My Hunt to Buy Homes in Woodbridge Virginia
Finding great real estate deals in the Northern Virginia area is pretty tough these days. I buy houses all around the Washington DC area but there are some towns I like in particular. One of those areas is Woodbridge Virginia in Prince William County. Woodbridge is still reasonably priced (comparatively) and it provides several commuting options for people to get into nearby Washington DC including I-95 HOT/HOV Lanes, slugging, busses and the VRE. A family can easily save $100,000 on a similar sized home by just crossing over the Occoquan River which is the border between Prince William and Fairfax Counties.
Don’t know what slugging is? Look it up, it’s amazing.
But it’s no longer an easy place to find deals. There is a lot of competition but that doesn’t stop me from trying and I’m not afraid to compete.
I remember back in October of 2008; the financial market had just collapsed. In that month alone real estate values in Woodbridge had dropped an unbelievable fifteen percent. Yeah, fifteen percent drop in one month! That wiped out a lot of real estate investors. Nobody has more than a fifteen percent cushion built into their deals. Investors found themselves in the red on deals they believed were slam dunks just a week or two earlier.
At about that same time Prince William County also passed some immigration laws that some believe exacerbated the problem. The theory was that a lot of Hispanic families packed up and moved out of town as a result of the new laws.
I don’t really know the cause but I do believe a lot of Hispanic families walked away from their houses at that time. I don’t know if it was the new laws or if it was the fact that many Hispanics work in the construction industry and that industry pretty much dried up overnight. A lot of constructions workers and tradesmen found themselves out of work and or out of business.
Whatever the reason, the fact was that all those older homes in the Dale City area dropped in value like fifty percent and that drug down values for the entire Woodbridge area.
I was looking at the data at the time and I couldn’t believe the opportunity. The average home price had dropped to below $200,000 with the average household income well over $80,000 per year. That ratio is unheard of these days.
So I started calling every private money lender and every cash investor I knew to raise money and buy up as many houses as I could. I was stunned by the response I got from my cash people. They didn’t want to touch it. One investor told me Woodbridge is a “war zone.” They had all just been soaked on any investment they had in the area and they didn’t want any more of it. I couldn’t raise near enough money.
Now, with the market at peak prices investors are throwing money at me and anyone else calling themselves a real estate investor.
Now the competition is stiff in Woodbridge Virginia. With a stock of older homes in need of updating and prices relatively low as compared to Fairfax County, Woodbridge is a prime area for investors and retail buyers alike to find a home within their price range.
Gone are the days where I could find good deals listed on the internet. Now, I have to work harder to find those home owners who want to sell their home but for what-ever reason they don’t want to list it on the open market. Perhaps the home is to run-down or there are title issues or it’s in an Estate and the heirs are not getting along. Or, maybe it’s just people who don’t want to pay big real estate commissions and mess with home inspectors, appraisers and all those things you have to stomach when you sell to the retail buyer.
How do I find those home owners? I have several tried and true methods. I send out those pesky post cards everyone hates. People hate them but they work. I also pay for click advertising on my company website; Snow Goose Homes, LLC. I do a lot of social networking paying for adds on Facebook and others. But, one of the most powerful things I do is I get in the car and I drive neighborhoods. Some investors call this driving for dollars.
When I’m diving I look for homes that seem sad, homes that appear to need a lot of work. I’m really excited when I see a home that looks to be vacant. I make a list of those homes. I’ll usually just spend an hour or less driving on a typical outing and it will usually only generate maybe a half dozen new properties to add to my list. I then go back to my office and pull tax records on the property and see if I can find the contact information for the seller. The result of my research will tell me which list I add the property to or if I discard in completely.
Once I get in contact with an interested seller I strive to be honest and build a reputation for reputability. That goes a long way when there are so many people out there trying to get a home under contract just to assign that contract to several other people for fees and a little slice of the action. I do what I say and I say what I do. I also know the value of Woodbridge Virginia. That all seems fluffy but track record means a lot when you’re in a business filled with shysters.
In my next post I’m going to tell you about the day I spent this week out driving in the Woodbridge and Manassas with the president of one of the local historical societies. It was quite educational and productive.
Snow Goose Homes, LLC
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