Cutting Edge Insights
with Dr. Lee

Diamonds in Rough Shape

Or, as the old saying goes, “A diamond in the rough.”

Indeed, real estate deals don’t all come to you on a silver platter.

They typically aren’t spoon-fed to you, either.

They don’t come wrapped with a ribbon that says, “Deal Alert! Buy me now!”

However, if you take off your blinders and pay attention, every now and again a deal may fall into your lap.

The deal won’t announce itself.

It won’t be inside information. (If you’re looking for that, be patient. Also realize that once you learn what you believe to be inside information, it really has been public for longer than you want to know. )

This blog post is about two concepts:

  1.  Real estate deals don’t announce themselves.
  2.  More often than not, actual work is required.

Work, according to a dictionary, involves using force to move an object over a distance. While I wouldn’t argue that, I’d also stipulate that there are different types of work, only some of them being physical.

When I bought this piece of property, I saw something that others didn’t.

After having researched the prevailing zoning ordinance, I realized that this property could be split into 2 parcels, and each of them could support a duplex (2 units per resultant parcel).


The property was in a perfect location in relation to CMU’s campus (Central Michigan University for my friends in the south and on the east and west coasts). I think it had been passed over by the bigger boys because they want to build complexes of apartments and this would support 4 units total.

My daughter, who attends CMU, can live off campus in the fall of 2022.


I could pay for her to live in a big complex, where she’d be a number.

Or I could pay for her to be a tenant in a crappy old house with leaky windows and expensive utility bills.

Or I could build something for her and for her friends.

Why not? I am a licensed builder and a seasoned developer.

Well, any rational and pragmatic person could think of 10,000 reasons why not.

College kids will tear up a property. You can’t (effectively) be an owner and a manager. Etc, etc.

But something kept gnawing at me. You need a maiden voyage for your residential designs, I thought.

I could continue to pay CMU $10,000 a couple of times per year, or I could pay them $5,000 a couple of times per year for tuition only and the living could be free.

Darn right I could.

I pulled the trigger. I bought the property and without any advertising whatsoever, I had a lease signed by 6 college kids that would more than support the financial operations of the fully developed property.

The only problem was, as of the time of this video (filmed mid-December, 2022), I had 8 months to start and finish a project.

As of the publication date of this blog post, I have 7 months.

The pressure is on.

That’s OK. What you don’t see, but will in the next video, is that I had the parcel entirely cleared already. Trees cut to the ground. Stumps ground. The garbage piles removed. It’s ready to go.

I was onsite 2 days ago with my excavator and we laid out where the structure would sit, where the carport would be, and the width and course of the driveway.

It is my intention to break ground before the county even thinks about applying the frost laws (the frost laws tend to occur toward the end of winter, when the frost is coming out of the ground, and limit the weight on local roads. This would convolute our ability to move heavy loads of sand and crushed stone, so I want to beat them! Fortunately, it generally has been a mild winter.)

Another bonus was that the water and sewer lines are already on the property – I don’t need to dig up the road to access these utilities.

Electric is within reach.

Natural gas is close – but I’m not using it. We’re going all-electric with this build. Why would I want one more utility, one more monthly customer charge, than I really need?

It is said that we humans can work better under pressure.

If that is true, good. I have 198 days to construct and make ready a duplex, 3 bedrooms on each side, for occupancy.

Guess I had better get working on code review and getting this thing permitted.

Stay tuned for future updates.

I hope you enjoy the attached video. It starts with a short dialogue from me at the property and it ends with a 2-minute drone video. This was my first experience with a drone. Very cool and much fun!

Until next time,

Dr. Lee Newton

How A Doctor Learned To Develop Real Estate

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Diamonds in Rough Shape


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