Update on 'Fix and Flip'

Last Thursday night at the monthly REIA meeting, Than Merrill from A&E’s Flip this House presented an informative glance into his working business model. Than does more than 120 flips a year at an average of $27,000 each.  Although he just started 3 years ago, Than is making millions using a system that he partially nabbed from other fix and flip coaches and partially created himself.  Than acknowledged up front that he would have something to sell, otherwise he says there would be no point in his flying out here from Conneticut to talk to a real estate investment club.  And sell he did.  What my husband and I heard prompted us to attend an all day (9 to later than 6!) on Sunday.  The cost was relatively inexpensive and anything for more education, right?

In case you’re wondering who attends a real estate investing club, I noticed a lot of people with jobs looking for a way to become self employed, and I also found many who had already made that transition using real estate investment as monthly income.  Others are there to build a retirement using real estate investing as a vehicle. Some using sefl-directed vehicles and others doing 1031’s to defer taxes. 

Finding the right investment opportunity is key to good real estate investing. The investments we have been buying are properties that can be subdivided or converted to condos or in some other way create equity through development.  I hate fix and flips because there have been such a small margin in them because we didn’t knowi how to find below market inventory consistently.  We only do the fix and flips if we can increase the value of an adjacent lot or new construction home we sell by increasing the value of the original home. 

However, working with distressed sellers to find below market inventory is a business that is very specialized and can by itself be a full time occupation.  And there are a lot of investment buyers looking to buy discounted properties.  Finding these discounted properties has always eluded me. We have tried the foreclosure route and bought on the court house steps, but too many investors were chasing these properties and they still got bid up, squeezing that profit margin.  Then there are title issues and the fact that you can’t really inspect the properties among other things, like needing cash!

Than has been successful finding these sellers and I wanted to know how. He has multiple sources and mutliple campaigns aimed at finding anyone willing to sell at a discount. His program is a highly developed marketing and operation.  We were impressed, So, we decided to invest in the systems thinking that if he can make them work, so can we (I know, pretty egotistical). The cost of the program is pretty reasonable, the bigger cost being the time to attend a one week boot camp and implement the multiple marketing systems. But we’re looking forward to it and hope soon to have a source of ‘cents on the dollar’ real estate to offer our buyers.  Keep tuned.

BTW, still nothing definitive on the Contractor’s issue, i.e., an owner needing a contractor’s license to perform work on real estate prior to a sale if within one year. We’re all waiting for clarification. 

Seattle in Top Ten for Continued Appreciation- Want to know Why?

We’ve talked alot on RCG about whether we’re in a bust or a bubble real estate market and we in the Pacific NW have been watching the rest of the country and wondering, Why all the gloom? Bankrate.com and today’s Seattle times have some explanation that can provide perspective:

Last week, Bankrate.com unveiled its forecast for the changing real estate market in the U.S. over the next few years – ten markets where housing prices and values will continue to remain strong, ten markets where appreciation will pretty much top out and the ten markets that are most likely to experience a decline. They talked to experts, studied public and private databases, analyzed market trends and examined the analysis of many others.

The ten “bubble blowers,” where appreciation should continue to grow, are:

  • Boise (ID);
  • El Paso (TX);
  • Albuquerque (NM);
  • Seattle (WA)/Portland (OR);
  • Salt Lake City (UT);
  • Raleigh (NC);
  • Philadelphia (PA);
  • Atlanta (GA);
  • Little Rock (AR); and
  • Cincinnati (OH)/Birmingham (AL) (they were too close to call).

Just why this is happening in the Pacific NW is the subject of this mornings Seattle Times article by Elizabeth Rhodes. She sheds light on why Seattle is breaking the national trend toward stagnating or dropping home prices. Her article notes that the average home prices have taken a steep hike in the last year and appear to be continuing the rise.

Citing the NWMLS statistics that came out on Thursday, median closed price of King County single-family homes has shot up almost 12 percent in the past year, reaching $405,000 last month (and up from $392,950 in February).

Interestingly, sales are down, but so is inventory. In March 2004, there were 7,156 homes for sale countywide. March 2005’s inventory was 5,244 homes. This March recorded a further drop, to 5,100. This is the pinch that causing the rise in prices.

At the same time, the local economy is growing and employers are adding jobs, bringing more potential buyers to the area. So the competition for available homes is strong and prices are reacting accordingly.

We agents have been experiencing this hot market all spring as we did through most of last year, possibly feeling the market fluctuations first. We’re out there in it, pricing homes to reflect the low inventory and coaching buyers for the best positioning in a multiple offer situation. I just watched the price of an Eastside condo jump $20,000 in a two week period!

How do you get a bargain?

How do you get a bargain when purchasing a home in a hot market, without getting a lemon?

I have thought about the many times over the years that I have helped people purchase property at less than fair market value in all kinds of markets. Up markets, down markets, buyer’s markets and seller’s markets. I have used several different means to accomplish this goal for my clients. Today I will talk about one of the most recent transactions where a buyer achieved a true bargain price.

My partner, Kim, and I recently helped a buyer purchase a property so undervalued, that appraisers have called asking how we were able to acquire the property at that price. Answer was terms. A property came on the market in North Seattle at such a low cost that agents swooped on it like vultures. The seller’s agent was from out of the area, and the property was difficult to value, and so it came on market at a low price. But it would have bid up to “fair market value” or beyond, if we didn’t stop the other bidders in their tracks. We offered terms, or as we Italians like to say “I made dem an offer dey couldn’t refuse!”

One of the things agents do is “pre-negotiate” before they write an offer. I called the listing agent and let her blab on and on about anything and everything. I gleaned a few gems of significant data. The seller was buying new construction out of the area and they were scared about having to leave their current home before their new home was completed. Bingo!

We wrote an offer that did not compete as to price, but allowed them to stay up to a month after closing. This way the sellers had the comfort of knowing their property was sold, they had their equity in the bank three weeks before they needed to close on their new home.That gave them a whole lot of peace of mind.

The sellers did not consider any other offers and accepted ours hands down before several agents even had time to write an offer. Complaints from the trenches? “Why did the seller accept an offer without waiting for us to submit an offer? My buyer would have offered more!” The answer. Terms! Never presume when it comes to terms. Fast closings are not always better, if it forces the seller to pack and move before they are ready. Always base terms on what you know this particular seller wants and needs. Not on what you presume all sellers should want and need.