Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Confessions of a Tacoma Real Estate Entrepreneur

Every investor will have their collection of tales in real estate investing. They will have the tale of the "one" that got away. They will have their defining moments in defeat and in victory. I would like to share such a tale with you.

In Late Summer of 2006, I was heavily invested in the Sixth Avenue district in Tacoma. I had researched every parcel up and down that business district, primarily because of the zoning (which is mostly Residential Commercial Mix-Use and Neighborhood Commercial Mix-Use). I felt strongly that Sixth Avenue would become the next Capital Hill in Tacoma. The district is still mostly made up of single family homes but with great zoning and is within walking distance of a lot of great restaurants and bars.

As I dug deeper into the zoning (height limit for most parcels between Pine and State Streets and N. 8th and S. 8th is 45') and the parcels in the area, I realized that sooner or later land prices would become a premium. Why?

SFH prices were high and far outpriced the value of the land they sat on. Homes in the area typically go for 250k plus and usually sit on a smaller than 5k square foot parcel. Actually, there are very few SFHs that sit on anything larger than a 5k lot. I used the mapguide viewer on the City of Tacoma's GovMe site extensively for this. This research led me to make two decisions first I bought a four plex sitting on a 7800 square foot lot that had a nice rental income stream and was well priced at the time. And secondly, I targeted several parcels for acquisition.

One such parcel was located across the Jack in the Box on State Street, it was a small three bedroom rental on a 10k lot. The owner was in the local area and bought it for less than $150k. She had owned it for about three years. I cross referenced her name with White Pages, got a number, and made the call.

I told her I was a local real estate investor and was interested in her house on State street. I asked her if she had any intention of selling and she said she didn't. Not wanting to lose the opportunity, I made a verbal offer of $300k on the spot. She took a deep breathe and asked if I was serious, I said absolutely and said there would be an written offer to her in an hour.

I wrote the offer up with and/or assigns (I like having flexibility), and it was accepted. I knew the land value of the property was worth significantly more than $30/sq ft, so I reached out to several area investors and ended up assigning the contract to a Seattle developer for $17k. Not a bad little deal for the amount of time invested. By the way there are no other SFH on 10k lots in the Sixth Avenue Area that would be at this price point (I have looked).

Look for opportunities, aggressively pursue them, make a strong offer and move the deal.

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