When Sidney Torres was 20 years old, his grandmother co-signed a loan so he could renovate his first home. He successfully flipped the property, used his profit to buy a property next door and has since developed over $250 million in commercial and residential real estate.
Having spent years in the real estate industry, Torres has some advice for first-time homebuyers: Spend plenty of time in the neighborhood you're interested in.
"The biggest mistake the first-time home buyers always make is they fall in love with the house and they don't really do their homework to understand the community, to understand the neighborhood, to understand the street that they're on," the self-made millionaire tells CNBC Make It.
Visit the neighborhood you are considering in the morning, the middle of the day and at night, says Torres, who now helps struggling property investors on CNBC's "The Deed ": "Before I buy anything, whether I'm building a resort or I'm just looking to develop a small shotgun house, for me, it's really important to see the sun rise and the sun set. ... You want to spend time there in the morning and you want to spend time there in the evening."
After all, the neighborhood could have a completely different feel at night: "Are there really big street lights that create this light pollution that creates a weird feel for the house in the neighborhood? Is there suspicious activity in the evening that you might run across that you don't see during the day?"
Other things to consider when spending time in the area include how close the property is to good schools, shopping centers and main transportation sites. And you want to be sure the neighborhood infrastructure is sound, Torres says. For example, you want to know that streets drain well when it rains hard and that the city picks up the trash.
Ultimately, buying a home is "probably one of the biggest purchases that most people make," says Torres. "You want to make sure that you understand what you're getting ready to invest in. … If you're going to live there for 10, 15, 20 years, it doesn't hurt to spend 48 to 72 hours there before you actually commit to buying it."
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