Great news this week, we are going New Construction in South Park and building a killer brand new Craftsman Bungalow for ourselves on a canyon lot. I dug this deal up straight ninja style, no MLS listing, no For Sale sign in the yard, just some driving for dollars, looking up the owner on the tax rolls, a cash offer and we closed 5 days later. A build-able vacant lot, with utilities, in popular South Park is virtually unheard of. You’ve seen us do some Major bungalow transformations such as The Hat Trick House, The Neighbors House and The Target House but stay tuned and see what we’ll build given the opportunity to start from scratch and build one for ourselves! Plans are in the works, I’ll show you guys soon our design ideas. Stay tuned, 2012 is off to a great start!
Happy Holidays to everyone! It has been nice to take a break and spend time with my family and new addition for the holidays. We are out there turning over stones and looking at tons of new fixer upper houses to buy in San Diego, thanks to everyone who is also sending me leads. We Buy Houses in San Diego so if you know of a house please contact me. The Painted Lady sale is closing next week after easily passing the physical inspection and VA appraisal. We even have a back-up buyer in place who is devastated she didn’t get the home.
The home inspection was pretty interesting to say the least, we sometimes miss something but generally have had no problems with our homes passing after all the work that we do. This inspector however took a different approach and basically made some stuff up to fill his report. The big front picture windows we had custom made are of course tempered glass for safety, the inspection report I saw however said they were not. Tempered glass has a little logo in the corner, easy to see. For some reason this inspectors eyes weren’t focusing that day I guess. Foundations on old houses are another item that inspectors just feel they need to address for some reason, even if they are fine. The inspector wrote in his report that the house was not anchored to the foundation. Really?? What are all those J bolts through the bottom plate in plain view and the UFP plates along one side? I can see how some inspectors might not want to do the army crawl and check the entire perimeter under a house that sits low to the ground but there’s enough room under our house to have a party, believe me I spent all summer under there! Also the guy calls out the plumbing for being old cast iron which we removed and replaced with ABS. Probably the funniest thing I read in his report was that a light didn’t work in my hallway. I say to myself, OK a bulb must have burned out but surprisingly enough I get there and see that the dimmer switch on the 3-way wasn’t even on! If you are going to say something is wrong on a report wouldn’t you take a really good look first? When you get an inspection report that has obvious errors it’s best to just address them and provide your buyer with something in writing that shows where you feel their inspector was wrong. In our case my buyer was happy I showed him where probably 5-6 points were clearly invalid on the report.
Remember, 3rd party home inspectors are not City inspectors nor general contractors, and most of the time have minimal building knowledge. A home inspector credential can be obtained with 60 hours of online courses. Getting a bad inspection report is pretty common and sometimes is enough to spook a buyer and cancel a sale. It’s emotional enough buying a home, especially for a first time buyer. One home inspector in San Antonio named Matthew Gessner from Amerispec was famous with all the local real estate agents for blowing deals, its a wonder anyone uses him. A bad home inspection report sticks with the property, right or wrong, and has to be disclosed to future buyers if your transaction falls apart.
As I mentioned The Painted Lady had no problem appraising for the sales price. Home appraisers like to compare apples to apples but in our case Grant Hill doesn’t have any other sales comps for turn-of-the-century Victorian Houses, however within the 1 mile and 1 year guideline, the average price for a home like ours is around $600,000 although its best to use comps within the last 6 months and a half mile if you are an investor. If you are doing a big spec project like ours I would take a look at whats comparable within the year and a 1 mile radius, if you cant justify your sales price with what you find, there is a good chance that an appraiser wont be able to either. I’ve known several real estate investors here in San Diego that after rehabbing houses and getting into escrow, they had to settle for a lower sales price after a low appraisal came in so be careful with determining your ARV.
