I spend a lot of time driving around Richmond.

Often unguided.

This allows for new discoveries and observations, which are critical to a developer’s process.

You see, driving time for a real estate developer is akin to many people’s “shower time”.

It is when we think the best – and come up with new ideas and inspiration.

An informed real estate investor must see in advance where the action is happening and what is coming. This forward look at the real estate landscape is how you buy great deals.

Take note of where renovation work is happening – this is a sign other investors believe in the area.

Look for dumpsters, permits in windows, lock boxes on doors, and contractor vans.

Don’t be shy about looking at a permit to see the scope of work, or talking to contractors working on a site. They are often eager to share details about the project – and you if you like their work, grab a business card. You can never have enough names of good contractors.

Not all real estate deals have to be listed to be for sale.

Look for houses with vacant side lots which could be separated from the lot with the house. Land has become more and more valuable closer Richmond City.  New urban infill construction is in high demand right now.

Sometimes a pile of tenant garbage outside a property indicates a rough move out situation. Could be an eviction, which means you also have a property owner at a low and frustrated moment, and in “sell” mode.

Look for commercial activity. If businesses are moving in, it means they believe there is a growing community who will support them.

It is important to smile and wave to the neighbors. Their level of enthusiasm in reply is a telling gauge on how friendly and safe the area is. People are skeptical of strangers where crime happens. Neighbors know more about the neighborhood than you, so let their reaction to you provide valuable information.

Unlike most people who “drive for dollars”, I don’t worry about vacant homes or even the ones in blatant disrepair. There are already wholesalers and other investors going after those properties, and I don’t like to compete because competition means an increasing price point.

For added power, think creatively and have an open mind about different uses for a property.  The person who is the most persuasive in any situation is the person with the most options. The more options you can provide, the more deals you will generate – and more importantly, they won’t be the same deals everyone else is fighting over.