When I come across a vacant property with all of the telltale signs of obsolescence that appears to be a potential option property, I always do a quick visual inspection of the outside—I use an inspection checklist like the following sample—to try
FORM 4.1 Sample Vacant Property Checklist
1. Has the electrical meter been removed from the property? ( ) Yes ( ) No
2. Is there an electrical power line connected to the property? ( ) Yes ( ) No
3. Has the property been cited for code violations? ( ) Yes ( ) No
4. Has the water meter been removed? ( ) Yes ( ) No
5. Has the property been condemned for demolition? ( ) Yes ( ) No
6. Is the property infested with termites and rodents? ( ) Yes ( ) No
7. Are there any visible signs of mold contamination? ( ) Yes ( ) No
8. Are there any visible signs of environmentally hazardous waste on the property? ( ) Yes ( ) No
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to determine just how long the property has been sitting vacant. I need to know this information because I have found that there is usually a direct correlation between how long a property has been vacant and the owner's level of motivation to sell. And it has been my experience that the longer the property has been vacant, the better my chances are of negotiating a low-cost option fee and below-market purchase price.
A word of caution about vacant properties: If there are "No Trespassing" signs posted on the grounds or the outside of a vacant building, do not enter the building. Doing so is not only illegal but also potentially dangerous to your health, especially if the place has been booby-trapped by the owner or occupied by homeless felons. You also risk being mistaken for a burglar and could be shot on sight by the owner. I know an investor here in Tampa who made it a habit of stopping and snooping around the inside of any property, anywhere in the city, that looked the least bit vacant to him. I used to tell him that his curiosity was going to land him in the hospital one day. And lo and behold, one day this real estate sleuth made the near-fatal mistake of opening the front door of what he thought was a vacant house in East Tampa, but which turned out to be the clubhouse of a local street gang. The next thing this guy knew, he was surrounded by a bunch of crack heads wielding aluminum baseball bats, who beat him to within an inch of his life. When I asked him if he was going to be poking around any more vacant properties, he said, "Sure, just as soon as I get my concealed weapon permit." I have a sneaky suspicion that someday he will end up being the lead story on the local six o'clock news, and it will not be about what a swell guy he is! For the record, I do not advise entering a vacant property that you do not own with any type of firearm. To do so, in my opinion, is the epitome of human stupidity and a possible death sentence if the vacant property is occupied by armed criminals who have no compunction whatsoever about pulling the trigger on a handgun or rifle and killing another human being. Now, I do not know about you, but as far as I am concerned, there has not been a property built on this planet that is worth losing my life over, especially a vacant property that I do not even own.
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