There are plenty of successful investors out there, but many work so hard that it’s hardly worth the money-because they’re never freed up to enjoy the fruits of their labor! It’s far more worth it to find an investment strategy that would allow you to make considerably more money and create more time to be able to reinvest, spend that money, travel, enjoy time with family, or have fun with that “Bucket List”.

Owning a parking lot or parking garage is a great investment because they can offer you two things: free time and exponential amounts of income. Finding these gems is the hard part because most existing “cash cow” lots are sold before they are even listed. And most are purchased by other parking lot owners-they know what they have, and they want more. If you can find these potential parking lots and garages before anyone else, you can find these extremely rewarding profits too.

Think ahead

Most parking lot locations were never designed to be just that. Parking lots are built out of necessity, plain and simple. Someone would never build a parking lot and then proceed to build something that draws people who need to park; never! It sounds simple, but you need to be ahead of the building curve and search for land before it holds great value. You can do this by recalling where you would need to park a car. Think for a second: Where do people really need to park? Let’s brainstorm: shopping malls, schools, sporting events, entertainment districts, government centers…the list goes on.

Now let’s look at these ideas: malls will provide parking for customers because they want shoppers (so scratch that); schools do the same, but there always seems to be no parking at some schools (possibility here). Every time I see a concert, I end up paying to park; keeper. Last time I got a traffic ticket, it took me 30 minutes to find a parking place at the courthouse to fight that traffic ticket. Ding, ding, ding-got a good one here. Where have you needed to park? Where have you paid to park? I used the same thought process and search techniques you just practiced to purchase a one acre plot of seemingly worthless land across from a new 380 million dollar courthouse that was yet to be built. The property owner had the land for 30+ years and did nothing with it, including not reading any local newspaper that clearly highlighted the new courthouse: funding was approved, a date for the ground breaking ceremony had been set, and the severe lack of parking was already projected in the overly-crowded area!

Harness the power of Google

Seems so simple, right? After all, who has not Googled something? Google, the most popular search engine in the world, is a robust mechanism for quickly finding what you need on the web. Unfortunately, a standard Google search of “parking lot for sale” will currently return around 14.6 million results that are all but worthless to you. Words like “sale” and “parking lot” come up in a million different searches and you will never find a parking lot by trying to wade through 100 pages of mediocre results. So, put Google to work for you by mastering Google’s phrase search and terms you want to exclude. Searching for [“parking lot for sale” – “parking lot sale”] will only search the exact phrase, “parking lot for sale”, and will exclude the pesky “parking lot sale”, which we have no desire to attend. Instead of the 14.6 million search results, you now have a more digestible 262 results. Search techniques like this will allow you to quickly and effectively drill down to exactly what you are looking for (even locations) without ever signing up for a commercial listing service, or contacting a time-wasting broker. Finding commercial listings may be the easiest research to conduct, but it will give you the weakest results because some of these properties are listed by a broker – which is what you want to avoid at all costs.

Automate your search

Once you have brainstormed ideas where you and others pay to park, you can once again put Google to work for you by using Google Alerts. Enter your key words with the correct phrasing and exclusions, and set up when you would like to receive the information. You can even place location keywords to search only those geographic areas where you are most interested. Entering “new courthouse proposed in X County” will alert you to any new information with those keywords. Alerts will also email you your desired results as often as you like. I have found outstanding deals waiting for me in my inbox on many occasions, all automated from Google alerts.

“Visit” the area

Once you have found your million dollar idea by searching areas where you would pay to park (e.g., land across the street from a university that is doubling their campus buildings and parking is already scarce), you can visit the area from the comforts of your own home using Google Maps (Are you seeing a theme here?). This will show you all you need to know about the area. For example, using Google maps, I was able to visit a potential lot 1,500 miles away. I wanted to look at it because it fit my parameters (i.e., I knew it desperately needed parking from news articles and upcoming construction that I researched with the tips above). I knew a piece of land was vacant from a quick Google Maps search and clicking on the view satellite tab, but I did not know what it really looked like-as it would if I were there. Using Google Maps Street View, I was able to see that indeed the lot was empty, and the surrounding lots were packed full of cars, in-you guessed it-paid parking lots!

Find the land owner

You found your dream spot, and you are ready to buy it and retire early. Hold up, because finding and contacting the land owner can be exhausting. If you have access to anyone in the title insurance or escrow industry, they will be more than happy to run an address and find the owner on record for you (obviously hoping for the account when you pursue a purchase). If not, you can simply search the county assessor’s website for the county where the property is located. Most are automated and you can search by address, map search, or parcel numbers.

Contact the land owner

It may seem old fashioned, but once you find the contact information of the property owner, contact the owner with a hand-addressed letter dropped in the mail. Do not attempt to call, email or meet the owner; simply write a letter. If you are only looking at a few potential parking lots, you can hand write them; if you are looking at many, a printed letter will work as long as you sign it. A simple one line statement that you are interested in buying the property from them, you are not a real estate agent, and you will not waste their time seems to get the best response. Marketing research studies all agree a hand-addressed letter will be opened (and read) 10 to 1 over a computer-printed label.

At this point, you will hopefully have an anxious owner contact you and offer to sell his seemingly useless land. Land that you know from your research is going to be in high demand in the coming months or year. Crafting the deal is the topic of a different article, but now you know where to find and how to research potential parking lots and garages before anyone else. Armed with this valuable information, you will be able to reap the profits that a well-placed lot can bring. Good Luck!