Years ago, when I first started looking for homes to renovate and either rent out or resell, I would tell my agent to find me homes that had cat pee on the carpet. You see, I liked homes that smelled bad, were closed up and hot, and had lots of garbage all over the place. I liked homes that other people could not stand to go inside of and wanted to get out of as soon as they got into them. I liked them even better if prospective buyers wouldn’t even get out of the car to go inside. I liked these things expressly because most end user buyers did not. They just could not see past the garbage, the un-mowed lawn, and the smell of cat pee on the carpet.
You see, I know how to fix the smell of cat pee. I know how to clean up garbage and re-landscape a house. These are easy fixes. As I became more experienced at renovating houses I added more things to my list that began with a bad smell. I looked for properties that had these easy fixes that turned off other buyers. These lower the attractiveness of the homes and lowered the price. It made buying them easier for me.
I found a house in San Carlos Park a few years ago. The previous owner had rented it out to someone that raised Rottweilers. The house had all the right things wrong with it. The stench was so bad in the home that most people turned away at the front door. It was the middle of the summer and no air was on. It was closed up, hot and had flies inside. The garage was full of garbage, old appliances and boxes of junk.
The house also had all the right things – location, three bedrooms, two baths, a two car garage, and the yard, while messy, had a good base of mature trees and bushes. The air conditioning and the roof were in good shape (two key expense factors in renovations). The kitchen and baths, while in need of a good cleaning and paint were in decent shape as well.
I bought the house at an excellent price. To remove the carpet I had to cut it into small pieces. It was so loaded with urine and feces that any piece over 5 feet by five feet was too heavy to carry. I then bought an ionizer for around $700 (I still use it today on renovation projects) and closed up the home with the ionizer and the air running for two weeks before the smell was gone.
After paint, new carpet, new switch plates and outlet covers, and I had a gem of a house to sell.
I still look for cat pee in my deals. What I mean is I look for problems with a property that I know how to fix. You can be especially successful if you learn how to fix problems that others may not want to address.
Last week I put a contract on a piece of land upon which we would like to develop about 20,000 square feet of retail. The land previously had a UST (Underground Storage Tank) from a gas station that was on the site years ago. I have some experience with UST’s as I owned a bus terminal that had one. I know the risks and I know the cost of remediation. I was comfortable with the worst case scenario and how to handle it. I mentioned to one of my associates that this was just cat pee on the carpet. His reply was, “Huh?”
That’s what reminded me of the cat pee story and was the catalyst for this column. Look for the cat pee deals and furthermore, become experts in different kinds of cat pee, err, problems that can be fixed.
PS – the cover page for this article was an actual deal we looked at recently, see the two cats in the eaves?