Rehabbers shot in Rochester NY. Do you feel safe in low end neighborhoods?

23 Replies

Especially you Rochester NY investors.  I've been in this area lots of times.  I assume most of you have, too.  Granted this happened at 7pm, but I don't like the idea of investing in areas where you'll get shot in the evening.

Here is the story:

There is probably more to it.  I have generally felt safe in most parts of the city.  People raise children in these areas, after all.  But stil....

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@Larry T. 

This is a great question. I had similar concerns when I first got my license and started working with investors in the lower-priced "rougher" parts of town. There are definitely still pockets of the Richmond area that I don't want to spend a lot of time in in the middle of the night, but I think the positive side of this conversation is how much more in tune I became with my community. I've visited parts of the city I used to be scared of only to find some of the nicest, friendliest people you'd ever want to meet as well as discovering more of the real beauty of the metro area. The old turn of the century (the last century) architecture in some of the lower-income areas of Richmond and Petersburg is truly striking. 

At the end of the day, I think spending time in these areas is a great way to get more connected with your community but you also have to be cautious as the incident referenced above clearly shows.

@Larry T. I think this is an example of someone trying to work in an area that really isn't that safe during the day and even less so in the dark. Anything North of Shelter St is really sketchy in my book as I have driven all of those streets and it is a good example of the issues that can be faced with chasing the max ROI in really rough areas - most of the time you don't get shot, but I have seen and heard of similarly harrowing stories in that area.

Plenty of C+ areas to invest in in Rochester with minimal capital needed where the returns aren't quite as good(but still better than 80% of the US), but the danger level is much lower.  

I think being Pro-Active and having a good situational awareness is important. Its really the small things that make a difference. There is a series called the best defense on the outdoor channel. There is an episode on being a real estate agent and some advice and tips I think can help some people on here. I know this is New York and getting a CHL is next to impossible but there are several other ways to protect yourself. As the show states in every episode and in every scenario, avoidance and awareness is your best defense.

If you can find where to watch the episode online The show is called The Best Defense, Season 5, episode 7.

Just my 2 cents.

In the infamous word of Ms. Franklin: R E S P E C T

I've never been in Rochester, but all of my properties are in a C-D type of neighborhood in Atlanta, so, these are my experiences:

Before I started buying houses in that neighborhood I used to flip lots there, because a lot of new construction was happening (all mortgage fraud, as I later learned) . There were a ton of vacant lots and I used to walk around, knock on doors and talk to people. Most people were very friendly, guarded, but friendly. I am white and the neighborhood is 99% black. If I mentioned the neighborhood name 'Pittsburgh' to other investors, they immediately made a face. It had the reputation as a dangerous neighborhood and investors that hadn't been there stayed away.

After the crash I started buying houses (sight unseen, because I was living in California) for 10K. I knew every street and wasn't scared. I later moved back to Atlanta and renovated, while I lived in one of my houses in that neighborhood. Talk about 'sticking out like a sore thumb' - I was blonde, with blue eyes and a red convertible in an all black low-income neighborhood. I also walked around everywhere with my dog. I said hello to everyone and showed them respect and I think that's a major deal. Showing that you respect people and don't show fear. Fear would be seen as racist in a way, because you don't know that person and therefore any fear will be seen as based on skin color. 

Other investors were still scared of setting foot in the neighborhood. Did I have some problems with some people? Yep. Some people would spit on the street in front of me or tell me to go back to my neighborhood. But I have this stubborn streak, that if someone is trying to intimidate me, I will push back. Not smart, I know, but it comes automatically. So, I've had some verbal altercations, but I never backed down and I never acted out of fear, but out of what I perceived fairness or righteousness.

I'm not saying that it's all fun and games and I would not walk around at night, but I think if you look at a neighborhood with an open mind, you will be surprised that it's mostly made up of decent people, just like the less-scary areas. 

People also get in shot in nice neighborhoods

I know in my area there have been some issues in the rougher parts of town. We are here in South Florida near Miami and Fort Lauderdale. I have never had an issue personally but I always carry when I am in those parts of town rather be safe than sorry. I find it sad that people have to defend themselves, we are just trying to make the neighborhood a better place and make a living doing it.

"Low end" can mean many things. There are depressed areas and there are warzones. We are comfortable going into depressed areas and being part of the solution by buying homes and keeping them updated and occupied with clean and responsible tenants. If you buy in a warzone you can only become part of the problem - there is no solution aside from not going there. Just my opinion. 

