Investment Property - Finding The Next Big Deal

By: Alex Anderson

Ken McElroy, author of "The ABCs of Real Estate Investing," has a method he uses to find prospective investment real estate. He's been at it for a long time but, he says, no matter how much experience he gains, he always uses the same method.

Research, research, research. "I have never purchased a single property without going through this process," he says.

His process is one that allows him to quickly narrow the scope of his search, and he describes it in terms of levels. Level I research, he says, is something you don't even have to leave your house to do. He calls it "the very preliminary stuff."

You may go online and research the major markets in a given area of the U.S. to discover the best cities in which to invest. You want to look at quality of life, economy, industry and population. Look at the newspapers and business journals in every city that interests you. Follow the links. Discover everything you can.

Now you're ready for Level II-choose a city and make contact.

What you want to do now is begin setting up your team. This is not something you want to skimp on. These are the professionals you are going to have to employ to get things going, experts whose opinions you will want to use. Your team will be able to see things that you cannot, because of its areas of expertise and because of its familiarity with the city. Your team members will be people in the industry and who have contact with the industry-such as lawyers, accountants and brokers.

Not all of your meetings at this phase are about setting up your team. In fact, you are simply attempting to gather information about the city at this point. But the knowledge that your contacts demonstrate at this point will clue you in on whether you want them on your team when it is time to make that step.

Level III happens when you return home. This is when you fill in any gaps that are left in your knowledge. Sign up for newsletters, have your contacts set you up with lawmakers and other business people who can give you accurate projections of the sub markets in the area, crime statistics, construction plans-anything that may influence how good an investment a piece of property is.

When it is time to make a decision about which area in which to look for property, start in the place you would most like to invest. Start there even if you don't think you can afford to buy there. You never know what you will find. According to McElroy, there are deals everywhere, even in the most desirable locations. Something that needs a lot of cosmetic work may actually be in fine structural condition. A place like that can be a real "diamond in the rough," according to McElroy.

He advises that you take a skeptical approach, and says he never actually expects deals to go through. This isn't negativity, he says. It simply allows him to retain the option of walking away, keeps him from putting too much effort into making the deal happen. If you have to try too hard for it, then it isn't a good deal. You have to be willing to walk away from any piece of property.

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