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Long Distance Real Estate Investing

It helps to have “Peeping Toms” 

Startled by the couple wandering around the yard, and looking in windows she decided to yell over to them and ask what they were doing. “Excuse me, are you looking for something?” she called as she watched the couple peak into the basement window. My parents replied, “Um, our daughter is considering buying this house, and she told us it was vacant and asked us to look around. She lives in Toronto, and needs to be sure this is a good investment”. Thankfully the neighbour believed my parents, and was kind enough to tell them more about the area, but it could have ended a little differently had the neighbour just called the police on my peeping parents!

Unable to find anything that met our goals in Toronto, we began searching for a property in Vancouver or Nanaimo to invest in.

Vancouver turned out to be a bigger financial committment than we were prepared to make at that time, so we eventually focused on Nanaimo. We found a place, put in an offer, negotiated the deal and closed on our purchase from Toronto. I did not see the property before we bought it. In fact, we have had it for almost a year, and I still have not seen the property.

How did we do this? First of all, Dave grew up in Nanaimo and knows it very well. This is the fourth property we have bought in Nanaimo (fifth if you count the one Dave bought with his mom many years ago), and we have a very reliable and trustworthy real estate agent and property manager, Lindsay Widsten. Dave kept in close contact with Lindsay, and kept his eye on MLS listings to spot opportunities.

Second, we both have family in and around Nanaimo. Dave’s Mom did the initial walk through with Lindsay when the opportunity arose. She sent us photos and described it to us in detail. My parents went over on a different day, and walked around the block and peaked in the windows.

There is not much you can’t do over fax, phone and email these days. All our negotiations were done via Lindsay over the fax and phone. We had our lawyer here notarize our signatures on the purchase, with another lawyer in BC acting on our behalf for the purchase. We used the same fantastic mortgage broker in BC, Cindy Faulkner, who has convinced many lenders to loan us money at great rates. Finally, we had Lindsay rent it out and manage it for us.

It helps to have the right resources, and to have some knowledge of an area to make a purchase. It definitely makes it more comfortable. And, if you don’t need to see your investment on a regular basis then it’s definitely worth looking in other locations to find your investments. It gives you more flexibility, and may diversify your risk of market crashes because those are often very geographically focused.

Published June 16, 2006

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