Founder and Realtor Shares on Acquiring Community Property
We know you wear many hats, and one of them is as a Realtor. Can you tell us about why you are passionate about Real Estate?
I bought my first house in 1999 as the rental market seemed to be getting too expensive for me and I wanted to freeze my rent for 30 years with a fixed mortgage. After a year of fast equity growth and a growing interest in real estate towards a method of financial freedom, I bought a duplex in San Diego. Since then I have been buying rentals, did a flip, ground up condo builds, and investing in businesses. I love the concept that I can fill my life with interesting work (Navy SEAL, Firefighter, Realtor, overseas contracting, took a few years off) and change careers as I am inspired and allow the investing to be my retirement. I also get to do passion projects like help communities secure their own properties in a co-ownership model. It is not easy work for me or for the budding communities but I feel that it is really some of the best work I get to do. I also help my larger community in buying or selling single family homes and use all the experience of my investments to help create a sound transaction.
Tell us about some of the community properties you have sold.
The first thing I ask of groups is to Diana Leafe Christian’s book, Creating a Life Together. It is sort of the bible on the process of starting your own Intentional Community. In my own community of The Emerald Village i felt like the book didn’t really have the pulse on the concept that a community may start with ten people, end up with 2 near the end, realize they have to move to middle America, find a few new members and then head off and make it happen. At Emerald Village our 10 people visioned and bought our property all within 3 months. I really wanted to share this process and creative financing with as many people as possible. In the first community I helped buy property they ended up closer to Diana’s realistic journey when they had 7 people start the 30 day escrow on 3 houses near downtown San Diego and in that month they lost 5 members and had to finish with just 2. From my history in creatively financing properties I thought money was the biggest hindrance to purchasing cooperative property but since then I realize it’s communication. Imagine you were going to marry 9 other people on a real estate deal, for possibly decades, and all the agreement fields, governance questions, and unknowns that might come up for you in this very legal transaction. I find most people don’t actually know what is wrong or what the questions are, it is just that the deal has too many unknowns. So when helping groups I try to guide them in the direction of meeting and discussing these issues, show them what smooth meeting facilitation can look like, and trying to get real about the unspoken.
What are some things for people to look for when acquiring land for an Intentional Community?
Many people and groups come to me with a dream property that they see listed and all they know is they want this one somehow. They need to figure out who the group/buyers are, how to finance it, what sort of community ideals they connect with, and why they are doing this. The last property that was interesting for community and a good deal also went pending within a week, so not a lot of time to solve the current desired property. I suggest groups use an inspiring property to rally around and discuss all needs and then figure out a plan and when the plan is totally in place then we can look around. There are really so many things to look for in property and it really has to do with specific needs of the group and a need vs. wants mentality because everyone can’t get everything they want. What is most often considered is distance to work / shopping, bedrooms, kitchens, privacy, well water, ability to expand, and ability to finance. When Emerald Village visioned our desired property I would say 95% of the things we wanted could exist on property, like even a helipad, and the things that could not were things like a crystal cavern. Or at least we have not found that cavern yet. The nice thing about doing a visioning with groups I’ve worked with and writing down all the aspects each person wants in an intentional community is that it actually brings together a group that felt they maybe didn’t have a lot in common. Most people want the same thing, a nice place to live. Where they feared there might be incompatibility, such as vegan / meat eater, I witnessed that both sides were happy to ensure the other side felt they were afforded anything they needed to support their choices. I highly recommend every group try a visioning similar to this.
In the end it takes quite a bit of work to solve a real estate purchase of a community property. Meet and figure out what the work is, split the tasks up between each other, and please reach out to me for support.