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Boots on the Ground Strategy - How You Can Improve Your Investments by Exploring Markets First-Hand

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Love at first sight? Well, maybe not –at least not when real estate’s concerned.

When it comes to investing in real estate, some first-time landlords, and experienced investors alike are making the daring choice to buy property –sight unseen; without even looking at it first.

But while there are plenty of investors out there who have made this approach work for them, this method isn’t without its share of risk.

When it comes to investing, you’ll want to ensure that the property is worth the price you’re paying –and make sure it’s everything you’re expecting it to be. While there are a number of ways to scout out the area and surroundings without actually being there; with long-distance research, there’s always a chance that something will get overlooked. The truth is that in many cases, it’s easy for photos and listings to leave things out. Without a doubt the very best way to be certain about a property is by visiting it in-person, and seeing things for yourself. This is especially true for new investors, who may not have the experience to know which subtle warning signs to look out for.

If you have a market in mind that you’d like to invest in, it’s advisable that you go see the area, build a team, and familiarize yourself with the surrounding area before you agree. There’s often a lot more to a property than first meets the eye, and putting your boots on the ground, so to speak, and visiting the property yourself will give you valuable insight into its viability –far more than any listing or Google Maps would show you.  

Here’s a look at a few reasons you’ll want to consider visiting your potential property in question yourself before you commit to buy.

Not All Property is Created Equal

Regardless of what your preliminary research might seem to indicate, not all property is created equal. In fact, there are some properties which can differ simply based on which side of the street they are built on. This can be due to the view, noise issues, and other factors –all things which might not be mentioned in a listing. Unless you are there in-person, checking things out, you might not discover this until it is too late..

There are Some Things the Listing Doesn’t Show

The three-bedroom house that ended up being a one-bedroom plus two very small bedrooms, the lack of natural light in the home, the kitchen that appeared to be spacious but wasn’t –a property can appear one way in a listing, and look completely different in-person. You’ll also want to consider additional “features” that didn’t make the listing. Things such as mold issues, water damage, rotting floors are all examples of issues that could easily be hidden in photos. If you are buying a fixer-upper you might already be expecting some of these things, but to what extent? Without actually walking the listing and scoping things out yourself there’s no real way to know for certain the true extent of a property’s damage.

Tips for Buying Long-Distance Property

Thinking of buying long-distance? The good news is it can be done. The best approach, in most cases, is to visit the property in-person so you can see exactly what you’re in for. This is especially the case if you’re a first-time investor. Now, here’s a look at some tips that will help you to set yourself up for success.

Assemble Your Team

One important part of the boots on the ground strategy is creating a team that you can trust while you aren’t present. Sure, you can vet people online or over the phone, but don’t overlook the value of a face-to-face meeting. As when viewing a property in-person, establishing connections with people in-person can help you to vet people more thoroughly, and form better connections too.

With this in mind here’s a look at a few professionals you’ll want to enlist if you’re thinking of investing in long-distance property.

  • Property Manager – This property isn’t in your neighborhood, and this means you’ll want to consider enlisting the help of a reliable, reputable property manager. Someone to manage the property and handle tenant sourcing and screening, lease enforcement, maintenance, and more.

  • Real Estate Agent – If you are in the market for an investment property and have already scoped out the area you’d like to invest in, then a reputable real estate agent could benefit your team greatly. A good real estate agent can bring potential properties to you, and offer guidance on local market conditions, pricing information, and more.

  • Home Inspectors – When it comes to buying a house, it pays to play it safe. There’s a lot at stake, and plenty of areas where damage or problems may not be immediately visible. Things such as outdated electrical systems, potential problems with plumbing, and even foundation issues can be costly and devastating problems to discover after the fact –so be sure to have a good inspector that you can call on when you need a timely inspection.

Survey the Neighborhoods

There are a lot of things that don’t show up in the listing, especially where the neighborhood is concerned. While you may be able to determine the surrounding areas, there is nothing quite like being in the area personally to help determine if it is a good fit. Things such as sights (a cell phone tower right next door) and smells (a factory, or waste water treatment center nearby) can impact a property’s value too. You should also try to visit the property during different times of the day to ensure you get the full scoop on what the neighborhood is like at all hours of the day.

Try to Secure an Inspection Contingency

While there are usually a number of contingencies in any written contract, making sure you secure an inspection contingency is always a good idea. With this contingency, you’ll be able to wait until the inspections come in before you close the deal –vital for protecting yourself in case the property isn’t everything it appeared to be online.

Research Before You Go

Finally, just because you are going to go with a ‘boots on the ground’ strategy, doesn’t mean you can’t do your research ahead of time. There’s a lot of valuable information online that can help you to research your property in question; giving you a pretty good idea about its viability. So use tools like Google Maps to check out the street view, and talk with a local Realtor about the type of neighborhood that the property is in. Then contact the city to verify the information that you got from the Realtor. Doing your homework ahead of time can help to alert you to potential problems early on; saving you from the time and expense of traveling to the property if you discover something that doesn’t check out.

While there’s a lot of research that can be done online, when it comes to securing an investment property, it’s always a good idea to put boots on the ground before you buy. Purchasing a property sight unseen may work for some, but it isn’t without its risks, so be sure to do your research carefully –before you sign on the dotted line.

Investors: what strategy do you prefer? Sight unseen, or boots on the ground?

Photo by Lana Campher on Unsplash

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