Technology has made investing in real estate easier than ever. Some would argue that it is now too easy. To gain access to property information in the past you had to go to your local town hall, pull the field card, and do a little legwork. Now you can find most of that info online, either directly on the town hall website or on one of the various property evaluation sites. While this has certainly made the business easier, it may not have made it better. It prevents most investors from taking a critical step. The best way to find information about a property, in my opinion, is to view it first-hand.
We have all heard the expression “pictures don’t lie.” Well, when it comes to real estate, they may. Realtors and sellers can take pictures to make a room or yard look bigger than it really is. The description may say that the property is located near a train track, but without seeing the property, you wouldn’t know how close or how far the tracks really are. A few blocks in real estate can mean everything. You may think your home is in a great neighborhood based on what you read online, but on closer examination, it is only a block or two away from an area you would not buy in.
There is really no excuse for neglecting to examine a property thoroughly. People spend more time researching what kind of phone they are going to buy or what cable company they are going to use. As an investor, your property is the asset that will either make you money or set you back years in the business. You should know every square inch of the property, almost to the point where your realtor or seller starts to get annoyed with how long you are in the property for.
The listing may say there is slight water damage or mold in the basement, but unless you see it for yourself, it is impossible to determine the extent of the damage. Some owners may even try to hide problems like these. If you didn’t want to go downstairs and check it out, you will regret it a few months down the road when you see and smell mold coming through the walls. As with most purchases, a little due diligence can go a long way.
You should use the internet and any photos you see online as merely a starting point to gauge your interest. If the pictures make the property look like something you may want, then you take the time to check the house out. This should not be the other way around. If there is anything you should be spending extra time on, it is examining houses that you are going to make offers on. Once you take ownership, it is too late and you will be forced to live with whatever defects you find in the house. Sometimes these defects can cost thousands to remedy and leave your value well below what you anticipated.
As an investor, you need to go through dozens of properties to find one you actually want to make an offer on. This can be a long, tedious process, but one that is critical to your success. Once you start getting lazy, looking at properties is when you will let your guard down and open yourself up for regret. All it takes is one bad deal to set your business back. Do your due diligence and always examine your properties.