One of the many things we do when looking for houses to buy is what they call “driving for dollars” in the biz. To do this, you pick a neighborhood, drive around all the streets, and make note of any house with certain characteristics, such as:
- Obvious exterior problems
- Neglected landscape
- Appearance of being unoccupied
- Very old for sale sign, or for sale by owner
We write down the addresses and put them on a list to send letters to. If we have a phone number, we call it and chat about their needs and our services.
If you go driving for dollars on a weekend, you often have a chance to visit Open Houses. Now, these are usually houses that are in relatively good shape, with a real estate agent already hired to try to get as much money as possible for the house. In these cases, we grab the opportunity to:
- Chat with the agent (if the agent isn’t busy talking to potential retail customers and trying to earn a living)
- Let the agent know we are looking for hard-to-sell houses, and hand out our cards
- Look at the house to get ideas for future projects (paint colors, kitchen surfaces, etc.)
Anita and I were walking for dollars last weekend, and came across an open house, so I went in and checked it out. We were in a neighborhood where we normally wouldn’t buy (homes high on an Austin hill, ranging from $700K and up to multiple millions), but I figured I could get some ideas. And, I did. Wow, it has views and a really cool floor plan, but I knew I’d remove some wall-to-wall mirrors and consider new kitchen cabinets. On the other hand, who cares. It’s in such a beautiful spot, and features so many quality details that I knew it wasn’t for us. Someone is going to buy it for close to list price.
Still, I had a chat with the agent, and he knows about us, now. Fingers crossed that he runs into a house that isn’t retail-worthy and lets us know!
We also took notes on some houses further down the hill that might be more for us. We will see if we can write them letters…