Here’s a walk through to show the progress of The Painted Lady at week 6. After waiting 4 weeks for historical board approval we finally got the green light so we started calling for inspections. It was quite interesting to say the least, initially we failed both the foundation and framing because of a few small issues. The trench for the foundation was 2″ too shallow, the plans I drew noted a 24″ deep trench which is overkill because a 2 story house only requires 18″ deep footings but I wanted to beef it up a little. I also upgraded the rebar size from the nominal 1/2″ as code requires to 5/8″ just do make it stronger. None of this mattered when the inspector showed up, he failed me anyway for lack of the 2″ to make it match what the plans called for. On the framing I was missing a few nails as the plans called for. I knew it wasn’t a big deal to make these few changes so it really didn’t bother me to fail. We fixed them quick and called the inspector back out 2 days later.
This is when I learned that nothing is going to just get signed off on that quick. When he arrived it took him all of about 10 minutes to measure the trench depth and check for the framing nails. He then proceeds to tell me that he can only pass me on the foundation but I’ll have to wait to pass on the framing. Really, didn’t you just look and see I made the corrections? I’ve heard that they commonly show up and will only sign off on one or two things due to time restraints. The framing inspection includes about 4 categories; roof, floor, wall construction and sheer panels and could take up to 40 minutes in theory. Although he already verified everything was o.k. he only passed me on the roof portion “so I could stay busy and put my roof on.” As you can imagine there’s not much new construction going on, so last year half of the inspectors got laid off so I don’t think morale is at its highest level. With half of the staff now the inspectors are covering twice the territories so there’s not much time when they show up. When dealing with inspectors always tread lightly, give respect and remember not to rock the boat. The best rule is to close your mouth and just listen. This is exactly why most rehabbers look for the cosmetic flips or sneak by without permits. Next week will be big, plumbing is now completely done, hvac done and electrical 75% done. Monday we are finally pouring the foundation after waiting forever for the City. Even with the slow downs I’m still pushing, small set backs are just part of the business.
Several other cool things in TomTarrant.com land for this week;
1. There is a new contest at REIClub.com that I am nominated for. It’s another Best Real Estate Investing Blog shoot out. I’m up against some really popular sites so please go and cast your vote for me. Voting doesn’t begin until Monday, June 13 and goes through midnight on Friday June 17. This one is big, I could win a $250 Apple gift card which my wife would love. I need your help on this one guys, if you like the info I share here for you, please take a second and go vote for me!
2. Joshua Dorkin over at Biggerpockets.com asked me to do an off the cuff Skype video interview for him where we’ll cover general real estate investing stuff and info about my house flipping business. Make sure and go by his site next week and look for the interview. I’ll probably spill all the secrets you’ve been wanting to know.
Yes folks, it’s definitely all about the short sales. With 1 in 6 San Diego houses underwater many homeowners are opting for strategic defaults and walking away from their properties. The hungry agents out there are simply working the NOD (notice of default) list and finding plenty of anxious sellers who want out as their home is now only worth roughly half of their loan amount. This presents a huge opportunity for investors and homebuyers willing to wait out what’s frequently a slow process. After scouring MLS for weeks for REO’s and swimming with all the sharks out there I decided to switch gears and actually get on the phone and start networking with the short sale agents who are on the front line with all the distressed deals. I’ve quickly come to realize that you have to make your own deals, not just look for one. Not every agent however who has a short sale listing is capable of influencing the deal, much less even closing it. There are third party professional negotiators who seem to have the process wired though. A good short sale negotiator can hammer the lender and dispute their BPO’s, even sometimes providing their own appraisals and documentation as to the value and condition of the property and build in the margin rehabbers need to make a profit. The downside is it can take 2-6 months to close a short sale so we are filling our pipeline up with as many as possible. Knowing who these agents are and networking with them is key, once again its not what you know in this market but who you know. If you are a homeowner looking to do a short sale in San Diego, make sure both lien holders give you a “non-deficiency”, it holds you harmless for the portion of the loan amount thats been forgiven. Our short sale agent has 100% success ratio getting this and has done over 150 transactions. If you are interested in a short sale please contact me.
Calling All Contractors! Contact me if you want to be a part of our team!
