By Patrick Zanders from Nationwide, USA
The following is the first in a series of articles from Patrick Zanders, who operates a small firm that locates unsecured lines of business credit for both seasoned investors and newbies. He also has ongoing free education for those interested in learning various ways to invest using their newly acquired lines.
Empty Houses = Full Pockets
Driving through any neighborhood that does not qualify for the "lifestyles of the rich and famous" television program (and there are even some in these neighborhoods too), you will find homes that have overgrown, unkept lawns, a stack of free newspapers on the front steps, no curtains in the windows, and basically just a "nobody lives here" feel to it. These are the properties that you are looking for. Once found, you need to act quickly and seize your profits!
When you locate a property that you feel is vacant, the first thing that you will want to do is attempt to locate the owners of the property. First and foremost, go to a neighbors home and see if they know anything about the home and it's former occupants. Many times a neighbor will be a goldmine of information, and they oftentimes LOVE TO TALK! Take out your notepad and begin taking all of the information down that they care to share. Do understand that much of this info may be speculation and gossip, but there may indeed be a nugget of truth in there somewhere. If they indeed did say that the property was vacant, you may want to sneak a peek at any old mail that may have been delivered and not forwarded. It is illegal to take mail out of the mailbox, but you can sneak a peek and get the name off of any old mail. This in itself will aid you in locating the end owner.
Now that you have armed yourself with as much ammunition as you could find at the property, you will want to set out to investigate even further. Depending on the size of the city you are in, you will want to go to the city hall or county building and simply ask who you would speak to in order to locate the owner of a certain property. They will direct you to the office or offices that will give you the best information. I personally have found that the tax recorders office has the best records, because they collect the taxes each year. In my town, they will tell me if the property was classified as a single family or multi-family home and the name and address of the last known owner. Between what I located at the property itself from the neighbors, my sneaking around and the city and county buildings, I set out to contact owners.
Before I actually attempt to get to the owners of the property on the phone, I try and talk with the person that actually lived in the property last. Many times this was a tenant. Why would I want to talk with them? Simple. You want to find out the truth behind what was wrong with the place! Again, you want to try and get the previous tenants on the phone if possible. If you have their name and address you can do a quick search using an online phone directory called Any Who (www.anywho.com). Once here, you simply input their information and hopefully you will come up with a contact number. A quick call to the tenant explaining that you are doing research on the property located at whatever the address is and that you need information on the property "before our offices contact the owner" and you will get EVERY BIT OF DIRT THE HOME HAS TO OFFER! You will know which lights are burnt out and what hinges squeak on which doors. Of course, we want all this information as it will give us the control that we need when speaking to an owner.
The final step is to contact the owner themselves. When contacting them, you want to have extreme confidence when speaking with them. The way to gain this confidence is to remember that you hold all the cards;
You know what is wrong with the home.
You know that it is costing the owners money either in payments, insurance, taxes, or all three.
You know that they do not have a ton of interest in the property, or they would be doing something with it.
Get the sellers on the phone if you can and tell them that you are an investor that is purchasing and renovating homes in the certain community that their vacant home sits in. Tell them that you are working with neighbors in the community (you are because you spoke with them remember), in an effort to revitalize the neighborhood in which they live and that you have an interest in possibly acquiring the property IF the repairs are not too extensive. At first the owners may try to play hardball and state that the home is great and they were planning on fixing it up, but that they would consider any offers. Be nice and upbeat and explain that that would be great. Tell them that you had already figured that they would be looking to fix it up and that you have a list of needed repairs made from an exterior inspection and speaking with the former tenants (give them the tenants name). At this point they will know that you have them and their attitudes will change. Make your low ball offer and see if they bite. Sometimes you get lucky and they say that they want to get rid of it and basically ask YOU what you want to pay. Again, low ball is the key phrase. The bottom line is to acquire the property for as little money off of your unsecured credit lines as possible.
Many people have asked what I personally do if I cannot find a former tenant or the owner themselves. Well, if I cannot find a former tenant, I visually inspect the neighborhood and the exterior of the home and still contact the owners with an air of confidence, as I know that they still have a vacant property that is costing them money. If I cannot locate the owner? That's a simple one. I place a big, bold hand printed FOR SALE BY OWNER sign in the yard with my number on it. More often than not, the owner, a relative of the owner, or a friend of the owner will call me. Most of the time it is the owner themselves. If they do, I apologize for the sign stating that an assistant must have gotten their house confused for another empty home in the neighborhood, but since I have you on the phone, what are you going to do with the house? The air of confidence comes rushing back in!
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