Last week we told you about our plans for Real Estate Investing in Pontiac, and over the weekend we spent a good amount of time getting to know this market. So, how did we do that? Well, quite frankly we got in the car and we started driving around, and boy were we surprised! For those of you that know Michigan, and particularly Pontiac, please put an image in your head of what the average house in Pontiac looks like. I pictured seeing neighborhoods filled with run-down homes, with boarded up or broken windows, and lots of overgrown weeds and tall grass. Houses like this:
Well we did find houses like that, and in fact that picture was one of the houses we saw. But like I said we were surprised…we were surprised because we also found houses like this:
In fact, we saw whole neighborhoods filled with houses like this. Now, I’m not going to sugarcoat things. We did find areas of Pontiac that were exactly what we expected, but the big takeaway was that there really are some great areas of Pontiac to invest in.
So, having all this first hand knowledge is great, but it’s really easy to forget the areas we drove around in, so we spent a lot of time documenting the various areas we drove through. Here’s how we did it:
- We systematically drove through neighborhoods covering many parts of Pontiac.
- As we drove around, we noted all of the vacant properties and the homes that were for sale. For each of these homes we took the address, phone number (if listed), recorded comments about the house, and took a photograph.
- After we got home, we put organized all of this information into a spreadsheet
So, this was helpful, but it still didn’t give us a clear indication of where the good areas of Pontiac were. We essentially had a list of properties and comments about them, but it was hard to really put it all together. So how could we make better use of this information to make it immediately clear where the good areas of Pontiac were?
Well, the answer was to put the information on a map. Now, we had approximately 75 different properties that we documented, so it was going to be pretty tedious to map each of them, and I figured there had to be a web application out there that would map multiple properties at once. Well, as it turns out there is. I found a great little website called BatchGeo.com. This website allows you to take your list of addresses, copy them into the website, and it maps them all at once. And, as if that wasn’t helpful enough, you can also add categories of information (i.e. our comments about the houses) that will show up on the map when you click on each map points. So, after using this site, we ended up with a map that looked like this:
This worked out perfect great! We now have a map that we can really start to analyze. But it got even better when I noticed something. See that little button that says “Google Earth KML”. If you click this button it allows you to save a file of the plotted addresses that is readable by Google Earth. If you haven’t heard of Google Earth, click on the link and download the software. It’s free, and I think it’s one of the coolest pieces of software that Google has put out.
So I saved the file, and then loaded it into Google Earth and it worked! All the addresses were plotted perfectly in Google Earth. This was a big step forward because now we have a map that we can continually update as we learn more and more about the Pontiac market. The other great thing is that Google Earth has lots of cool features that allow you to customize your maps. So, to help us visualize where the good areas were, we started to look at our notes about each property on the map, and we were able to see the patterns of where the good areas were. So using Google Earth we started to draw red, yellow and green zones on the map using the “Polygon” feature. This feature allows you to outline areas, and you can color-code these areas with a transparent color. So here is what our current map looks like with all of the zones we have researched:
Note: the actual map has the zones color coded red / yellow / green to indicated the bad / questionable / good areas of Pontiac.
This was an excellent exercise for us because in a relatively short amount of time, we were able to learn a great deal about the Pontiac market. Plus, we now have a great tool that we can use anytime we come across a new property. We can just map the property in Google Earth, and we’ll know immediately whether we want to consider investing in the property.
So stay tuned…more to come on Pontiac investing…