Nevertheless, there are issues to deal with in depressed areas. If someone steals our copper we have it fixed and move forward. We tend to focus on how bad someone's situation must be to have to resort to such behavior. We are so blessed and don't feel much need to sulk over small setbacks that, in all reality, can be fixed in a day's work. 

Its all about attitude and perception.  I like the approach of @Michaela G.   

Sometimes, we over generalize an area and put a stamp on our mind mostly on information handed down to us or what we read. While the latter might be applicable sometimes, I believe that based on experience, you really might find out that what you hear people say may not actually be the case until you find out first hand. I guess the lesson here is 'Know your market'

 That said, @Jerry Kisasonak  , do we really have a parameter for defining war zone and depressed areas? I mean, how do we differentiate between the two? what are the distinguishing characteristics between class C, D , Depressed and a war zone?.  


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@Michaela G.  Respect to you for not being intimidated. I agree that most people are friendly and decent. In a way, I'm attracted to the inner city as it is a really good cross cultural experience. 

The chances of something bad happening are small. It is a probability thing. The probability is small but it is even smaller in 'A' neighborhoods.  Also, a little prudence, like you exercised by not walking around at night, greatly diminished that probability. I'm inclined to think there is more to the story on this situation--some lack of prudence besides just being there at 7pm  

NA Onyido 

Thanks for the comment. We do in fact have a way to differentiate between depressed areas and war zones. I suppose the easiest way to learn the difference is to watch the news for a few days. In Pittsburgh there seems to be a shooting every day, and we start to see patterns in the locations that they happen. However, there are other areas that are clearly depressed areas but rarely do you hear about them on the news. This is a clue.

If you wanted to get more technical you could research homicide statistics in your county. I'm sure they even have maps with the locations pinned if you dig enough to find them.

@Jerry Kisasonak  

Thanks for the infor. The spreadsheet infor is very apt.

So invariably, a high crime rate is mostly class Ds and called war  zone while depressed areas are as a result of plummeting property prices as a result of economic depression and not necessarily high crime?

Thanks again.

I agree with @Jerry Kisasonak  you can help make a difference and a profit in depressed areas. Checking the stats for the city or county can help you differentiate between war, and depressed. If people like us don't improve the neglected properties in depressed areas they can become war zones eventually. We've met great people in depressed areas that are so happy someone is taking care of the place and getting it back into shape. They are generally ready to help protect what you are working on. I also know first hand that in war zones the people can be misleading and dagerous. Not that they all are just a lot of caution needs to be taken. We sometimes have to go into these areas for some of our clients and ask that anyone doing so uses caution and stays alert to the surroundings.

This is sad, but the story tells very little of what actually happened or why. Things happen everywhere.

I just saw this where 4 got shot last night in a hip trendy neighborhood of San Fran

I used to carry a concealed glock. When i walked with it, it met the legal requirement of concealed, but i made sure everyone knew it was there. (Jutting out under my shirt, outline if it very visible, etc) the value in the weapon wasn't in its use, but in those calculating an attack knowing they were facing getting shot to do it

NA Onyido You are on the right track. Some areas are depressed because businesses pulled out due to competition and/or political inadequacies. These areas aren't particularly bad or high crime areas - just depressed. We are comfortable buying and working in these areas. 

@Jerry Kisasonak  

@Terri Lewis  

Thanks so much. I have gained a lot from this conversation.

 But just a second thought @Terri Lewis is it possible for investors to adopt same attitude of helping to improve depressed area while handling the so-called war zones? Just a thought if through real estate could add more value to the entire system by improving such areas?

Thanks again.

@Ndy Onyido   , I believe you can turn warzones, if you are able to pick up a bunch of properties on the same street and maybe get some other investors involved simultaneously. 

Some years ago I bought a mess of a house on a pretty run-down street. I brought another rehabber friend to my rehab and he ended up buying the house across the street. Then another rehabber bought the house a little further down the street. We were all working on these at the same time and suddenly investors were all over, trying to buy houses around there and all of the values jumped up. 

You don't want to be the only one, but if there are a lot of boarded up houses, maybe you can get a group of investors together and each buy a house or 2, so that you can change the way the street looks. Or do that with more people and several streets. 

And if there are enough properties being worked on, it might be worthwhile to share the cost of a security person/off-duty or retired cop to make rounds all night, in addition to alarm systems in each house.