My dad died December 13, 2020, due to Covid. It was every bit as awful as what you've read about online or have seen on TV news reports. He died alone, and his loss continues to torment our family. "Why did others come home, but he didn't?" is a question my mom asks on a daily if not sometimes hourly basis. "Did the doctors do everything they could to save him?" is another question. We had a second opinion during every course of treatment from the time we made the decision to admit my dad to the hospital. But we still wonder ... and it hurts.
My dad, George A. Bertrand, Jr., was a good man. No, actually, he was a great man. Could he be gruff or short-tempered at times? Sure. Was he demanding and hard on my brother and me as kids? You betcha.
But I always knew that if I needed help with something, Dad would be there. My call for assistance typically would begin with calling Mom, who would then check with Dad, and then they'd always come through. Have a question about cars or real estate? Immediately call Dad. So that's probably what prompted this little venture.
My dad was well-known in our hometown of Ridgecrest, CA. He was very generous and enjoyed helping. In fact, after he passed, story after story came out of how he had helped people that we didn't even know about. For many, when Dad heard they may have fallen on hard times, he paid off back taxes or mortgages and provided rent free housing for those in need. He had fallen on hard times himself in his younger years, and friends had helped him out. He liked returning that favor when he could.
My parents built several successful businesses, mostly related to the development of vacant land. They had the equipment and the know-how to add the water, electrical and sewer lines where needed, along with paving streets and adding sidewalks.
I love real estate also, but more so home remodeling. I have a lot of energy, probably more than is all that healthy. When I'm frustrated or stressed, it's best to loosen that energy on "projects." In the past, my projects began with making window treatments and later led to painting the entire interior of our house (it was over 5,000 square feet) with the assistance of my youngest daughter, Emma. Mind you, Emma was a whopping ten years old at the time that we took on house painting.
Years later, when the kids were in high school and we decided to down-size, we built a smaller home, and I began painting furniture. But then we added our beagle pup, Bear, to our family; who decided our upholstered furniture made great chew toys. So I learned how to reupholster.
After my dad passed, I found comfort (or maybe distraction) ripping apart chairs and sofas and then piecing them back together with new fabric. Breathing life into discarded pieces somehow made me feel better.
February of 2021, my husband, Tom, and I flew down to Redington Shores, Florida, for a much-needed break and to start looking around for a beach house to purchase after our youngest graduates from high school in 2022. For the history as to why this area appealed to us, take a look at "A little Background and History." While touring a house on the intracoastal, it occurred to me that we could sell our home in Mount Pleasant, South Carolina, and put that money into a Florida home now rather than wait. I put a call into our property manager, and he agreed that it was a great time to sell the house that we had been renting to tenants since May of 2020. Due to the shortage of inventory (not many people want to sell their homes during a pandemic), homes were selling at top market prices.
We put the house on the market late Wednesday night March 17, and we had two contracts by Sunday. We even increased the list price $10,000 more than what we had planned due to closings we saw come in the week prior to listing. The closing was scheduled for May due to the tenant lease, and if we had waited another month to list the house, we probably would have gotten at least another $10,000 because prices continued to soar.
2084 Bancroft Lane, Mount Pleasant, SC
Once we made the decision to sell the Carolina house, we began looking at small homes to rehab in Florida. When Tom and I were first engaged, we bought a home in Redington Shores, a small beach town between Clearwater and Saint Petersburg. We liked the area, so I began looking for something under $200,000 that needed work and that would be a good investment.
I learned about "wholesale realtors." I didn't know such a market existed, but basically, there are companies that find distressed properties and sell them to investors. The wholesalers work out a deal with the property owner, then they offer the deal to investors. The transaction is then deemed a double closing - on the date of closing, the owner sells to the wholesaler, and the wholesaler sells to the investor. The wholesaler is basically paid a finder's fee to find a home for the investor to purchase.
I met with Mike Slanga, of New Western Properties, and he explained the concept to me. When New Western had a property that met my criteria, I received an email that detailed the cost of the property, the repairs New Western thought the home needed, and the comparable properties that could help determine what the property could be worth after repairs.
The email went out to the full list of investors that could potentially be interested in the property. It's crazy, but these homes are selling within minutes - sight unseen. I flew down to look at some of the sold properties so that I could see for myself that the homes actually existed, and I wanted to see if I would have been happy if I had bought one of them. The transactions are definitely legit, but I needed to learn the area better so that I could make a solid decision to purchase before someone else snatched up a good deal. While looking at properties, I met Riley Sheehan of Net Worth Realtors. He is also a wholesale broker with an email that comes out when they have properties for sale.
Somewhere in there, Abbie, our eldest daughter, decided she wanted to move to the area to work in a beach restaurant while continuing to earn her bachelor's degree online. Prior to the pandemic, online college was something kids joked about and didn't really take seriously. The pandemic changed many of our perceptions about life and mobility, though, so Tom and I were open to Abbie's decision.
We took a family vacation at the end of March down to Florida to look around some more. Tom and I planned to look at properties while the kids hung out at the beach. We invited my mom along. My parent's 58th wedding anniversary would have been March 23. I flew out to California to be with my mom on that very hard day, and then she came back with me to Chicago. She's always wanted a home on the water, and I thought Florida would be a good get away for her.
For four days, the three of us drove all over the Pinellas County and Tampa area during the day. Our mornings and evenings were spent at dinner and sightseeing with our kids, and we enjoyed the time together. Mom smiled and laughed more than I had seen in the prior three months.
We came back to Illinois, and I continued to watch wholesale properties that would come on the market. We specifically wanted to be in the Dunedin area or North Saint Petersburg where a lot of rehabbing was already taking place.
We also kept an eye on properties close to home in Illinois. I had alerts set up to let me know when houses with our criteria came on the market, but those houses sold equally fast. Countless times, we would look at a house the day it became available, then put in an offer only to find out the house had sold before our offer was even submitted.
So it basically became a race to see which location would offer the best deal. We looked at a home in April in Lockport, IL. As we walked out and discussed an offer with Tom's cousin, Ellen Lange, our realtor; my phone pinged that the house had sold. What? Keep reading the next post to see what happened ....