Moving here I had the long term plan of stepping away from the labor part of the rehabs and just doing design work and overseeing the contractors. Afterall, these arent huge projects, mostly cosmetic stuff. I had given myself a 3 year window to get to that point but after arriving here its evident that this needs to be my new business model right out of the gate. I’ll be hiring all the construction out so I can do multiple projects simultaneously so if you are a GC or know of a reliable one let me know please. Maybe once the market picks up for move up buyers I’ll do some larger structural projects again but the money to be made now is on the entry level stuff, that only needs light rehabs. The profits wont be as large as we were used to but with increased volume we should be able to make it up and then some. I’m super excited, our California LLC is set up now, we have over 30 offers out there and some are very close to reaching acceptance so I’m looking forward to finding solid team members on the construction side. Also, many people are reaching out to me, new blog followers and old alike. I’m stoked to meet all of you, after the machine gets running we’ll be open to joint venturing on some deals, offering some of our overflow deals to you or even using private investment funds so contact me if you are in San Diego and want to chat about all the opportunities we are seeing with the local real estate market.
I’m not totally over the bungalow craze so fast though, I’ve got an offer on this amazing California Craftsman REO, I hope it pans out. I’m competing with conventional retail buyer offers that are higher but hopefully the lender will opt for my all cash offer instead. I utilized my “write the offer with the listing agent” strategy on this one: ). No matter what we start buying we’ll do some fun stuff and try to set our rehabs apart from the crowd by hopefully offering a little more attention to detail and some cool design sense. I’m really making headway, once we have more deals than we know what to do with I’ll share a little more about how I figured it out. Stay tuned and thanks for following.
One things for sure, in every city across America you’ll find an abundance of 50’s ranch houses in great established neighborhoods and San Diego is no different. The post war Ranch style house is know for its sprawling lay out and horizontal orientation with the street, usually being single story and having an attached 2 car garage as this was the first decade where families actually had 2 cars. Low profile roof lines and fairly open floorplans are also indicative of this time period as are huge overhanging eaves and exposed beams. Sliding glass doors leading to outdoor patios were first introduced in this era as well. Looking at these homes makes you realize how perfect these traits align themselves with todays homebuyer, even 50 years later.
Recently its become very popular to put the modern twist on these homes. Being in San Diego now I’m not sure if I’ll continue with the Craftsman Bungalow affair we had in Texas but with what I’m seeing done to these 1945-1968 Ranchers its looking pretty fun. You’ve got the large rooms, open beams and open floorplan. To get the modern element into the exterior all you need are aluminum windows, smooth stucco and some natural elements such as stained redwood or teak. These style homes already typically have minimal exterior ornamentation. Metal windows, dark wood and frosted glass, Bam. You got it. I really like this house a friend showed me this week during our property hunt, I’m so excited about this design style I think I’ll try my hand if I land a rancher. The interiors are semi-minimalist but Modern with clean lines, high end finishes and trendy material choices, no travertine here. Formica countertops were also introduced during this period but there’s a variety of other new materials of course that mimic the clean, smooth look for counters.
Hopefully I’ll find the right house to transform into a Mid Century Modern project, were making tons of offers. REO’s, short sales, traditional equity sales and to private party non-mls stuff. Somethings bound to stick soon, stay tuned.
I’m giving 110%, eating and breathing real estate but still haven’t bought anything. It’s been just over 4 weeks now since rolling into town, sometimes you just have to pay your dues so I’ve come to grips with it now. San Diego is so large and to find deals you have to be willing to cover some ground. This week I looked at about 30 properties and made 4 offers. I know the city pretty well after living here for 27 years but I had to buy a GPS to get swiftly around town to some of these unfamiliar locales. Most of the deals I looked at were on MLS and bank owned REO properties. They are commonly vacant and beat up. Some more than others, its common to see signs of past renovations like travertine tile or faux paint jobs from times when easy money and using your home equity as an ATM machine were so popular here. Many homeowners simply ripped everything out when they left and took it with them. A lot of lenders are opting to paint and carpet and then list for near retail price.
