Driving For Dollars in Woodbridge Virginia: On the Road with the President of Prince William Historical Society.

In my last post I talked about real estate market in Woodbridge Virginia and how it has evolved over the past ten years from a dead zone into a highly competitive market of investors and retail buyers.  In order to get the deals in the market you have to pound the pavement.

One of the tried and true methods for finding real estate deals is what many investors call “driving for dollars.”  You have to know your market and that means you need to get out in it, regularly.  Driving for dollars is just getting in your car and driving the streets of your target market to look for homes that are vacant or are in really bad shape.

You can make this endeavor even more productive and enjoyable to involving people who know the area best.  I got in the car on a recent Saturday morning to go meet up with the President of the Prince William Historical Society and boy was it fun, educational and productive.

Barn Front

Front of the Old Barn.

Back of Barn

Back of the Old Barn

The meeting all started when he sent me some pictures of an old barn located in Manassas Virginia.  The barn was built in the 1940’s as part of a 300 acre dairy farm.  A developer had bought the farm and subdivided it into 10 acre lots on which they’d built large 6000 square foot estate homes.  The barn sits on its own 10 acre lot.

It’s a huge beautiful structure 240 feet long and 35 feet wide with concrete main floor and cinderblock main level wall.  The roof is a large Dutch style structure with open rafters and soaring ceilings that you behold if you can climb the precarious ladders to gain access.  The attic was once used for storing hay and there is still about 10 feet of hay up there still even though the farm ceased operations in the late 1990’s.

Pictures of the Loft

The president had contacted me because he was interested in seeing if the home could be converted into a residence.  He was very pleased that the developer had not torn down the old barn, probably because the demolition of such a massive structure would be costly.  He didn’t want to see it torn down by a retail buyer looking to build their own dream home from scratch.

Barn Storage Room

Cool Old Storage Room

We walked the old barn admiring the massive concrete silos, the vast loft attic and the rustic old front office where milk orders were once taken.  We imagined the many ways the barn could be converted and kicked around options but it was all mostly dreamy wonder.  The fact is that the barn is just way too big to be converted to a residence and the costs to convert even a piece of the structure would be prohibitive.  It would make for an amazing commercial property like a restaurant or a brewery but it’s located too far away from any busy streets and the current McMansion neighbors would not be happy at all with that idea.

If someone renovates the structure to make it a residence it will be a project of passion and it will cost them far more then they’ll be able to sell it for any time soon.  But, if they save it they’ll really be saving some history and doing us all a service.  There are fewer and fewer old farms in Prince William County these days.

After we left the old farm we just went driving the area.  Of course a member of the historic society is a great resource.  They know where the old houses are.  They know the homes that are under historical protection.  They know owners and they know people who are looking to sell and those who are not interested at all in selling.

We drove around the old neighborhoods where Woodbridge and Manassas come together.  There’s elbow room in that part of the county.  Most of those homes sit on acreage.  There are a lot of old homes out there too.  Some have been held by the same owner for many years and some need a lot of work.

It’s a great area to go deal shopping.  That trip yielded several promising properties that I have added to my organic lists and I am now begging to market to those owners.

If you’re an investor you need to get hyper local and intimate with your market.  You need to meet the people who know your market best and they’re not always real estate pros.  No one knows a neighborhood like the mail man.  Local contractors know the people and they know the houses that need work.  The best kind of contractor in my opinion is the landscapers and lawn guys.  They normally stick to one particular area.  Talk to those guys or gals and make sure they know you pay finders fees if they bring you a lead you end up closing.

Get creative with your market research.  It doesn’t cost you a thing.


  1. milliondollarmarine on April 5, 2018 at 8:39 pm

    Great article Justin!

  2. milliondollarmarine on April 5, 2018 at 8:39 pm

    Great article Justin!

Leave a Comment