The Deed: Chicago

Real estate mogul: In the 90s, I looked for Starbucks; now I buy when I see this

Real estate mogul Sean Conlon has seen every type of neighborhood. As a child, he lived in a 1,000-square-foot house with his family of seven in the small town of Rathangan in County Kildare, Ireland. In 1990, Conlon moved to Chicago with $500 dollars and took a job as an assistant janitor.

Sean Conlon of "The Deed"
Maarten de Boer/NBC | Getty Images
Sean Conlon of "The Deed"

His key to breaking out of that job and breaking into the real estate industry was finding an up-and-coming neighborhood right on the cusp of popularity.

Conlon began studying the zoning laws for one specific neighborhood and became an expert. When his neighborhood became popular, Conlon managed to make a name for himself and blow away his competition. He tells CNBC, "Your average broker was doing $2 million a year, I was like $100 million to $200 million."

So how did he manage to find that opportunity? Whether you are interested in real estate flipping or simply looking to buy a home, his advice can teach you what to look for.

SF 980202 STARBUCKS
Wally Skalij | Getty Images

Then: Starbucks

Conlon explains that, back in 1993, he looked to invest in real estate in neighborhoods with a Starbucks. He explains, "A Starbucks was a sure sign back then that the neighborhood was really about to pop."

Today, however, he looks for something entirely different. Instead of looking for expensive chains like Starbucks or Whole Foods, he looks for trendy small businesses, good schools and transportation.

Now: Cool stores

Small shops crowd the main street in the Elmwood Village neighborhood, in Buffalo, New York. Elmwood Village was named one of the 'Top 10 Great Places in America' by the American Planning Association.
Christian Science Monitor | Getty Images
Small shops crowd the main street in the Elmwood Village neighborhood, in Buffalo, New York. Elmwood Village was named one of the 'Top 10 Great Places in America' by the American Planning Association.

Conlon explains that small businesses are an indication that people are contributing to the community: "You want to see cool little stores opening, you want to see people investing in the neighborhood."

Now: Great schools

Murals adorn walls around campus at Coronado High School.
Sandy Huffaker | Getty Images
Murals adorn walls around campus at Coronado High School.

Additionally, Conlon says that investing in neighborhoods with good schools is a smart bet because people are willing to pay extra for a great school district. Conlon says being in the best school district is "massively important in America right now."

His company, Conlon/Christie's International Real Estate, has invested heavily in a neighborhood where people are willing to pay 10 to 15 percent more so that they can send their kids to the great schools nearby.

Now: Transportation

Metro trains pull into the Capitol South station in Washington D.C.
Bill Clark | Getty Images
Metro trains pull into the Capitol South station in Washington D.C.

The final thing to look for in a neighborhood, according to Conlon, is transportation, which is increasingly important. The American Public Transportation Association reports that since 1995, public transportation ridership has increased by 39%.

By keeping an eye out for cool small stores, good schools and public transportation, you too can spot the perfect neighborhood.

Watch Sean Conlon in CNBC's "The Deed: Chicago," on Wednesdays 10:00 PM Eastern.

Don't miss: This self-made millionaire bought his first flip while making only $40,000 a year