So I'm Thinking About Buying a Laundromat

Weird and out of the blue, I know, but…

Has anyone here ever owned a laundromat? How big of a PITA is it? How much time to you put into it (assume that attendant duties will be outsourced by hiring someone)? What kind of net income can you expect?

There’s a laundromat for sale in a two-horse town down the road from me, and I might be interested. I’ve wanted to own a business for a while, and this looks like a potential source of extra income.

I’m not certain but I think you are supposed to be gay to own a laundrette :slight_smile:

( check out this film My Beutiful Laundrette )

I don’t have any first-hand experience, but my Aunt & her family actually own a laundromat.

PITA: Somebody has to go get the quarters every week and take them to the bank. That’s about all the upkeep I’ve ever seen her do. Obviously she has attendants who clean it, and maintenance guys who service it whenever she needs it done. But I’ve never seen her do anything but show up and grab the quarters.

Net income: Ask to see the books if you’re thinking about buying it. Note: as a cash-only business, I’d be a little wary of the books - but they could give you a good idea of what to expect. I don’t think that my Aunt was getting rich, it was just a little something on the side every week. And obviously, there are expenses in the form of maintenance men, new equipment, tiny detergents, etc. I would definitely sit down and calculate my break-even point/date from the information the seller provides.

Finally, and I know that you have probably thought of all this, but my advice is to check out the location. Go hang out there at odd times during the day to see what kind of traffic / clientele you’re looking at. I would also inspect the machines (or get a repairman to go with you to inspect them) to make sure that everything is in pretty good order.

Good luck!

Less jokingly, there is a combination Laundrette and coffee shop here in San Francisco that seems to work well. Since whilst waiting for the washing to finish clients can buy a coffee. May be a good plan if there isn’t already a coffee shop in the neighbourhood.

If it is near a University, there is no greater gold mine on Earth.

I’m friends with a lady who owned one till recently. She’d go with PITA:

Customers who over-cram the machines, or put sneakers or loose change in there.

Machines constantly breaking down and needing repair (or flooding all over the floor).

People who wander off, come back hours (or days) later and flip out when their clothes have been stolen.

I’ve sold (as a real estate agent) a small laundromat. My impression is that they are good (but not amazing) income producers if you know what you’re doing, and the neighborhood is low rent enough for a good customer base, but not so dangerous that the machines will be broken into, or customers will avoid the place. Commercial laundry machines are quite expensive, and equipment maintenance costs can eat you up if you don’t know what you’re doing. The most successful guy (by far) was the one that did his own machine fix it & maintenance.

This board might ber useful
Or this one

Might be worth reading

Maybe you could hire a few people and turn it into a drop-off and fold kinda joint. That way, no one screwing up your machines. You’re in control of everything.

FYI, I worked at a dry cleaner briefly. The touching of stranger’s smelly, sweaty clothing is a huge drag. I imagine there’s a degree of that in the laundrette business, too.

The hours are grueling. It’s not a 9 to 5 M-F sort of business. The water and electric bills are murder. You have to be constantly cleaning the place. There’s very little to do, so often people eat there I’ve also seen people come to blows over using the machines.

I’ve been a customer at a laundromat that has gone through a couple of owners. It’s very high traffic, as it is near both a university and a neighborhood full of housing with antique wiring and plumbing that can’t support a washer/dryer and several weekly/monthly rental motels. The first owners never did anything but collect the quarters, but most of the machines ran about half the time and the prices were very low, so people would drive for miles to go there instead of the nicer, slightly more expensive places. The back door lock broke, so homeless people started spending the night there and threatening/attacking the customers and stealing everything that wasn’t nailed down. Someone actually stole my hangers one time while I was next door getting coffee and my laundry was in the wash.

It was sold a year or two ago and the new owners have had to, that I’m aware of:
[ul]Replace the missing floor tiles,[/ul]
[ul]Replace virtually all of the washers, including installing brand new 40 and 50 pounders to prevent overloading,[/ul]
[ul]Hire an attendant to be present during normal business hours, since the place is usually filthy by closing time, even with an attendant,[/ul]
[ul]Redo the electrical system,[/ul]
[ul]Replace the timed locks so the building doesn’t have to be manually unlocked[/ul]

I would also recommend speaking to the laundromat’s customers, if you can. If you can find someone who’s been coming there for a while (try a couple of different times during the day/week to meet the “regulars”) they’ll be able to tell you all about the real problems the laundromat has, including that washer that’s never worked, no matter how many times it’s been repaired or that dryer that started a fire last year, or the creepy guy who steals women’s underwear. You get the picture. The laundromat I use has no facilities of any kind, but if this one does have, say a bathroom, how often does it get completely trashed? Daily? Hourly? People can be pigs, so another reason to visit at different times is to see what your customer base looks like, overall.

Just from observation, it’s a whole lot of work, but the owners do collect a lot of money on a daily basis. I have no idea if they have broken even yet or not, but this is definitely not their only business.

When you look into buying a small or cash only business at some point, you’ll want to ask them to see the ‘other set of books.’ Which is a nice way of saying, “okay, I’m getting more serious about buying this place, but according to the books, it’s making just barely enough to stay in business. How much cash are you pocketing?” It might seem rude to ask, but they’ll understand, even they know that most people will be weary about buying a place that only puts 40k in your wallet every year. But when you find out that they pocket another 20 under the table…

My buddy used to own one, and he said he finally sold it because he was spending so much time fixing everything himself. that he couldn’t pay enough attention to his other business. He said that the really good idea is to own enough of them that you can afford to hire a maintenance man full time, because he’ll hardly ever be without something to fix. Otherwise, you’re fixing it yourself, or hiring someone on contract wages to do it.