One deal I found early this week in the middle class neighborhood of Linda Vista was listed at $168k. It was a great little 50’s rancher 3/3 with a room addition. I pinned the ARV at $299k. It needed complete kitchen, 3 baths, paint in and out, windows, stucco, flooring, and landscaping. I estimated my rehab budget around $60k, it looked real good so I wrote an offer of $172k hoping to grab it quick. This bank only lists their properties on a website, you are not allowed to submit offers via fax or email. Its like the EBay of REO’s. Whats neat about this system is its suppose to take out all the double dipping as the listing agent doesn’t even control what gets presented, the bank has direct access to the site and picks the best offer. You have to upload your proof of funds and everything to the site. On the last day someone overbid me by 500 bucks and got the house for $172,500. I should have sat at the computer all day.
My direct marketing is working as well, I’ve got offers out on several really exciting projects so hopefully those will come to fruition this summer. I’ve been networking with some other San Diego real estate investors as well, 2 of these guys have alot of offers out and have even offered me some of their deals so I’m real grateful. When you are chasing Short Sales here in San Diego its common to write offers on 15-20 houses and then wait for 6 months. This is the case with these guys and now some of the deals are getting accepted and they don’t want them all. I feel happy with the progress I’ve made during the short time we’ve been back but still anxious to break ground on the first rehab. Stay tuned to see what I’m going to end up with for the first project…
PS. I’m Still Looking To Network With More San Diego Investors, Wholesalers, REO Agents, Short Sale Agents, Contractors and most of all Anyone Who Knows of a Cool House For Sale, Friend me on Facebook or Contact Me here.
PSS. A Special Thanks to Peter for the lead you sent to me on the Real Cool house!
Here’s a great 1920’s bungalow project. It’s a bank owned REO in a highly sought after neighborhood. I missed this deal yesterday literally by hours. By the time we went to submit an offer they had just accepted another one. There’s another great investing tip back story with this house, I’ll share it after I know it’s gone for sure.
“Welcome to San Diego, Now Go Home!” This was a popular bumper sticker back in the day and I kinda feel like the real estate market is telling me this. After spending the first few weeks settling in I’m now excited to started looking at property and assessing the local market conditions. Here’s my take as an outsider just arriving. There are tons of deals here but tons of competition to boot. Several agents have showed me stuff and of course I am searching MLS daily for hours and getting to know the “new” old system. I’ve found the San Diego market to be quite energized with a flurry of seasoned investors, newbies and first time home buyers all competing for what really appears to be a limited amount of inventory. When getting in a bidding war against a potential homeowner for a MLS property you’ll likely get outbid unless its an all cash sale. All the newbie investors that seemed to come out of the woodwork, are also bidding the MLS REO properties up to a point where its difficult to make a decent margin. Some of these guys are settling for skinny profits just to try and keep their volume up. Investors are commonly using POF from hard money lenders, tying up properties with a winning bid and then going back to negotiate round two after inspections. This isn’t anything new but seems to really have listing agents’ guard up here. Local wholesalers are running around town touting their overpriced deals as well. Foreclosures at the auctions have picked up this year substantially but you have several big players to compete with who are paying up to 90% ARV minus repairs. One of these investment groups is backed by Chinese investors and bought over 350 properties in 2010, that’s more than 30 a month. Another group is doing almost the same volume and a third player has about 20 million floating in entry level houses as this has been where the easy sales lie. It was interesting to see that the San Diego Courthouse foreclosure auction is daily, not just the first Tuesday of every month as in San Antonio. That shows you the volume difference here. There are many partnerships of guys doing 5-10 rehabs a year as well and they are all competing for the same stuff.
Being in a new market certainly has its challenges, even if it is my home town. Looking back at our move to San Antonio makes me realize how lucky we were to pick a killer rehab off, right out of MLS on day 3 after arriving. Reality is setting in now, its going to be way more difficult to find juicy deals here. I’m sure I can pull it off, after all we have no choice. There are several avenues I have to chose from, one being to chase down the 3/2 bank owned properties in MLS that basically just need cosmetics like kitchen, bath, flooring, windows, landscaping and paint. With this model I would be bouncing all over San Diego County for sure. The other avenue would be continue with our specialty which is finding the inner city bungalows which are generally 1/1’s or 2/1’s and very small at around 600 s.f. and do the larger structural rehabs adding master suites to them. I viewed quite of a few of these this week to get an idea what my competition looks like.
