BP just saved us $800!

9 Replies


I'm a relative newbie (and haven't officially introduced myself - sorry), and just wanted to check in to say "thanks!" It's not a huge success, but it's something.

I've listened to three or four podcasts, and in one the speaker recounted how he had bought a foreclosure that was demolished, and negotiated with the city on the demolition cost and was able to save about 50% of the cost they were charging him. (Sorry if I got my facts wrong... And don't remember which podcast, maybe 113?)

We bought a foreclosure at auction in December. In Tampa (and all Florida, I believe), the auctions are online . We had visited a few houses, although couldn't get inside, and either lost the auction or the auction was cancelled. This allowed me to see how the process worked, and final prices for various properties. Looked like we could get a decent property for $30k. (Decent to us, as my husband is a carpenter/contractor so we can diy a lot.)

At the end of one auction day, a little property came up that I hadn't seen before online. I was vaguely familiar with the area as being close to West Tampa, where I had much earlier decided I would like to live if I were to live in Tampa. And there was a post on Zillow that suggested the cute little house could be "restored to its former glory." (Lie! And what
former glory!?)

The auction process allows one to live-bid or to enter a max bid and the system will auto-bid for you by raising your bid $100 higher than whatever is the last highest bid. I entered a max bid of $30k and watched the bids quickly increase to $9000, and then, surprise!, I was the high bidder. When I looked up the bid history online, there were four bidders (one may have been the bank?), and apparently someone had bid $1000 more but their bid was about 50 seconds late and wasn't accepted.

The house turned out to be uglier than we expected. There were holes in the roof, and everything was covered with mold, eaten by termites, and generally rotted. After we paid for the property at the courthouse, we learned that the house had been condemned. I was hoping we could at least save the frame, so we went to talk to code enforcement (Neighborhood Empowerment Department/ Neighborhood Enhancement Division). They had a whole crew of code enforcement and permitting personnel visit the property (including the big code boss), and someone of them suggested that the frame was not salvageable. We decided to go ahead and demolish without further discussion. So much for buying a house that we could live in while fixing!

Some demolition steps had already been completed, i.e. title search (done before our purchase), and asbestos survey. The asbestos survey was $1300. We transferred the demolition permit to my husband's name and he quickly hand-demolished it.  (We spent about $3500 on this.) The structure was all wood except for the asphalt-on-cardboard roof, which had already half fallen down, Wood is generally not good in Florida.

Then of course the City sent us a bill for the demolition costs they had incurred. We were not too happy to have to pay the $1600+. So, remembering the BP Podcast, we again went to talk to Neighborhood Enhancement about the bill. They provided their process for contesting the bill, we sent the letter as required, and they agreed to a reduced cost of under $800.

So thanks BP!

Post script:

Now we are working out a building plan. Some of you are thinking we got a bad deal, but no, I have been thinking for a couple years that I would like to rebuild a house foundation up, and we did just get word from an engineer we hired that the existing 1960 poured concrete slab should work for any type of house we wish to build. We will keep to the 875 square foot footprint. My challenge now is to decide on building materials, because we want to do some experimentation in green building/net-zero building without annoying the permitting officials. Options so far are concrete block or wood frame (the traditional choices) or SIPS. I was planning to use Innova Eco MgO SIPs until an architect we were trying to hire spoke to an engineer who was knowledgeable of these SIPs and got negative, but the engineer who evaluated the foundation is fine with designing with them, maybe because he's more experienced. 

That's one thing I don't see discussed on BP - green building. I guess why make the effort if you're just renting out or flipping. In any case, we plan to live in the house for a bit. We have a house in Clearwater and at some point we will have to decide which one to rent out. Either is an excellent candidate for renting.

I would also add, in case nobody has noticed, that Tampa is an excellent area for renting out houses. I suppose this is because so many people have lost their houses, and other potential rentals are AirBnB'd. In just a couple months we had several random people in the neighborhood who saw that we had bought the property notify us that they were looking for rentals, mostly efficiencies. Someone could make a lot of money building efficiencies, assuming that there is no zoning/permitting issue. If there is a zoning/permitting issue, then the City needs to get with the program because having some tightly-monitored efficiencies available would go a long way toward dealing with the homeless.

BTW, it seems there were some homeless alcoholics living or at least meeting in our house before we bought it, who are now out of a home. Being a social person, my husband has gotten to know at least one of them. This old man hangs out in the neighborhood, must have some place to hide from the rains at least. During the day he drinks with his buddies at the gas station on the corner up the road a bit, I think.

I meant to add that when we do decide to go pro, we are definitely signing up for Bigger Pockets Pro. The existence of your website has already covered the cost.

@Andrea W.   Good job getting the pice down. Sorry you had to demolish the house, don't let this discourage you from investing in the future. :)


And no, I'm not discouraged. As I posted above, this is exactly what I've been wanting to do, although it came unexpectedly.

Once we finish with this house, we'll consider buying other condemned properties, but do it a little more intentionally next time!

@Andrea W. being a pro member is so worth it.... but i am big on knowing things i am a consummate learning junkie.\\

i was curious what is a efficiencies?

and hey you guys have a plan. good thing to know Tampa is a renting type of place in Florida i will go down there. since it is the cigar capitol i hear. 

anyways keep us updated 

I think Tampa "used to be" cigar capitol. Anyway, I'm sure you will find it worthwhile to visit Tampa and specifically Ybor City, where you can still find a cigar factory or maybe 2, plus a lot of fun of Friday and Saturday nights.

An efficiency is also known as studio apartment or apparently bachelor apartment (I think I heard that on BP?), but it's the lower-end version maybe. Basically you have a single room including bedroom and kitchen, and hopefully a bathroom. Wages in Tampa are low, rents are relatively high although certainly nowhere near NYC prices, and a lot of people just can't afford more than an efficiency.

Judging from what I've seen, an expected rental cost for an efficiency would be about $600, which is still too much for some people. They may be able to get a really nasty one in a sketchy area for $400.

Originally posted by @Andrea W. :

Options so far are concrete block or wood frame (the traditional choices) or SIPS. I was planning to use Innova Eco MgO SIPs until an architect we were trying to hire spoke to an engineer who was knowledgeable of these SIPs and got negative, but the engineer who evaluated the foundation is fine with designing with them, maybe because he's more experienced. 

I am interested to know what the engineer's opinions are on SIP vs. concrete block. Can you share what's negative about it?

@Andrea W. i have heard of Ybor city from a radio show i follow.... and thanks for confirming that..... 

and defining what a efficiency is

Flora - The issues raised regarding SIPs were :

1) In Miami there were problems with building contractors not making the foundation slabs even enough for the SIPs. I talked to the Innova Eco company as well as an independent engineer, and it was confirmed that for slight slab unevenness adjustments can be made at the bottom tracks. (We are building on a pre-exisiting slab that is only slightly uneven. It's extremely level for something that's been there 50 years.)

2) Since you're dealing with pre-cut panels, you cannot make significant design changes after the panels are cut. (It is also possible to get panels that are not pre-cut, but diy cutting is probably not cost effective.)

3) Something about supporting SIP roof panels with numerous posts, but our engineer confirmed we would only need internal deep-footed supports approximately every 12 feet, which fits in with our building plan, which would require only 2 of these supports. The rest of the support system would involve roof beams or trusses. (You also don't have to use SIP roof panels with SIP construction.)

I would also note that the SIPs create a very tightly sealed structure, so you are going to want to provide active ventilation such as an energy recovery ventilator.

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