Tuesday, September 14, 2010

T-Shirts and Townhomes

T-Shirts and Townhomes

As the temps drop I reach into my closet for a long sleeve shirt to bike to Yoga. Despite the emphasis on the spiritual side of our Yoga program at Maple Grove's Hindu Temple, as shown in today's Star Tribune, www.startribune.com/lifestyle/102797769.html ,regular yoga practice reshapes your body. The shirt fit differently so its time to go shopping.

I don't like shopping for clothes. It more fun to shop for rental townhomes. But the process is pretty similar: its about first determining the proper criteria to even decide to try them on, and then using all your senses to determine if its a good investment for you.

I have very specific criteria for both townhomes and t-shirts. For townhomes I run some quick numbers to see if they make financial sense before I bother to look at the units. Once I choose to inspect the property, my senses kick in to high gear as I can determine a “no” as fast as I can determine the shirt doesn't fit.

Sight. I looked at a townhome that had really cheap vinyl siding that was filthy! Without even looking inside this tells me the HOA isn't taking good care of the development. Even the rear deck looked tired.

Smell. That the owner smokes is obvious the minute I walk in the door-and turn around and leave. Smell may also indicate mold or mildew. The one benefit of being allergic to mold is saving money on mold inspections as I gasp out the door!

Sound. Looked at a townhome in a desirable area. Good schools, jobs nearby, great access. Home was in great condition. But the deck backed a busy road and it was really noisy. I think traffic noise is something people get used to once they live there a while—but a tenant will also have that same first impression and likely find a quieter place to live.

Fit. The floor plan. Three bedrooms and only one bath? Won't consider it. No master bath. Skip. One car garage is a deal killer for me for 2 reasons: limits your renters/future buyers to a one income family, making it harder to financially qualify. Two: many townhomes don't have basements and people have a lot of stuff they want to store in the garage. Even a single person prefers a two car garage. I may waive these criteria if its a really prime location with limited supply where people will overlook these things. But for your typical suburban location these features are what the market expects.

Feel. I dislike clothes shopping because I'm so picky. Clothes have to be comfortable and non restricting. And the same holds true for buying real estate. I can find the unit that seems picture perfect. The numbers work, it looks, smells and sounds good. Like the floor plan and location. But it has to have “good vibes”.

Think about when you chose your current home. Most people will tell you “it felt right when I walked in the door'”. The Yogis have known for thousands of years what our instrumentation and scientists are only now starting to prove: everything is made up of vibration. Hence the terms “vibes”. Just like the smell from the cigarette lingers long after the smoker is gone, emotions linger as vibes after people have moved out. I have many years of analytical quantitative training. Numbers can lie: vibes don't.

I'm extremely sensitive to vibrations, a gift I've learned the dangers of ignoring. An inviting vibe makes me want to hang around. Which is why I so enjoy yoga at the Hindu Temple: the vibes are so amazing that the weight is lifted from your shoulders the minute you walk in the door. It feels like home. I want that same feeling with my investment properties.

When I find a property that meets all of my criteria, but the vibe makes me feel uncomfortable, I leave as fast as I can. Reminding myself about the last time I was so dazzled by the potential profits I ignored the uncomfortable vibe from the home: the City Council turned town my plat with no findings, the owner of the buyer's title company died shoveling snow, and the buyer was in jail the day of the closing.

While our market is flush with inventory, its not any easier to find good properties. In fact, its harder because there are more properties to consider that aren't right and it takes time to rule them out. But I take the time. In this market its much harder to resell a property when you buy the wrong one.

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