Why buy retail when you can buy at prices far below wholesale. Our approach to real estate may not be for everyone. I love buying the worst house in the best neighborhood. I love buying a house that no one else wants, but in a spot that everyone would love to live in. This gives us the leverage to buy at bargain basement prices to ensure a sound investment.
Florida – The Hunt Begins
We had developed an interest in buying a house in Florida, that we could rent as a vacation rental, until such time that Mrs. FiredUp and I could use when we were ready to retire. Lake County Florida is an area that we were familiar with as my parents had once lived there after their retirement. I created a custom search on Zillow and received daily listings of property that met our criteria. At the time, we lived in Michigan. Although my father no longer lives in Florida, he was a “snow bird” for a few weeks each winter and I asked if he would check on any properties we might be interested in while he was “snow birding”. After driving by a few properties, he said that we might be interested in one property but it is not for the “faint at heart”.
The Rough Diamond
From the listing pictures, we saw a house that had not been lived in for some time. So we made a very aggressive offer, based on the pictures and my father’s description. To our shock, our low ball offer was immediately accepted. The sellers did not even make a counter offer. Hmmm…should that be a sign?
Florida Here We Come
We scheduled our trip to Florida for the inspection. Driving up, the house definitely had nice curb appeal. The neighborhood was nice and we immediately began meeting people in the neighborhood. Clearly, this was a neighborhood eager for new neighbors. We completed the inspection, and clearly, this house needed Love, but it had great bones. On the pro side, it was located on a great spot on a chain of lakes, it had a boat house that could house our boat year round, and the city was great and growing. All this for $57 per square foot! On the con side, the house smelled, the boat house was in disrepair, the back yard was like a jungle, wallpaper was coming off the walls, the carpet had years of dog smell in it, the kitchen had not been updated since the 60’s, and bathroom had a pink toilet, pink bathtub, pink sink, pink, pink, pink! Even with all the pink, we decided to proceed with the purchase of this distressed property, with our cash offer.
The Real Work Begins
We closed on the property, from snowy Michigan, a couple weeks later. I was between projects for my consulting company, so Mrs. FiredUp and I traveled to our new plush abode in Central Florida. I worked during the day, and we worked on getting the house livable during the evenings and weekends.
We worked hard to get the house livable. After a few days, we had the house cleaned out and the jungle-like yard was cleared. I estimate we took 25 loads of stuff to the landfill during that month. The local Goodwill and Habitat for Humanity Restore were the recipients of several items the former owner left behind. We had all the wallpaper stripped and the entire house interior repainted. All the stinky carpet was gone (on day one). We found Terrazzo floor beneath, in perfect structural condition. We cleaned, scrubbed, and disinfected for a month and felt good about our accomplishment as we left Florida (and sunny 70 degree weather) a month later. We arrived in Michigan to weather in the 30’s and 40’s with a mix of snow and rain. We started to wonder why we came back to Michigan. Yes, better weather was on it’s way.
Mrs. FiredUp and I went back to our regular jobs upon arriving in Michigan. However, we returned to Florida in October of that year and continued rehabbing our new property. We put about $25,000 in the rehab and today’s its worth more than twice our investment. Yes, it was hard work, but few things in life worth doing are easy. Today, we rent the property, part time, as a vacation rental and use it as our Florida retirement home. Being FIREDUp allows us to have the flexibility to live the life we want, where we want, and when we want. Mrs. FiredUp and I have chosen to take some calculated risks over the years. But 9/10 of the time the risk has handsome rewards.