Thinking Like Your Buyer: Restrictions

As a real estate investor, contemplating houses to buy and remodel, or to fix-n-flip, you need to think like the house buyer you hope to sell to. It is important to do this before you buy an investment property to protect your profits from withering away while the house languishes on the market. Of course, deals come when and where deals come, and you often have to move quickly to snap up the bargain. Under this pressure, it a very good idea to take a breath and research the neighborhood before you commit.

I was actually thinking about real estate sales and roads when I found this tutorial on buying your first home in the online journal  But Amy Fontinelle’s tutorial caught my attention with her discussion on neighborhood associations and deed restrictions. The tutorial offers first-time buyers a sensible and interesting mix of things to look at when purchasing a house. As real estate investors planning to buy houses to resell, you need to think like your buyer too.

Neighborhoods Have Rules: Some are Written Down

First, she tells first-time home buyers that different neighborhoods have different characteristics and that you want to pick one that is “the closest fit to your lifestyle and personality.” One of the items she recommends first-time buyers think about is whether there are restrictive covenants in the neighborhood. I hope as I write this that you will not be able to tell whether I am a free-wheeling renegade or a neatnik appreciative of boundaries and rules. Here goes.

Neighborhood associations can be a friend or a nemesis to your buyer. They can impose maintenance requirements on the home owner or forbid certain adornments. As Ms. Fontinelle says, “You might not be able to leave trash cans out past a certain hour on trash day, paint your house blue, or let your grass grow too tall.”

Get the Whole Story

Facts and statistics about the neighborhood are available on real estate websites, but to get the whole story, you may need to talk to the current residents, walk the neighborhood, and visit local Facebook groups. Once you have found out about the neighborhood, ask yourself, who do I think is going to buy this house I am investing in. You need to use your imagination because your buyer may be very different from yourself and have different tastes. Can you picture them and sell a house to them with genuine enthusiasm?

Backyard Chickens and Pit Bulls

When you look at the property you are about to invest in do you picture a buyer who is a bit of an urban farmer who likes freedom and won’t mind a community garden next door and may want to raise backyard chickens, walk a pit bull on a leash, and grow wheat in their front yard?

Are you finding that the neighborhood is so exclusive and restrictive that you are having trouble imagining who would want to live there? As Ms. Fontinelle reminds us, many people appreciate the restrictions and like the tidier appearance that may boost property values.” Others she says, “Find them obnoxious.” Here are a few things to consider:

Are sheds and outbuildings forbidden?

Are you allowed to pasture a cow or a horse?

Are the yards meticulously manicured?

Do the neighbors have extensive gardens?

Is curb appeal a big deal or do the neighbors find the house with a big garden intimidating?

Are pets allowed?

Resales and Loan Request: Why it Matters

As the fix-n-flip investor, these restrictions matter to you in two ways: (1) will you be able to sell the house eventually, and (2) how will these restrictions impact my project’s expenses and loan request?

Let me know if you have found any deals this month that you know you can turn around and resell with enthusiasm. I hope that I can be of help to you this month.

I can be reached at
Austin, Texas

References: How to Buy Your First Home: A Step-by-Step tutorial. Amy Fontinelle


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