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How to Buy Fixers for Profit

Do you dream of becoming a multi-millionaire real estate investor? Here's how to get started: find a bargain "fixer-upper" owned by a worried seller. The hardest house for a homeowner to sell is a "doghouse," "dump," or "fixer-upper." These run-down houses turn off most home buyers, who don't have the money to cover the down payment, plus closing costs, new furniture, carpeting, appliances, roof repairs, and other deferred maintenance required to bring the home back into top condition.

As you look through the classified ads or at real estate listings, keep an eye out for terms like "handyman special," "as is," "fixer," or other tell-tale phrase. Ask your buyer's agent to list these words when scanning the Multiple Listing Service for you.

Why Home Sellers Accept Rock-Bottom Prices

Home owners' troubles often keep them from staying on top of their home's maintenance. Circumstances such as divorce, job loss, devastating illness, assorted addictions, or other personal problems quickly overcome distraught home owners, forcing them to sell. These home owners can't keep up with monthly mortgage payments and/or repairs because of financial or physical limitations. When these troubles arise, their home becomes a low priority and sometimes goes into foreclosure.

Find "Triple-D" Deals

Home sellers with three problems offer breaks to beginning real estate investors. A "Triple-D" deal is a Doghouse, involved in a Divorce, and in Default. The label "doghouse" comes from Southern California real estate agents who described the worst fixers this way. You may have seen ads for "ugly" houses. Often these "tired" houses need only cosmetic work in order to compete for resale with other homes in the area.

How to Compete in a Seller's Market

Once you've found a property that you can turn from doghouse to dollhouse, find out the seller's problem and then offer a solution. Distraught sellers commonly experience financial difficulties and need cash as soon as possible. Therefore, if you're ready to close rapidly, you'll be set to negotiate a lower sales price. Sellers with problems love it when an offer to purchase says "close in 10-14 days."

How to Complete a Fast Sale

Find an experienced lender and get yourself not only "pre-qualified," but also "pre-approved." Taking that second step assures worried sellers that you already have your loan in place for their property, and this puts you well ahead of other potential buyers.

Use a trusted closing or escrow agent who knows what they're doing; one not over-worked. Even in today's busy market, you can find an officer who can help you close in two weeks, when your financing is prearranged.

Real estate investing should be fun as well as profitable. Keep in mind that you're seeing potential when you view fixers. Enjoy your property search!

Copyright (c) 2005 Jeanette J. Fisher. All rights reserved.

Jeanette Fisher, author of "Doghouse to Dollhouse for Dollars," Sell Your Home for Top Dollar--FAST, and other books teaches professional real estate seminars and interior design college courses. For interior design articles see

For more real estate investing articles see


STAR resource center  Department of Taxation and Finance

El Cajon Apartment Complex Sold  San Diego Business Journal

Real estate records, 6/16  Lincoln Journal Star

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