The Advantages of Building When Zoning Changes

In this market, it is getting more and more difficult to find deals where an investor can simply fix up a home and flip it for a profit because sellers expect to get higher prices and there is an abundant of investors looking for the same deals. So don’t follow the crowd; find older homes in areas where the zoning has changed and build a new structure that will increase the value of the property. Here is an example of a deal I am working on in Los Angeles, California:


There is an area in North Hollywood near Universal Studios that is very desirous to live in. In this area, the zoning changed from single-family homes to multi-unit condos (three story condos with underground parking.) Because of the change in zoning, the property values in the area have risen tremendously, but that is okay, because the price of the condos units, when completed, are very expensive also; thus a great profit margin can be achieved. For instance, a friend of mine just inherited his mother‘s home which looks like a small, very old starter home: three bedrooms, two baths, and about 1500 square feet. It is not the house that is worth the money, but the property in its location. He was offered a $1,000,000 for his property by the next door neighbor. Should he take it? Maybe, but not necessarily. He asked me for advice.


First, I could see that the zoning had changed because all the properties surrounding him had three story condo complexes built on them. I investigated what the condo units were selling for and discovered that a 1450 sf condo demanded $700,000 and sold like a hot cake, and there were not a lot of units for sell. Then I laid out a building plan on the property after calling the building department to discover the set-backs and height requirements. I estimated that we could get 14 units on the property with a semi-underground parking structure. Fourteen units times $700K each equals $9,800,000.00 in retail sells. Then I calculated the building cost after talking with a local contractor to be $4,500,000.00 and I contacted a few financial institutions for a construction loan. By having the property paid for and the appraisal of the project as high as it was, one was willing to loan us the money to construct the building at a reasonable rate of 1 ½ points and 5.2 % ARM.


The projected profits, after paying to design and construct the building and demolish the old building, as well as taking away the financial charges, the marketing cost to sell the units, the closing costs and the holding costs for taxes, insurance and utilities, and paying my friend $1,200,000.00 for his property ended up being $2,562,500.00. I told my friend I would do a joint venture with him where he would put the property up as his investment and I would procure the construction loan and supervise the project: line up the architect, hire the contractor, see that the interior finishes are up to par with what is selling, line up the real estate company, create all contracts (using an attorney) and oversee the project. My friend would receive $1,200,000.00 for his property out of the proceeds first ($200,000 more than he was offered) and half of the remaining profits after all expenses are paid for. I would receive the other half of the profits with no money invested, but dong all the work. (A cool $1,281,500 in a year to a year and a half, with no money down). The key was finding the construction loan and that is why it pays to network with cash investors who may end up becoming lenders on future projects.


So, look for those unique deals that are a little out of the ordinary and think about building new.