How To Buy Bargain Real Estate

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There are two main sources of bargain properties. The obvious one that everyone knows about is properties fresh on the market where the owner doesn't realize what they've got. This is the largest single reason why potential buyers obsess over days on market: They think they're going to find something nobody else has, yet. Unfortunately for this mindset, everyone else has precisely the same idea. Everyone else wants to look at that fresh on the market property, hungry for the bargain nobody else has discovered yet. As a result, this sort of property is where you get bidding wars as everyone else jumps on the same bandwagon, making the owner and the listing agent both very happy.

The "It's so beautiful!" property is not where you get a bargain, especially when it's fresh on the market. Actually, it's only a potential bargain when they're overpriced and the owner won't listen to reason that they get to the point where they aren't fresh on the market. People go to great lengths to make properties beautiful precisely because they will then command premium prices, especially when they're fresh on the market. This is another one of those trade-offs: You can buy a beautiful turn-key property, or you can get a bargain. Choose one or the other - you cannot have both. Choose wisely, by what is important to you. There is no sin or mistake in choosing to spend more money for a property where the work has been done. You are essentially saying that it's worth the extra money to you, and that's fine. This mistake is choosing the fixer when it's worth the money to you to have the turn-key, or in choosing the turn-key when would rather have the money (or can't afford it!)

The second, superior source of bargain properties is usually properties that have been on the market a while. They're not beautiful, so Mrs. Average Buyer does not swoon with delight at the thought of that kitchen and that bathroom. It specifically doesn't grab prospective buyers by the throat and say, "Buy me or you'll never be happy again!" If it did that, it wouldn't have gotten to this stage; it would have been bought when it was fresh on the market.

It may be old, it may be filthy, it may be cluttered, or all three. But the basic construction is still solid. This is not a Vampire Property, it just hasn't been updated in a while. There are no cracks in the foundation, no rot in the wood, no leaks in the pipes. There's nothing really wrong with it; it's just not beautiful right now. As a result, buyers will pass it by. They're too busy looking at the surfaces, looking for brand new granite counters and travertine floors that they don't notice that's what is there is quite serviceable and usually pretty easy to update.

Buyers don't swarm these properties simply because they don't know what to look for. They see fifty year old now. They're looking at what the property looks like now, not what it will look like after some very simple renovations that cost a lot less than the difference in cost between this property and the brand new rehab that's just been put on the market down the block. Some people think they know what they're looking for in a bargain, but most of them are wrong. This is one of the many places a good Buyer's Agent comes into the process. I've been around this particular block a few times, and I do know what I'm looking for and what it looks like. Lots of buyers will tell you they're looking for a bargain, but when the time comes to make an offer on one they just won't move off the dime. They're still hoping to find something for the same price with the work already (and freshly!) done. That's not going to happen. The reason the owners did that work was to be able to get more money for the property. You can pay the extra money (and the interest on it if you're getting a loan!), or you can go shopping for properties where the work is waiting for you. The folks who just remodeled in order to sell are likely to be disappointed anyway, but until they face reality, you're wasting your time.

Don't get emotionally attached to any property, especially if you don't own it yet. I tell people that if they're going to get emotionally attached, the best time is as I'm handing them the keys when the transaction has closed. Until the transaction is done, be willing to walk if it's called for. You're making an investment of several hundred thousand dollars. If that investment is going to be a problem or the owners don't want to let it go on reasonable terms, leave it to be their problem. They're trying to sell it; that's a representation they don't want it any more. If they make life too difficult for people who want to buy, that property is still their problem unless and until that transaction closes. I'd rather find my clients something else that's not going to be that kind of problem. Go through the purchase process with the mindset of, "I think I'd like to live here." Make the offer, reach the contract, apply for the loan, do the investigations, and go through subsequent negotiations and everything else with the idea that you think you'd like to live there - and be prepared for something to change your mind. many sellers, listing agents and loan officers all take advantage of people who aren't prepared to change their minds - and not a few buyer's agents as well.

The ideal bargain property is the same one it's worthwhile to remodel: Old, unfashionable surfaces with poor lighting. Most folks won't even consider such properties, which is another reason why they go for attractive prices. Nor do a lot of sellers want to deal with the updates - putting cash out of their wallet for someone else's enjoyment. I'd say inherited property is probably the quintessential example of this. The heirs just want money; they don't want to come up with the cash that enables them to get a better price. This makes it a high supply, low demand situation. You're not going to be the envy of all your friends at the housewarming party the weekend after it closes, but you are going to have a mortgage that leaves you a lot more room to afford other things, and a couple years down the line people will be asking how you got such a steal.

Caveat Emptor

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About this Entry

This page contains a single entry by Dan Melson published on September 21, 2014 7:00 AM.

Credit Lines: Number and Length of Time Open was the previous entry in this blog.

What to Beware in Third Party Services is the next entry in this blog.

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