First Person: Buying a Home for the Price of a Car in Tampa

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In some places, it costs the same to buy a house as it does to purchase a car.

Living in the Tampa, Florida suburbia, I've noticed what look like great real estate deals in the $30,000 to $70,000 range, but upon closer investigation, I discover they are really not deals at all.

It pays to do your own research before plopping down all of your life's savings on a real estate property.

Luckily, I did not get burned by buying any of the condos or homes that were selling for the price of a car. At least, in the cases that I saw, the saying held true that you can't get something for nothing.

Seeing if other residents have complaints

I found one condo listed for about $29,000 in what used to be an upscale neighborhood. However, I found complaints on the Internet. One woman said she spent all of her retirement savings to purchase a condo with cash only to find out the condominium development might be demolished due to faulty construction. Other area residents complained about the crime in the area.

Checking for Chinese drywall

When I spotted a single family home for just $70,000 in a newer subdivision, I felt elated. Perhaps this could be the investment property we had been looking for. We want to buy an investment property now that will one day be our retirement home. The trouble was, the home was listed as testing positive for Chinese drywall, a toxic defective drywall that was imported to the U. S. starting in 2001. People who have been through homes with Chinese drywall tell me it smells of rotten eggs.

Calculating the hidden fees and taxes

I saw several condos in nice neighborhoods listed for $35,000 to $60,000. I was interested in the condos near the university that my two teenage sons will attend. We could save a lot of money on the cost of living in a dormitory. However, the "catch" is that the condos come with very high maintenance fees. The taxes are also much higher in some areas. In many ways, being a condo owner is too much of a financial headache.

In addition to the crime, high fees and taxes, we would have to spend money on fixing up most of the properties. I wouldn't go near a home with Chinese drywall since they would have to be gutted.

With all this being said, one of my relatives was able to find an incredible deal on a short sale in the area for just $94,000. The home was only a few years old and was in perfect condition. If a person has the guts and doesn't mind "gutting" out a home, you can grab a foreclosure for the price of a car. But, I will probably just drive past those so-called real estate deals.

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More from this contributor:

Escaping the Townhome Trap

I Doubled my Living Space without Paying More

Spending Domino Effect of a New Home Purchase

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