Last Updated on October 5, 2020
Summary ↬ This is a story from my childhood on how I started my first venture by turning abandoned space into a parking lot business that could accommodate 15 cars and generate $1,500 per month in rent.
Find a Need and Fill It
I lived in a neighborhood where it was hard to find a parking spot on the street. I had read in a get rich quick book to “Find a Need and fill it!” So I thought I’d try and see if the concept worked. An obvious local need was for some off-street parking, i.e. a parking lot.
Abandoned Empty Lot
There was a small, seemingly abandoned empty lot alongside an alley near the apartment building where I lived. It was full of chin high weeds. I took possession knowing that under adverse possession law, the unclaimed property could be claimed by anyone.
But with adverse possession also known as squatter’s rights, you don’t get a clear title for 21 years. I cut the weeds, marked off 15 parking spots, and rented them out by putting mimeographed notices on all the cars parked on nearby streets. (No Xerox in those days!)
Finding the Owner of The Lot
Then I went to the town hall records to find the name and address of the owner. He was long dead. As it turned out, his heirs in Argentina didn’t even know that they owned the lot. I played detective and contacted the heirs by snail mail (no internet back then!) I offered to buy from them an “undisclosed asset.”
The details of how I did the same thing over and over on many abandoned property deals are set out in my post How to Become a Finder of Missing Heirs.
In my research, I had found out that the lot was too narrow for the deceased owner to get a permit to build his dream house on it. Ten years earlier, he had tried and failed to get a permit. I suppose he then decided the lot was a worthless investment for his purposes. He forgot about it. Then he died.
The heirs never knew about it until I contacted them. I knew it was going to be great for a 15-car parking lot because I was already operating it and collecting rents. The total cost was peanuts. I will guesstimate it in today’s dollars. Let’s say my total investment was $1,000 for what others on my street saw only as an eyesore a worthless lot full of weeds.
Look for Opportunities That Others Don’t See
Trick? To make a long story short, I was only 16 years old and in high school. I got the lot originally for nothing by simply claiming it under adverse possession (squatter’s rights). Out of the rents I paid out around $1000 for “improvements.”
Parking Lot Make Over
That is today’s money – Add a zero. I borrowed a used scythe, cut down the weeds, and put a little mimeographed notice on several hundred cars parked on the nearby streets.
The notice placed under their windshields said that they could rent a private parking spot from me. The notice further said, “On my convenient “watch” parking lot available for $100 per month”. That is today’s money – as I said, to make sense to modern folks, I have had to add a zero to all the figures in this story!
Profit & Reinvesting
In 2 months, I was grossing $1,500 per month in rent by running my first parking lot business. Then it was only $150! I paid off the lot’s paving right away and got it legally conveyed to me by the heirs even though I was still a minor. I learned a kid could buy or own property in his name but just couldn’t sell it without parental consent…
The next thing was I got a notice from a city inspector that parking lots had to be paved and “embellished” with landscaping. It cost me a month’s rent (That’s how I spent $1000) to get it paved.
I did the “embellishing” personally with some tree branches I got out of the garbage and “planted.” No plastic flowers in those days. No plastic anything. Plastics hadn’t been invented yet! My “landscaping” looked good enough to pass on the building inspector’s next visit.
The nice inspector walked away with a small bottle of German Schnapps.