Real Estate Wheelings and Dealings

I listen to an offer from a real estate investor and learn a lot about buying and selling real estate.

Back when I first started making real money as a writer, I invested in real estate. The first year, I bought a two bedroom condo in town as a rental. The second year, I bought a property that included a 2 bedroom/2 bath house and a small apartment building with four furnished studio apartment units. The third year, I realized that there was far more fun things to do with my money so I bought a helicopter.

I still own all that real estate, although I don’t really want to. I hate being a landlord. I hate dealing with tenants and cleaning up after them. I hate showing the apartments. I hate evicting tenants who can’t seem to pay on time. I just hate the whole thing.

I moved my office into the condo about three years ago. It’s more space than I need, but at least I don’t have to deal with tenants there anymore.

A few years ago, I half-heartedly put the five-plex on the market. I gave the Realtor I listed with strict instructions: only show the place to qualified buyers. Give the tenants at least 24 hours notice and get their permission before showing their units. Unfortunately, a local Realtor who was too lazy to show the property properly gave the address to a potential buyer. The buyer didn’t do just a drive by. He drove in. And he started knocking on doors. When one of my tenants told me about this, I wigged out and took the property off the market.

This year, I needed to upgrade my helicopter from a 2-place Robinson R22 to a 4-place Robinson R44. To do this, I needed to either take out a huge aircraft loan or pull equity out of some real estate. So I put the five-plex back on the market.

It’s been shown a few times and I’ve gotten some low offers. One of the potential buyers was extremely obnoxious about it. He didn’t want the house. He just wanted the four-plex. So he offered an insultingly low amount. I didn’t even bother to counter.

I arranged helicopter financing another way, so I’m not desperate to make the sale. But I do want to sell. And I’d like to sell sometime before next summer.

The other day, my Realtor (a different one from last time) called to ask if I’d be interested in carrying 20% on the property. I thought about it a while and said yes. And yesterday, I met with someone who made me an official offer, one that shows exactly how much wheeling and dealing someone can do in the world of real estate.

This buyer wanted me to finance the 25% the lender would normally require him to come up with as a down payment. He wanted to pay me only 5% on the amount I’d carry (when his lender was getting 6.5%) and amortize that over 30 years, with a balloon payment in 3 years. He wanted me to pay all closing costs. He was, in essence, trying to buy a property listed for $324,000 for only $290,000 without any out-of-pocket costs. I’d basically be financing part of his investment, with a high-risk loan that had little collateral.

The deal got weirder as the meeting progressed. He said he worked very closely with his lender and appraiser and could get the property appraised for just about anything he needed it to. So to make the numbers work, he could pay up to $350,000 for the property. I’d still have to carry 25% — which was now over $80,000 — and I’d also have to give him a “seller rebate” of $20,000 so he could make some improvements on the property. So not only am I financing the investment for him, but I’m making the improvements, too. And hanging a lot of money out there for possible loss.

I came to the meeting prepared with a spreadsheet. I punched the numbers in and saw that it was possible for it to work. On paper (or pixels). But was I willing to risk $80,000+ on someone who wasn’t willing to put up any of his own money? No way!

This morning, I came up with a counteroffer that I know he’ll turn down. I e-mailed it to my Realtor. Hopefully, this buyer will just go away. My head is still spinning from his scheme.

But I did learn one thing: I can separate the two properties and refinance them with two loans. I can pull my equity out and be in a good position to sell either property on its own. That’s something I hadn’t thought about going into this and it’s a damn good idea.

What do you think?