There is a horrible property around the corner from me. There are at least 3 dead cars on the side of the house, the lawn is always armpit-high, and the mailbox is so stuffed with mail that the front doesn’t close. My dream home.
I am a licensed real estate agent, and my MLS access gives me an easy in to the public record. A quick search showed the name of the owner. Another few mouse clicks, and I see his property taxes are up to date. Hmmm, with the state of this house, I can’t imagine why someone wouldn’t just sell it.
Then I see the lot on an online map. Ah-ha! Lightbulb moment. This property sits on a double-deep lot. But wait, there’s more! It is an “L” shaped lot, and the double-deep portion of the property next door is also part of this property. This baby can potentially be subdivided into 3 lots. In a very hot area of my very hot town. I see dollar signs and wish to purchase this property.
I search the property records to see if he owns something else in the area. The only way he is still in this property is if he is mummified. I find nothing in my county in his name. He has a unique name, and a nationwide search pulls up exactly one of him. A little digging shows where he went to college and that he used to own a property in Florida, but no longer. The trail grows cold, and every time I pass his house, I get antsy. Someone else is going to find this awesome, horrible house.
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My mailman has been on this same route for about 100 years. He knows everyone, and can tell you not only how long they have lived here, but also who lived there before them and where they moved to.
Me: “Hey Joe. You know that house around the corner – 123 XYZ Street? The one with the super tall weed farm in the front yard and the dead ambulances on the side?”
Joe: “Oh, I know that house. Their other house flooded two years ago, and they moved to the next town over. I keep telling her to forward her mail, but she never does. Her name is Jane Doe.”
Me: “Thanks, Joe.”
My 2-minute conversation with Joe has put me back on the trail of this house — and could make me some serious cash for a fairly small amount of work.
The Pet Sitter
Possibly my favorite person in my neighborhood is Kristina. She is a pet sitter, so she is in and out of houses all day long, all over the city.
We were at a park with our kids one day, and I noticed a strong farm aroma. STRONG. I mentioned this to her, and she said, “Oh yeah, don’t ever buy a house in that neighborhood,” pointing to the subdivision across the street. “On hot summer days, you can’t even go outside, the smell is so bad.”
This is the kind of information you can only get from boots on the ground, and your local pet sitter can be that person. Kristina has told me what neighborhoods have yet to come up, what houses are poorly constructed, and where the lowest water pressure is found in our fair city.
“This neighborhood doesn’t have any sidewalks, and the streets are narrow, making it difficult to safely walk.” I don’t think I would have noticed that if she hadn’t said something, but I see it now every time I drive through.
We had record rainfall two years ago, and massive flooding. Kristina has an amazing memory and remembers what neighborhoods flooded because she had clients all around town.
She has alerted me to sections of town I didn’t even know existed, and when an opportunity came up earlier this year for a four-plex, she had actually been in the property and gave me an enormous amount of information that the current owner might have left out — not to be deceptive, but because she may not have felt it was important.
Kristina calls me on a regular basis while she is walking dogs. “Did you see this house at 123 XYZ Street? It looks really cute!” or “There is a house for sale by owner at 456 ABC Street, want me to get the phone number?”
Both of these people have provided me with valuable information through their different experiences. Neither of them would think to just volunteer this information if they didn’t know I was a real estate investor.
Have you found someone off the beaten path who has proved to be a valuable asset to your team?
Share your stories in the comments section below!