Real Estate Numbers Can’t Lie, They Don’t Know How!


Sometimes we make things so complicated, when if we would only pay attention to the facts, we would be so much better off.  My math teacher and I are still in contact via Facebook, which is ironic as I spent more time in the hall working, than in her classroom!  Yes, I was one of those kids who was a class clown and had to weigh out the value of a well timed joke, with the possibility of being in trouble.  Well, I think you can figure out which side won that debate in my head more often than not.

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Richard Simmons?

Ok, he has nothing to do with this paragraph bedsides the fact that he has been a weird dude helping people lose weight for decades.  The one thing I learned in math class is that numbers don’t lie. They simply can’t.  They are the facts.  I am one who struggles with winter weight gain.  I am from the northeast, but in my heart I’m an ocean boy. I have no doubt that my retirement will involve daily ocean activities and a view of her from my home.  Each summer I seem to have to lose 10-20lbs.  I think I bulk up to stay warm like a freaking bear or something in these cold winters!  Very frustrating, and I’m sure some of you can relate.

Well, last year I had a revelation.  I discovered a simple free app called My Fitness Pal. It is a simple way to track all that you eat and the calories you burn.  Once I figured out that losing weight was really a mathematical certainty, life changed for me.  I know this is not news to most of the population, but for me it was the epiphany I needed.  To lose weight I need to burn 3500 calories more than I eat to lose one pound.  Simple math.  My Fitness Pal made it very easy to understand the math behind the weight loss and helped me reach my goal.  Now if they would make an app that severely shocks me when I reach for ice cream, they would have something!! Again, the number don’t lie.  They can’t.  Follow the math (facts) and your success can be guaranteed in any endeavor.

Related:BP Podcast 015: From $80k in Credit Card Debt to 100+ Deals with Glenn and Amber Schworm

To Boldly Go Where No Man Has Gone Before

Sorry for the Star Trek reference, I couldn’t resist.  For our company, this is how branching out to new areas can feel.  Even though other investors have had success in those areas, we are not as familiar with them as we are with our home town.  Here is where the math comes in.  We have a goal of buying and selling at least 65 houses in the next 12 months.  At least 26 will be full renovation projects, the rest, wholesales.  To do this successfully, we will need to expand to new areas, and we are currently doing.  They are very close by, just not in our comfort zone.  

So how do we make them our comfort zone?  

We do the math, because the numbers can’t lie.  In this case, when we find a potential renovation deal, we run the comps.  We study them like we would for a final exam.  We physically drive the comps to really understand the neighborhood.  We do not simply use the realtors math, as that would be like cheating off the wrong kid and not getting a good grade!  The realtor has a vested interest to sell the house to you, so it’s your job to do your OWN homework.  Get all the facts you can before pulling the trigger.  If you see houses selling, then yours will too.  If you see the houses selling are in decent condition, make yours amazing.  If you see the ones selling all have 2 bathrooms, then make sure yours does too.  Do whatever you need to do to make sure all the numbers line up.

Is It an Exact Science?

Not a chance, but we can get really close using the math to let us see what is selling and what isn’t selling, and for how much.  From there, once we have done all of our homework, we can really feel comfortable making the decision to move forward.  Nothing in life is a guarantee, except as they say, death and taxes.  To make sure we are very comfortable, we have developed a simple but mildly complex spreadsheet that calculates every possible cost.  It covers repairs, taxes, insurance, interest, utilities, commissions, buying cost, selling costs, etc.  No cost is overlooked.  

We do not use eraser math. (I leaned that term on Bigger Pockets and laughed when I learned it because in the early days, I used it!)  On the sale side we also have a page on the spreadsheet where we place all of the comps.  We use very close comps, both in size and location.  Like I said, we drive the streets in these new areas to be sure they are very similar neighborhoods.  We even talk to neighbors as they always know the good and bad streets.  Once we determine they are solid comps, we add them to our sheet.  Our sheet then calculates the ARV (After Repair Value) and places it in the sheet to let us know what it will sell for based on square footage . This is about as exact as you will get.  They call is Real Estate Investing, and not Real Estate Certainty for a reason! 🙂

Does It Really Work?

In a nutshell, YES!  Look at it this way. All areas you work in now were once foreign to you.  If you haven’t yet started investing, then all of this is foreign to you.  Once you begin and start to learn, then your fears will start to go away.  In time, each new area starts to become your “new” comfort zone.  If you can’t find enough deals in your own back yard where you are ‘Comfortable”, then start to explore.  Use math to ease your worried mind.  Remember, you can always rely on the facts because numbers can’t lie!  And if you are reading this and haven’t started investing yet because of fear, then the same applies to you!  Go create your first comfort zone.  Remember as President Roosevelt said, “The  only thing we have to fear is fear itself!”

How have some of you started in new areas outside your comfort zone?  What techniques do you use when looking at a foreign area?  I would love to hear from you.

Photo: rbbaird

About Author

Glenn Schworm

Glenn and his wife Amber are the owners of Signature Home Buyers , located in upstate New York. They have bought and sold over 100 houses and counting since beginning in 2008. They are also the proud parents of 3 amazing kids and love to travel the globe, scuba dive, skydive and basically live life to the fullest!


  1. Good advice, Glenn! I know in my area the 1/8 mile radius comps can be deceiving if you do not know the neighborhoods. Being by the water, there are tons of neighborhoods that have property owners associations which include beach and boating rights, so you better know the cut offs for those.

    Also, I really enjoyed the podcast with you and your wife a few weeks ago!

    • Glenn Schworm

      So true Ryan, especially around water, you can have the huge dollar houses next to the old camps and shacks! So important to do your homework and then make sure you stand out from the pack. Thanks for the props on the podcast, glad you enjoyed it.

  2. Very good advice about moving out of your comfort zone and using the right math (not eraser math!) for potential properties. By using the right math you can’t go wrong when attempting to get out of your comfort zone. And a great tip about talking to the neighbors. Every city has the good and bad streets and who better to tell you than those who live on them?

  3. I like the title Glenn. Funny because I used that “eraser math” a few times early on and it doesn’t work. It usually goes the other way especially when your new in the business.
    I don’t know who to credit for the phrase but it is a good one. sometimes we buy outside of our 70% rule but as an experienced investor it is because we see the value still and have valid reasons to break from our own rules. we don’t just erase the arv or cost of repairs to make the spreadsheet look better. Good advice.

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