I was contacted by Experience-International with an offer to buy investment property in Detroit. I decided to be a bit more hands-on in my investigation, so I started by visiting them in their offices in London. The offices were in a Regis fully-serviced office block, where you can rent offices by the day or by the week. Perhaps not a good start. The main office is located in Bournemouth, on the English south coast.
They showed me some properties that were for sale, and others that had recently been sold. They said that most properties were sold within 48 hours of being launched on the market. I had my eye on one in particular, but that was among those that were already sold. The company said that the time-scale between agreement and completion was four weeks, and that completion would not take place until the properties were refurbished and occupied by tenants.
I decided to go and look for myself, so about 3 weeks later I booked a flight to Detroit. The company said that they would pick me up and provide me with a hotel, but I decided to be independent, and booked my own hire car and hotel. The next day the company sent a guy along to the hotel to meet me. He was nice enough, but said that he had only just started working for the company, and didn't actually know which houses they had to show me. After a few phone calls he arranged for me to meet some other guys, and we went off in his car to meet them. They also didn't know of any houses they were supposed to be showing me, and said they couldn't make contact with anyone to get a list. They also seemed like nice enough guys, but way out of their depth and doing the best to help in a tricky situation. We looked at a few wrecked houses, and then I asked to see some that had been refurbished. We visited some where some work had been done, but of an incredibly low standard, painting window frames that had no glass in them, laying carpets in houses where most of the painting work did not appear to be finished, all of the yards and outbuildings still in a derelict condition. Most had no electricity or heating systems, these were 'coming later' apparently.
Eventually, using one of the brochures that I had from the meeting in London, we found the house that had been 'sold' 3 weeks earlier. It was a derelict, doorless, windowless shell, no kitchen, no bathrooms, no plumbing, overgrown gardens, and absolutely no sign that anyone had done anything at all or even visited the property. Is someone in the UK now the owner of this ruin, thinking they have an investment property with tenants in Detroit? The guys I was with seemed genuinely shocked and dismayed themselves. We gave up and they dropped me back at the hotel.
The next morning the Company's English office contacted me to say that their Detroit Manager Sean was so, so sorry and that he would be contacting me to personally show me round some better properties. I waited, and waited, and waited all week, and he did not do so. I think he knew the game was up.
So who's ripping off who? Do the guys in London or Bournemouth genuinely believe they are selling refurbished investment property, and the are the guys in Detroit ripping them off? Or is the whole organisation a complete rip-off from end to end? One thing is for sure - if you want an armchair investment property in Detroit, DON'T GET ONE FROM EXPERIENCE INTERNATIONAL.
If you want to get an investment property in Detroit, get on a plane and come and buy one yourself. It's true, there really are pretty good houses for sale in Detroit for as little as $5,000 (3,000).