10 Tips for Becoming a Successful Florida Real Estate Investor
By Craig Levine

So you're thinking about taking some money out of your stock portfolio or primary residence, as an equity line, and you're wondering where to put it? Hmmmmm. Well, I'll tell you, the panhandle of Florida has become an increasingly attractive investment for people all over the south due to its easy accessibility, relatively affordable real estate (when compared to other parts of coastal Florida), and significant rental potential. Over the last two years, I have gained quite a bit of insight into the beach real estate gig, having purchased property myself and having helped clients buy investments and second homes. Throughout my investigations, I have discovered several attributes and factors that will affect whether your condo or home becomes a money maker or a dog. Listed below are some suggestions to look out for. There are no guarantees, but barring another terrorist attack, I think you'll be well situated for years to come!

1) Buy a property with a pool - If you're buying a home, make sure there is a pool in the backyard. If you're buying a condo, make sure there is a community pool on the premises. Not everyone enjoys getting on the beach or in the gulf and a pool provides a social gathering place and relief from the typical hot Florida day. 2) Check parking lots and brilliance - When driving around check to see if a community's parking lot is full or empty. This will give you a great idea of how desirable that property is and how hard or easy it will be to rent out. Also, in the evening, check the brilliance of the community. If you see a lot of lights on in the windows of the various floors, chances are, the property is highly rentable. If the community is dark with a sparse scattering of lights, occupancy is low and it may be difficult to rent out. 3) Gulf front is becoming scarce - If your budget can afford it, buy property directly on the beach. Gulf front condos and homes rent out faster and for more money, plus they are appreciating exponentially. Keep in mind that vacationers may be carrying a lot of gear and don't like to cross the street or walk long distances to get to the beach. 4) Watch your association fees - Terribly high association fees will cut through your cash flows like a hot knife through butter. If you're going to be paying them, make sure that the community is well managed, has lots of amenities, and is aesthetic. Get a recent budget, balance sheet, and reserve statement to verify the health of a community. 5) Compare cost per square foot - Unlike Georgia, Florida relies on square footage. I never understood the lack of utilizing square footage in Georgia, but I've been told that agents have been sued for misquoting it. By knowing the square footage, you can quickly calculate the cost per square foot and use this figure to assess value. 6) Get an idea of rental rates by going to VRBO.com - In order to know how much money you might be able to expect from an investment, you either need to have a rent roll or know what comparable properties might be renting for. If you're new to the Florida market, go to VRBO.com (Vacation Rentals By Owner) and browse the market you are interested in. You can see pictures of various properties along with seasonal rental rates and bookings (on the properties with a calendar) that may show how well a property/community is renting. 7) Use a buyer's agent - I wouldn't recommend buying a property in another state without the use of an exclusive buyer's agent. It helps to get insight from not only the listing agent, but the buyer's agent, as well. Two heads are better than one and one of them may be feeding you a bunch of bull. It doesn't cost anything either to have someone represent you. Get your agent before you start looking. It's not fair to have a buyer's agent jump into a deal after you've spent time with a listing agent, plus, they will be able to find you a property that suits your needs much faster than if you were to look on your own. 8) Look for areas of opportunity and activity - Always keep your eye out for areas where growth is occurring. These hot spots may look like a junkyard now, but if you know what the long range city plan entails or where a major developer has just purchased a significant amount of land, you'll be sitting pretty. Additionally, when entering a development, check to see what level of construction is occurring. If there are lots of workers simultaneously working on homes or a hi-rise, there is substantial demand in the neighborhood. If there is sporadic activity, homes or condos are not selling well. 9) Buy furnished when possible - Unlike Georgia, most condos and some homes come furnished when purchased. This enables the buyer to finance the property, along with the furnishings, in their mortgage. If purchasing property as a second home, this provides additional tax write-offs. 10) Rent out yourself if you've got the time to manage it - Hiring a property manager may be a plus and may be a detriment. You may keep it rented out more consistently, but, you will pay anywhere from 20-30% of the gross rents to the managing company. If you can develop an online rental strategy, you can keep it rented yourself and pocket that managing fee. All you need is a good handyman and maid in your pocket!

Please feel free to call me at 678-784-4493 to discuss developing opportunities or your real estate investment goals! I'm always available for consultations in the Atlanta or Destin areas.

Having been licensed since 1994, Craig Levine brings to your real estate deal a world of experience, cutting-edge technology, negotiating savvy, and exemplary service. With Century 21 in Atlanta, Craig was the #2 agent in the #1 office in Georgia in 1998, 1999, 2000, and 2001! He repeatedly received Century 21's highest honor, The Centurion Award, in each of these years. In 2002, Craig joined Re/Max Greater Atlanta, the Nation's #1 Re/Max office. Additionally, Craig got licensed in Florida to bring his arsenal of skills and resources into the Emerald Coast's 2nd Home and Investment market. Now, he wants to put his talents to work for you! Craig is an avid boater, golfer, traveler, biker, and reader. He has written for numerous print magazines including The Seasonal, The Gazette, Cobb Living, Cobbonline, The Cobb Times, Atlanta Nation, Cherokee Nation, North Fulton Nation, Gwinnett Nation, The Southeast Business Journal, Lake Lanier Herald, Revue and News, John's Creek Herald, Forsyth Herald, North Atlanta Business Post, as well as various online real estate related web sites. Craig is also frequently quoted in Georgia Realtor Magazine, Florida Realtor Magazine, the Atlanta Journal and Constitution, and the Atlanta Business Chronicle. Please visit all of his award-winning web sites: CraigSellsHomes.com, MyDestinHome.com, AtlantaHomesAtlantaRealEstate.com, AtlantaForeclosures.net, EchoMill.com, and shortly, AtlantaMansions.net