect a property.

We came from northern California where rather than a small lot, there could be acres of land. Oftentimes we’ve found some true gems. One such parcel was a 12 acre piece, infested with thick Star Thistle growing knee high, acres of it, OUCH! The property had been listed for quite some time.

Most agents when going to see the property, would drive right on past, even though the property adjoined a 9 hole golf course. If you’re not familiar with star thistle, it has a way of getting into your shoes, sticking through your socks, your pants, etc. It hurts! We knew about the thistle, and went ready to view the property, having on jeans and our boots. We climbed through the barbed wire fence, and tromped through the stickery thistle to the back of the long rectangular parcel.

There was a beautiful view of majestic Mt. Lassen from the back of the lot, where a house could be situated, a year round creek with a sandy beach on the western boundary, and a 9 hole golf course adjoined the property on the south. It turned out to be one of the most unique residential properties in the entire county. Had we just driven by, we never would never have found the gem!  We bought the land, built a big beautiful house, and sold it.

Nothing Takes The Place Of Seeing For Yourself

I’m often asked by new real estate investors where to start. Besides the obvious of knowing your niche, and your market, I’d advise that you always get out of your car, go into the house or building, walk the property, etc. because sometimes, you have to wade through the thistle to get to the gems.
Photo Credit: westpark

About Author

Karen Margrave

Karen is a partner in a family owned real estate development company, in Orange County CA. The company specializes the building spec projects (SFR, MFR, Medical Office, and other types of properties), designed to meet the needs of both investors and owner/users. Licensed in both real estate and construction.


  1. A lot of my business recently has come from going the extra mile – from finding pocket listings to helping a client secure a rental property before the purchase. Sure, it’s extra work, but at the same time, I’ve never had so much repeat business and referrals from past clients as I have in the past year. After about 10 years in the real estate business, I’ve learned that it really makes a difference to go above and beyond clients’ expectations. That’s how you make yourself a resource (and the go-to person) for all of their real estate needs.

  2. I will also add that you can gain valuable insight just by talking to people that live in the neighborhood. In one situation, I happened across a woman walking down the alley. She turned out to the the sister of the woman who previously owned the REO.

  3. Thanks for the comments! I had used a different title and a picture of a star thistle, not sure what happened! Those darn star thistle are so unforgiving and painful when they get into your shoes, or pants .. but on that particular property, the pain was well worth the reward! Over the years I’ve gone into so many homes that look so bland on the outside, and inside they had some valuable feature you’d never had known was there, had you driven by.

  4. When I worked in IT my motto to the programmers was, “There’s no substitute for looking at the data.” I apply the same approach to my investing career.

    We even bought a lot in Costa Rica several years ago where we were rewarded with an ocean view after tramping through a couple of acres of thick overgrowth. Boots on the ground!

  5. What? Don’t real estate investors walk around in tight suits and high heels? (eyes rolling) It pays not to be a princess.
    You brought back memories… I lost many bike tires to star thistles when I lived in Davis. I think they’re planted by Satan.

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