Some time ago, I was driving around north Seattle looking for leads on distressed houses. I wanted to find investment properties that weren’t on anyone else’s radar—homes that were vacant and a little scruffy on the outside, but with good bones. Cruising through the Roosevelt neighborhood, I saw not one, not two, but three abandoned homes that seemed to fit the bill. Seattle is just chock full of abandoned houses right now.
With this glut of abandoned houses in Seattle, some real estate investors are salivating over the potential opportunities. But, should you be eyeing these properties, too, or is there a downside you might be overlooking?
While abandoned homes seem like easy pickin’s, the reality is that these homes aren’t as easy to invest in as you might think. Even if you find a property that looks promising, you need to deal with finding the homeowner, securing the house, and renovating it as fast as possible. Otherwise, you could end up with a very expensive vacant lot. Let me walk you through the details—and the solution.
Why Are There So Many Abandoned Houses in Seattle Anyway?
Abandoned houses in Seattle have been an ongoing trend for close to a decade now. For example, in 2018, the Seattle Department of Construction and Inspections (SDCI) received 568 complaints about vacant properties. This is up from 265 complaints in 2013.
Housing experts still aren’t sure exactly how many vacant homes there are or what’s causing this trend, but they have a few theories. The most likely theory is that homeowners simply can’t afford the property anymore or run into a situation where it’s actually more expensive for them to maintain the home than to abandon it altogether.
To make matters worse, these homeowners continue to rack up hefty fines. The city of Seattle charges owners anywhere from $261.40 to $571.75 per month to monitor abandoned homes. And, the worse condition the house is in, the higher the fees. Homeowners struggling to make ends meet are desperate to get these properties off their hands.
Here’s where you come in. You can help homeowners get out from under these “ugly” situations. But, to do this, you need to know the best way to invest in abandoned houses in Seattle. Here are a few things you should think about.
The Pros and Cons of Buying Seattle’s Abandoned Homes
Buying these houses takes a lot of legwork and patience. And, the challenge is not necessarily in finding an “ugly” abandoned house. The main challenge is tracking down the homeowner, persuading them to sell, and coming up with a solid plan to renovate the property before the city has it torn down.
If you plan on doing this all on your own, you’ll likely run into more than just a few hurdles. You’ll have to weigh these potential downsides against the benefits of investing in abandoned houses.
• Make a difference. You can help struggling homeowners out of a bind. Many owners can’t find buyers because the house looks rough on the outside. But, you know better. Ugly houses are just ugly ducklings that are waiting to become swans.
• Hello, ROI. Abandoned houses in Seattle often sell for a fraction of what they could be worth once they’re renovated.
• Choices. There are tons of houses to choose from. You really have your pick of the litter.
• No marketing. You don’t have to spend a dime on lead lists if you don’t want to.
• Get ready for sticker shock. You may have to pay the backlog of property taxes and liens to take ownership. And, some owners are years behind.
• The search is on. You have to play detective and find the absentee homeowner. They could be out of the state or even out of the country for all you know.
• Are you persuasive? You have to convince the homeowner to hand over the deed to you. Some homeowners aren’t willing to sell to a total stranger, no matter how behind they are on property taxes.
• Time is not kind to homes. The longer a house is abandoned, the worse shape it’ll be in and the harder it’ll be to fix it.
• Need a foolproof exit strategy. If the house is in a neighborhood filled with other abandoned homes, future renters might not want to move in. If you want to rent it out, you either have to buy up the whole block or wait for other investors to revamp neighboring houses.
• Hurry! You only have a short timeframe to get the house fixed up. If the city doesn’t see progress or feels the home is a public safety hazard, officials can charge you hundreds in fees or even have the house torn down.
• Evictions are expensive. If there are squatters on the property, be prepared to spend a lot of time in court trying to get them out.
In my experience, going into this process without any sort of guidance or tools is a bad idea. The two most challenging steps in this process are:
1. Finding the homeowner.
2. Knowing what comes with the deal.
Believe me, this is so much harder than it sounds. Luckily, I have a better option for you.
Here’s a Better Way to Boost Your Portfolio
It certainly would be silly for investors to disregard abandoned houses in Seattle. Yes, there are a lot of downsides to investing in these properties, but that doesn’t mean you should give up. It’s a shame to see a perfectly good property torn down simply because no one bothered to find the owner and ask them if they wanted to sell.
There’s a better way to go about this process. When I became an independently owned and operated HomeVestors® franchisee, I started using Lead Dog. It’s a proprietary app that makes investing in abandoned homes a snap—literally. To use the mobile app, you just have to take a picture of the house you’re curious about. That’s it. Lead Dog handles the rest. From just a picture, it sorts through thousands of public files to locate the name and address of the homeowner. That information could take you weeks to find on your own.
But, Lead Dog takes this to the next level. The app will also automatically begin a branded direct mail campaign for you, giving you the best chance to land the deal. Lead Dog was designed by real estate investing experts who know how to locate and help homeowners who are in financial distress. The app will help you put your best foot forward so you can help Seattle homeowners get out from under costly mortgages, steep property taxes, and looming repairs.
How could this get even better? Well, the app is free for HomeVestors® franchisees. With the hardest part of the process—finding the homeowner—out of the way, you can help Seattle turn “ugly” abandoned houses into cozy family homes. Now’s not the time to wait. Contact HomeVestors to get started today.
Each franchise office is independently owned and operated.