A Real Estate Investor Shares His Secrets for Buying Wisely

On this episode of The Better Buy, Chris Lavergne shares how he built a successful real estate portfolio and offers tips for finding the right investment property and renovating a fixer-upper.

The Better Buy podcast of Chris Lavergne
courtesy of Chris Lavergne

The Better Buy, a new podcast from Better Homes & Gardens, explores all things home—from decorating and DIY to renovating and budgeting. Each week, we'll talk with homeowners from around the country about the highs and lows of home ownership, and share stories, advice, and practical tips you can put to work in your own home. We're on a mission to inspire and empower you to create your dream home. New episodes every Wednesday!

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On This Episode

Host Mélanie Berliet talks with real estate investor Chris Lavergne. He shares how he built a successful real estate portfolio, including Clearing Farm, a multi-home compound in Upstate New York. Chris offers tips for finding the right investment property, renovating a fixer-upper, and what first-time home buyers should look for in a house.

Meet Chris Lavergne

Chris Lavergne, 34, is a real estate investor in New York and Florida. Inspired by the toughest real estate market in the country, he went from trying to find the perfect place to focusing on upcoming markets. The result was a real estate company and its flagship property, Clearing Farm. This multi-home compound in Upstate New York that attracts short-term renters all year thanks to a hops farm, chicken coup, outdoor wellness spa, wood shop, office space, and creative studio specializing in video and photography on the property.

Advice from the Episode

Chris shares his best tips for house hunting and renovation projects.

Chris Lavergne

I'm really sort of opposed to hot markets. I recently relocated permanently to Florida and the first sort of instance would be, 'Hey, let's move to Miami.' And that was our first impulse. But you look at the Miami market and it's just, it's exploding and it's really hot. So … what's the upcoming market opposed to the hot market? And that led me to Tampa, which has a lot of the same things as Miami, but is not nearly as hot— but it's also not a bland market. It's definitely up and coming. There's sort of those sort of three distinctions you have to make between is this a hot market, an up and coming market or a pretty stagnant market? And, I really  like to look for the upcoming markets.

—Chris Lavergne

House Hunting Deal Breakers

  • Location is critical when buying a house.
  • Chris likes to look for upcoming markets when buying a home.

Chris Lavergne

I really don't look for inspiration in the usual places. And, I don't even know if I look for inspiration at all. I think taking a photo you like from Pinterest of a dreamy house or a dreamy living room—  it's kind of counterproductive because it's all designed to look gorgeous and make you feel this amazing way about it. But is it really livable? Is it really functional? Is it really achievable? So I try to stay away from falling into this dreamscape of what could be and really just [talk] to professionals and people who have owned homes for a long time—What works? What went wrong? And really talking about the practical and functional elements of the home more than getting lost in a pin board, which I used to do a lot.

—Chris Lavergne

Where to Look for Home Renovation Inspiration

  • Look for inspiration everywhere and think about if it's achievable.
  • Be sure to consider the functional elements of your home.

Chris Lavergne

I have two tips and they contradict each other. First, you gotta just spend money. Like if you wanna do it right, do not try and find the middle ground. Buy the right thing. Spend [on] the right thing. And if you can't, wait. Be patient. So my money saving tips are either spend a lot of money or spend no money. I have furniture in my house that I literally picked up off of the street in New York City and just put in there, and I have stuff that I spent a great deal of money on. The main thing is to either go all out and buy exactly what you want, or find a way to use sort of recycled materials in the meantime until you can afford what you want.

—Chris Lavergne

Favorite Money-Saving Tips

  • Make sure you're spending money on things you really want.
  • There are places to splurge and other places to use recycled or upcycled materials.

Chris Lavergne

There's two types of renter homes. The first are ones that are built on beaches and lakes in important cities, and those pretty much sell themselves. Clearing Farm is …really trying to carve out the home as the destination itself. The hooks aren't necessarily what you think they're gonna be going in. I thought for our homes that the hook was they're gonna be beautifully designed historical homes. Turns out there's really not that big of a market for it. So the house became a pet friendly house for dogs. I don't have a pet. But it sort of just followed the data of what people seem to want. And we installed a fence that covers a whole acre so the dogs can run around, and it's our most popular rental.

—Chris Lavergne

How to Set Up a Renter-Friendly Home

  • There are two types of rental homes for Chris. Those that are part of a destination and those that are the destination themselves.
  • Think about who you want to attract and add features that appeal to them in the home.

Links and Resources

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