How To Make Money With Crap That Other People Don’t Want

Abandoned home in Tambun

You know what, Khai Yin,” Calvin told me with a huge grin on his face. “The property market is just so gloomy these days. Transactions have dropped through the floor, new launches been pushed back or canceled. Rentals are taking a real beating, too. There’s no end to this plight in sight!”

“And yet you look like the fat cat who swallowed the canary.”

Calvin laughed. “Can’t help it. Do you remember the last time the market went to the dogs like this? 1998? Everybody’s scrambling out of the business but I stayed on my hustle and made a mint. And dude, it ain’t gonna be any different this time. Just see.”

Sidenote: if you’re not familiar with Calvin, he’s a childhood friend from Taiping who is now a the owner of a property development and investment boutique. He almost earned my wrath when he told me that he paid $150,000 to some business success Guru in Scotland for advice.

“Well, I guess any Tom, Dick and Harry can look like a genius during a bull market. Real players make money even the times are bad,” I said.

“Correction. Real players make money especially when the times are bad,” Calvin interjected. “The time is now ripe for me to enter the market… especially when there’s lots of desperate selling. Exciting times ahead!” he said, rubbing his hands with glee.

“This is a question begging to be asked,” I said. “So how do you intend to make money when others are losing their shirts?”

“Like what I did in 1998. By buying up crap that other people don’t want.

Why Abandoned Properties Are Undiscovered Gold Mines

As much as I get turned off by Calvin’s braggadocio, I still liked to hang out with him because he was the real deal: he made his way through life via unadulterated hustle, without the benefits of money, connections or even a college degree. He started off as an apprentice at a developer based in Taiping before he accumulated enough experience and money to start off on his own.

His first break was in 1998 when he used his initial capital to buy up abandoned properties in Taiping and flipping them when the market turned back up a couple of short years later. Indeed, he had made his money by buying up crap that other people didn’t want.

Whenever the property market turns for the worse, you can expect people to try to quickly dump their properties (especially if the properties were acquired beyond their means or through dubious schemes like DIBS). Houses that don’t get sold through the sub sale market either then get auctioned, or get abandoned.

One of these abandoned houses that he had acquired, refurbished and sold later was this pre-World War Two brick house in which he was born and grew up in. He bought it for $65,000 from his uncle (who had inherited it), pimped it up and then flipped it for $245,000 some years later.

“I remember that you even sold off your ancestral home in Pokok Assam. Your father must be freakin’ rolling in his grave like a rotisserie chicken.”

He laughed out loud. “Hey, at least I restored that house and stopped the termites from grazing it to the ground! And my deadbeat uncle had never been happier with the extra dough… though he probably gambled it all away over chor dai dee.”

I shrugged. “Cal, your shamelessness knows no bounds. But I’ve got it to give it to you. Making money from abandoned properties ain’t exactly a walk in the Lake Gardens.”

“Thank you for your backhanded compliment! But all jokes aside, Khai Yin, you know this as much as I do. Abandoned properties are like undiscovered gold mines. You need to scout around a lot, and I mean a lot, and when you find something worth digging further, then it’s time to start getting your hands dirty. However, once the legwork is done, then it’s just a matter of time before you unload the property for a nice profit.”

I nodded. “It’s not a sexy way to make money from property. And because the crapload of get-your-hands-dirty work required, there’s not a lot of people who will be scouting for the same abandoned properties as you do, which means that there’s also much less competition.”

“Exactly!” Calvin remarked. “And you really need to be on the ground to make this work. This means that whoever who wants to compete with me will have to be here physically. You can’t run this business remotely! Last year, some guy from KL came to town and tried to set up shop to compete with me. After a couple of months, I heard he had scooted back to KL. I suppose Bukit Larut didn’t cut it for him… he must had missed the Bangsar nightlife,” he said with a grin.

Here’s How You Can Make Money Buying Houses That Others Have Abandoned

It’s true that buying and selling abandoned properties requires local presence – which means that you’re pretty much limited to where you are currently living and working. However, there are abandoned properties in virtually every city or town, which means that you would hardly need to move to a town like Taiping. It’s pretty easy to spot abandoned properties – the clues are as obvious as overgrown lalang, or the overflowing of advertising flyers and bills in the postbox.

In the next couple of weeks, I (or rather, Shameless Calvin) will be sharing a more detailed strategy on how you can make money buying abandoned houses, refurbishing them and then selling for a profit. Stay tuned!

About Khai Yin

When I am not writing for and helping my readers find properties though the DealMatcher service, I spend time doting on my three kids: Wenyi, Qinyi and Eian. My personal stuff, some published essays and contact details can be found at

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