Fixer Upper To One Is Cosmetic To Another

fixer-upper-property

I receive emails regularly from people wanting to find the diamond in the rough so they can walk away with tens of thousands of dollars in one transaction like all the people on the infomercials.

Everyone wants the quick fixer upper resulting in the quick buck. In some communities, that’s very doable, while others are just unaffordable even when the house is about to fall in. Even I would take such a treasure. I toured one such property recently with a fellow investor and the house truly needed a lot of fixing up.

It had been a rental for several years by the sight of it. The carpet was in a mess with bare spots throughout. It was simply filthy — there’s just no other way to describe it. It wasn’t even “broom clean” which is what most contracts require when a renter or former owner moves out.

The walls had needed painting several years ago and the flooring in the kitchen had cuts and gouges all over. On the back deck, we had to be careful not to step too firmly as to not fall through and the back yard (it was a townhouse) was overgrown and unkempt. The fencing was fraught with rot and mold.

The bathrooms were also filthy with rust in the sink and tub, and the faucets needed replacing. The owner had turned off the water, so we couldn’t test if it was working or not. There were only a few light bulbs throughout the house so that we could get a good look at the crevices of the dwelling.

In the basement, the ceiling was drooping from previous water damage from above, the carpet needed replacement. There was also a smell of mildew throughout.

We were drawn to the property because the listing remarks said: “Priced below other comps. Needs cosmetic fixes.”

Well — what I was seeing was more than cosmetic. In addition, when you see that the interior is in such disrepair, you have to wonder about all the stuff you can’t see in a casual visit — the attic, roofing, rot around the base of the house, termites, etc.

The investor-owner used the house truly as a commodity and did not take care of the product. However, in our escalated market, the asking price was $359,000. So is this the type of fixer-upper you’re looking for? A comparative market analysis of that area today — 60 days later — shows properties of that type selling for upwards to $410,000. In a market such as the Washington, D.C. area, such a gamble may be worth it.

The problem with this target property is that the owner was not offering the property up as a fixer upper, but the market showed it could be moving up to that level. The property needed at least $25,000 in repairs and then the marketing costs would be about another $20,000 to $25,000 — so there goes the equity and your quick-turn profit.

If you’re in a more normal market, you need a lot more equity to walk into before being willing to start polishing that diamond. There should be a projected profit margin of at least double your expenses — thus after fixing up a property and selling it, all those expenses should equal your profit.

Example: You purchase a fixer upper for $150,000, put in $25,000 to fix it up, and sell it for $225,000. Your gross profit would come in at $50,000, subtract commission and closing costs of 7 percent and you’re down to $34,250. To be sure that you’re going to get the amount of money here that you want, you MUST insist on a thorough home inspection by a qualified (preferably, certified) home inspector. This person will be key in finding out how much money you’re about to put out in return for your investment. In addition, you want a Realtor involved who can give you comps of the area so you know what your target price will be.

When it comes time to your first fixer upper investment the key point here is patience and don’t let dollar signs in your eyes blind you to the reality of the return on your investment.

Written by M. Anthony Carr

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