It’s unfortunate that many real estate investors tend to look at the bottom line when deliberating about a property, rather than the big picture. The real moneymakers in real estate investments are the people with vision, who think creatively, and are willing to assume some level of risk.
A client’s initial line of questioning about an investment property goes something like this: What has the property’s revenue been for the past three years? How much money will they make starting out? and, How much will they have to invest in the property in the beginning? These are all valid questions. After asking and answering them, investors might try taking off the blinders and thinking outside of the box.
Our population is growing, and land -- unlike cars, furniture, or other structures -- cannot be remade.
Real estate investors might ask themselves these simple questions:
1. Is there growth in the area where the property is located? Is there anywhere for the growth to go? If so, is it headed towards your property’s location?
2. Has the city or county zoned the are for revitilization or economic development? If so, are there any special funds or benefits available?
3. Is the property accessible to public transportation?
4. Are people beginning to look for homes in this area? If so, investors want to be looking far in advance of others to secure the best property deals.
5. Is the property value in the neighborhood in a slump or an upswing? Purchase during a slump for maximum profits.
The truth is, an investor not make a profit from the property for the first two years. Investment property owners should be looking at the long-term, because they may make money over the next 15 years, while others are not.
Check County Records for Property Value
Do your research, or hire a REALTOR who is motivated to do it correctly. Speak to neighbors to understand the benefits of living there. Look at the neighborhood surrounding the area, and try to determine if those homes have increased in value. For a solid indicator, consider county property tax figures. In some areas you will find a slight increase in the tax base of 1-3%. In other areas, like Williamsburg, Virginia, taxes have increased 15-13%. Tax base increases are linked to improved property value.
Are Revitalization Funds Available?
If your investment property venture is a legitimate business, contact the local Chamber of Commerce and county government to see if there are special funds available for revitalization projects. Most Chamber of Commerces provide such programs as well as classes where investors learn how to access these funds.
There are lots of great examples of properties with potential. I’d like to share some background about one of my own listings, a motel in Williamsburg that has not been open for three years. The owners do not know when it was built – probably in the 50s or 60s. The motel sits on 2 1/3 acres of land, which is all zoned commercially. The motel is situated right on a main thoroughfare that was once called “The Golden Mile” of Williamsburg. It’s geographic location is near York County a phenomenal leader in economic development. York County is enticing businesses by zoning the northern section of town commercial and it will be the site of the new hospital complex that is currently housed in Williamsburg.
Thinking Outside the Box
An important fact is not widely known about the motel’s location, which is key to its investment potential. One mile from the motel property, across from the Williamsburg Pottery, a gated senior community with full amenities (golf courses, recreation center, pool) will break ground in April 2004. The Fortune 500 Company behind the building of this project is set to build 3,000 homes, with an estimated completion date of 2006. Scanning the area, it is obvious there are no European Bakeries, international shops, or stores and eateries which deliver (drug stores, groceries, take out, etc.). A strip mall with leasing options for different businesses, or even an extended stay hotel could be built on this land, and run for a profit. Investors I have shown the property to are wary of the $1,000,000 price tag on the motel. In the coming years this price will seem like a steal for commercial property in the area.
There are many other examples of properties whose potential have not yet been discovered. Remember, once you land that investment property of your dreams, make sure you have a marketing plan, which includes a decent web site, to launch your business. When speculating, trust your creativity and vision, and rely upon the expertise of a REALTOR who knows the area, and shares your vision.
Elaine VonCannon is a REALTOR with RE/Max Capital in Williamsburg, Virginia, and she manages investment property as part of her business. Her husband Joe is a contractor who collaborates with her on rehabilitation of properties. She has helped numerous clients invest in and make money on property investments in Southeastern Virginia.