Here’s a sweet one in the neighborhood that I like. Checking out the rehabbed homes I was interested to see some of the material choices as well as paint schemes. This one is really cool and new construction but some of the other rehabs really lacked the design sense that I know help sell our houses. One rehab selling for top dollar still had some 1970 aluminum windows left in the kitchen, another had some new concrete steps blocking access to the garage and the craziest of all; the top dollar, king of the area rehab that’s now Pending for $650k probably had the worst prep job for paint than I’ve ever seen. This was new construction addition where none of the blocking between the rafters or siding was even caulked before they painted it. The eaves were raw OSB with roofing nails poking through. I was alarmed to see this quality or lack thereof on the highest comp in the area. A new friend told me I should be happy to see this, and I was: ).
The 4-5 adjoining neighborhoods that I have targeted as my new farm still have a plethora of distressed homes in them. These of course are not for sale nor in MLS. We’ve started to ramp up out direct marketing campaign or what I call “the system” that worked so well for us in San Antonio and have been pleasantly surprisedwith a 10% response rate from our efforts. Doing the big remodels will thin out the competition for me as there are no homeowners to compete with, the newbies just aren’t capable and even the big players don’t want to get tied up in a 6 month rehab because they have to keep their money moving, as its borrowed. For me this works great, we enjoy the larger projects because we don’thave to find that many deals a year and we can squeeze every bit of equity out of them by doing the construction ourselves. The big budget rehabs with big profits are where it’s at so I hope I can end up back in this model. You’re not just getting paid for adding the latest “pergraniteel finishes” but you’re adding real value and forcing the house to appreciate by the additional square footage. Hopefully this is where I’ll land but I cant wait forever to start finding them, so we might have to knock a few lipsticks down in the meantime.
Here’s an example of the diamonds in the rough I am finding. There are some great old houses here, its just going to take time to start getting them. If you are a wholesaler or agent and got one of these, or know of one for sale, please contact me, we pay top referral fees. With all the heavy competition here it apparently has corrupted a lot of the local agents. One Top Producing “bus bench ad” agent would not even accept a full price offer when it was Active in the computer, holding out so she could double-dip and represent the buyer as well. Other agents getting REO’s from the banks seem to magically have a buyer lined up at the same time they get around to putting them in the computer, very discouraging to see such unethical behavior. Short Sales in San Diego are all the rage, its easy to get a list of everyone who is upside down in the mortgage and then contact them and offer to help. You don’t have to be an agent to negotiate with a lender on behalf of an upside-down homeowner. Once you get a low offer accepted you sweep in and scoop the deal yourself for rehab. Being new to town I’m being very picky on what we write offers on, it’ll be interesting to see what direction we end up going. You have to stay flexible as an investor and change your strategy for the current market conditions but we aren’t giving up so quick and bowing down to a cosmetic skinny deal yet!
We are in San Diego now! Over a 10 day period I drove from San Antonio to San Diego twice, bringing 2 work trucks, a 26′ UHaul and the family SUV. The trip takes about 18 hours, it was way more difficult to get out of Texas than it was to go there but well worth the effort now that we’re back. Pulling into San Diego was the best feeling ever after our 4 year hiatus but unfortunatley we were blindsided with disgusting conditions at our house which had been rented in our absence. The place was so bad we had to clean, paint and repair things for 3 days before we could even unload the truck. Not what I was hoping for after the huge move. It was all worth it now and we’re busy settling in, hopefully soon we’ll be writing offers and landing some deals.
There are tons of bargains on San Diego Real Estate right now and a lot of investor activity and house flipping. All of the deals I’m seeing here are cosmetic rehabs, mostly bank owned stuff. Not to say that we wont get back into some room additions and huge projects but I’ll probably warm up with some light renovations while I build my team of sub contractors. I’ve sent in the application to take my real estate test so hopefully I’ll be licensed by the time we sell our first project. It’s been a crazy move, stay tuned for some updates from the front line as I start to look at potential projects soon.