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Full-Timers Primer: Plan For Prosperity Print Email

Establish a successful full-timing plan with these tips related to buying real estate and learning how to make your business thrive.

By Janet Groene, F47246
December 2012

Getting Real About Real Estate

With property prices beginning to climb in many areas, time may be running out for full-timers who want to invest in a lot where their RV can be parked some or all of the time, or a house or condo that can bring in rental income now and perhaps serve as a home when it’s time to hang up the keys.

Because of the turmoil in the housing market with foreclosures, short sales, and a confusing array of new terms and rules, we went to attorney Stephanie Toothaker, who is with the law firm Tripp Scott in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, for advice. Ms. Toothaker is director of Tripp Scott’s land use, governmental relations, and procurement practice.

She observed, “The old adage ‘If it sounds too good to be true . . . ’ is particularly applicable to distressed properties. Investors may be increasingly tempted by deals [but] it’s wise to approach them with caution.” Here are some of her expert tips.

Vacant property. Check land use and zoning regulations to be sure the property can be used for the purpose you intend, such as adding water and sewage without building a dwelling if you plan to live there in your motorhome some of the time.

You also should check the platting of the property. Many jurisdictions provide exceptions from planning. Unplatted commercial property will require platting prior to development. This can mean required right-of-way dedications, impact fees, and restrictions on access and levels of development.

Partially completed property. Tempting buys may be found in campgrounds, condominiums, or RV parks that ran into financial difficulties before building the promised swimming pool, clubhouse, and other amenities.

In most municipalities, a site plan approval is valid for 18 months from the date it was granted. A building permit is valid for six months from the date of issuance and remains valid as long as work is performed regularly. However, if a property sits idle for some time, a permit reactivation is unlikely. Instead, you may face new regulations or modifications.

Code and enforcement fines that have been certified and recorded will show up in a title search, so you can see what fines you might be liable for should you purchase the property. However, beware of fines that may be accruing but have not yet been recorded. Many municipalities will work with a purchaser who was not responsible for the violations that led to the fines. To avoid surprises, know the amount owed and come to an agreement before taking title.

Existing developments. Perform a lien and code search. If the property has been vacant for some time, a professional inspection can determine whether all systems/appliances are working properly and, most important, whether mold is present. Mold eradication can be difficult and costly.

Review land use and zoning regulations to determine whether the property can be used for the purpose you intend. Make no assumptions based on the current use, Ms. Toothaker said. One full-timing couple bought a house with the goal of renting it for now and retiring to it later, but the seller had not disclosed that the community’s deed covenants prohibit renting. This disagreement may end up in court.

“Whether you engage a professional or review the property on your own, take the necessary due diligence,” Ms. Toothaker said. “With facts in hand, that distressed property that sounded like a good deal may actually be one after all.”

Building Your Own Business

At one time it was difficult to maintain a career while full-timing. Today thousands of us make a living out of thin air while traveling. We use the Internet to sell our products, ideas, arts, crafts, or expertise, or to line up work at brick-and-mortar companies.

Making a success of your talent for handcrafts begins with a sound business plan, and that’s where Kari Chapin comes in. Her new book, Grow Your Handmade Business ($16.95, Storey Books), shows entrepreneurs how to turn their interest or hobby into a successful business.

Just because you are creative doesn’t necessarily mean you have business savvy. You must envision, develop, and sustain a successful business that makes use of your talents while also making money. Ms. Chapin covers the business side of handcrafts, yanking creative minds back from a dream life and into the tough, real world of taxes, marketing, public relations, customer relations, and much more. The focus of the book is handmade products, but it is recommended for novice entrepreneurs in any field.


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