Timing is everything in war, comedy, real estate

Friday, November 29, 2013, Vol. 37, No. 48

“Remember the Alamo!” was one of the most widely used slogans, catchphrases, rallying cries or cheers in the 1800s, and was perhaps coined by Sam Houston at the Battle of San Jacinto, which most feel was the decisive battle in the War for Texas Independence.

At the center of the battle of the Alamo was Tennessean David – he preferred David to Davy – Crockett, a man who came to be known as the King of the Wild Frontier and a character popularized in film by Walt Disney in 1955, John Wayne in 1960 and Billy Bob Thornton in the 2004.

For those unfamiliar with Texas history, Mexican army leader General Santa Anna surrounded some 189 volunteers in a mission called the Alamo in San Antonio in late February 1836. By some estimation, Santa Anna had as many as 7,000 troops. He bombarded the Alamo for 13 days before attacking with most them.

All of the volunteers in the Alamo were killed, and Santa Anna lost as many as 700 soldiers by some accounts. And what did they get for their sacrifice? A beaten-down mission worth nothing.

The rebel army, i.e., Crockett and his men, had heard of verdant pastures and abundant hunting, and felt there was an opportunity to make millions of dollars on the real estate venture. It didn’t work out that way. As early as 1836, the allure of quick bucks in real estate made its way into the hearts of Tennesseans.

In 2008, the rallying cry for real estate investors became “Get me a foreclosure or a short sale.”

Houses in foreclosures must have felt as David Crockett, Jim Bowie, William Travis and their men felt during the final attack of the Alamo, as millions of investors descended upon hundreds of thousands of homes with the intent to make millions on these neglected homes with as much deferred maintenance as the Alamo.

One of the problems with foreclosed properties is that they are often located in the same subdivisions, so much so that the “for sale” signs littering the community were as ominous as the tents and campfires of Santa Anna’s troops. With other foreclosures as comparable sales, all the homes in the area were under financial siege.

“Remember The Alamo” inspired Sam Houston’s troops to win a 19-minute battle against Santa Anna in which the Texans killed 630 of Santa Anna’s men while wounding 730 more. Houston lost only nine men in this battle, which occurred only 46 days after the Alamo.

If only foreclosures could have turned the tide as quickly. Many accused Houston of “running away” during those 46 days, but he was waiting for the time to be right. In war, comedy, and real estate, timing is everything.

The Nashville real estate battle lasted from 2008 until 2011, with prices falling all along in many areas. Those who caught the foreclosure bug early were forced to endure sleepless nights while being bombarded with bad news from financial institutions from all over the globe.

Finally, victory was achieved, but at what cost? The economy was mutilated during this siege with the job market losing hundreds of thousands of jobs that would never return. As the financial war waged, Mother Nature initiated a monstrous counter attack with the Nashville flood of 2010, leveling thousands of homes, many of which were in foreclosure.

The volunteerism that drove Tennesseans to the Alamo in 1836 revisited the area in 2010, with neighbors helping neighbors and nameless friends assisting anyone in need, shuttered houses remain. Even the scent of the financial turmoil of the conquered cannot overcome the stench of mold and despair for some areas.

The best real estate deals appear in areas with a long history of financial stability and most houses sell for what they are worth in its current condition in that area.

Sales of the Week

Who says you can’t lowball anyone anymore? Jamie Helms of Village Real Estate spotted a house that was overpriced and offered what it was worth. His clients got the house.

Originally listed for $649,900, the home at 932 Caldwell Lane sold for $450,000. The home’s previous sale was for $60,000 for the home in 1979, so the $450,000 sales price provided a remarkable return on the original investment.

The listing agent was Mandy Myers of the historic firm of Myers Realtors, a group that knows its way around Nashville real estate.

In the remarks section of her listing, Mandy stated the following: “Rare Oak Hill home. 3,056 sq.ft + 1300 pos. in 2 sep bldgs. Gorgeous yard (.74 acres:420’d). Convenient to everything! Big light rooms. Offered ‘As Is’. Many updates but needs more loving redec.(agent related to sellers).”

For all of you investors out there, this description should be the flag that screams to you that this is a deal in waiting. Myers knew when she wrote it and Helms realized it when he read it.

In short, this house has been cared for – “Many updates.” But the seller maintained the house for comfort and safety and had not necessarily subscribed to “House Beautiful,” nor had the move been featured on HGTV.

When the comments accentuate the location and include the words as is, there is money to be made if the buyer can renovate and remodel in a way that is cost efficient and in step and in tune with the market.

A good example of providing what the market wants at the market price is 1212 Linden Avenue, which sold in a few hours for $586,500 after having been listed for $575,000 in a sale that appears to have been in a bidding war.

This home, which sold for $258 per square foot, was listed by the dynomo husband wife team of Brett Sheriff and Jenkins Hardin.

The home had a new high-efficiency HVAC in 2010 and a new roof this year. In most cases, when these words appear, what it really says is “the basement flooded in the flood in 2010 and the roof was bombarded with hail in 2012.” Not always the case, but usually.

Richard Courtney is a partner with Christianson, Patterson, Courtney and Associates and can be reached at richard@richardcourtney.com