Unlike most real estate investors, I am a journeyman carpenter, with over 30 years of hands-on experience inspecting various types of residential and commercial properties. So, when I conduct an inspection, I show up at the property in my old coveralls with my clipboard and inspection checklists, searchlight, high-powered binoculars, mini-tape recorder, digital camera, and ice pick. I use the binoculars to inspect the roof, chimney, fascia, and soffit. The ice pick is used to check wood for dry rot and termite damage. I use the mini-tape recorder to record detailed descriptions of needed repairs. And the digital camera is used to take pictures of needed repairs, which are e-mailed to contractors to obtain repair cost estimates. The main thing that I am looking out for during my inspections is any type of structural damage that would be costly and time consuming to repair. For example, I recently inspected a rundown concrete block building, which had a leaky flat roof. During the inspection, I found four roof trusses located right smack-dab in the middle of the roof that were rotted beyond repair and needed replacement. I took pictures of the damaged area and e-mailed them to three Florida licensed building contractors and received repair cost estimates ranging from $12,000 to $18,000. I turned around and bought a one-year option on the property for $4,000 at a fixed purchase price, which was $20,000 below what I would have offered if I had not inspected the property and found the structural defect in the roof. In addition to inspecting the property itself, I always check out the neighborhood where the property is located between the hours of 8 p.m. and 12 p.m. During my neighborhood inspections, I check for excessive noise, cars parked in the street, rowdy parties with drunks wandering around, gang activity, and any other public nuisance that could adversely affect the property's resale value. I do this to avoid buying properties in neighborhoods that are placid during the day but become ugly after dark. I drive through neighborhoods after a heavy rainfall to check for drainage and flooding problems.
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