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How To Not Buy A Building in 2020 - 14 Chapter Story

Preface & Chapters 1-9

      Welcome! I’ve decided to chronicle a journey in this medium. At the onset of my 2020 building buying fiasco, I thought about vlogging or posting pictures to social media, but I really don’t like doing those things.


 They are oversaturated and have an artificial quality to them since by design their intention is attention. In my school years I loved poetry, writing, and telling stories. So while this is a memory for me to share with you, it’s also a forgotten journey of literature revitalized for me.

      Everything in the following story is true, and only the names and locations have been removed. It was my actual journey in 2020 of the best way to not buy a building. At the start of this adventure in December 2019, I had been operating a parkour gym for over three years at a warehouse tucked away in Elkhorn, Wisconsin. In those three years, I have had two landlords and the current one is selling the place. This means he doesn’t know how much longer he’ll have it and doesn’t want to sign another lease, so I am renting month to month currently. I have an absolute miracle of a deal leasing the space and know that my time with that deal is coming to a close if there is another landlord. I’ve wanted a more hospitable location (if you’ve been there, you know) and have known from the beginning that my current warehouse space is not the permanent home of Axiom Parkour.


Chapter 1: Lost in the Water 

      I like finding deals. I love finding deals. In fact, I have learned that it isn’t the amount of money I spend that dictates the sale but instead how much I can save from the retail price. I’m aware that I am a sucker for deals, and it seems the purchases that require some elbow grease I am particularly inclined to. Perhaps the excitement of discovering something cast away and forgotten and restoring it to its former glory is the great draw for me. I’m always on the lookout for these treasures. A childhood rife with outings at stores with my mother likely placed shopping and finding a good deal in my blood.

      I was nearing the last four months of the lease in the warehouse where I teach parkour and wanted to explore my options, either an improved location or a building I could purchase. Loopnet? No deals there, but Craigslist and Facebook Marketplace have those murky deals. So I would search using keywords like ‘warehouse’ or ‘wearhouse’ or ‘out of bizness’, ‘mooving’, and in the middle of December I found a post for antique “Storage Unit Picking”. What caught my eye was the word ‘warehouse’ in the description. The person that posted it wasn’t the owner, but was described as a friend to the owner and so I messaged her as the weird stranger politely asking if the whole building was for sale. To my surprise, she provided me the phone number of the current owner, and I decided to give the guy a call.


Chapter 2: Something in the Distance

      “Can I buy your building?” Is that what I’m supposed to say? I’m not a real estate extraordinaire nor do I want to be. If you ever want to humble yourself, just cold call someone with an offer to buy their entire business.

About mid-December 2019 I gave him a call. He thought I wanted antiques but I let him know I was very interested in the building and property.

“It’s on about 5 acres and it’s about 13,000 square feet. It’s an old schoolhouse on a flood plain. I’ll sell it for 195. But I have a lot of stuff in it so it will be some time before I can sell it.”

      Well alright then. That was easy. Beautiful mature land, amazing building with high ceilings, built like a tank from the 1950s and oozing with character… and maybe a little issue with flooding. That’s a deal!

      With my lease ending in about four months, I didn’t want to let this slip through my fingers. Where does one start? I’ll tell you what I did. I called him again on Christmas Eve and left a message, because I am inexperienced and foolish, yet eager. He didn’t answer of course.

      About a week later I gave him another call and he picked up. This time he said $185,000 is the ‘sweet spot’. I politely told him I didn’t want to be a bother, but that I really wanted to be first in line when he put the place up for sale. He said he’d call around April and let me know.

April.

Which is four months away.

The exact time when my lease is up.

Great.


Chapter 3: Apply What You've Learned

      I’d be waiting until my lease was up to hear if I could move in to another place? Well, it’s not like it takes long to deconstruct and move an entire parkour gym RiGhT? In January of 2020, I was able to talk with my landlord and he was happy to extend the lease for another four months, giving me until the end of August to figure out if I was going to stay. What a blessing to have that soft buffer!

      It seems about every three years my Great Heavenly Father teaches me a perfectly necessary lesson in a most painful way. So this three-year season I was afraid. I really don’t enjoy broken bones or bone broth burns, so I prayed. I prayed that I would be able to see and hear what the Lord was trying to teach me. After two years of this Holy fear, He showed me the lesson: prayer. I never understood prayer. How could I change what the Creator has already deemed to be? It made no sense to communicate to Him what He already knew. But one day it clicked.

      I have three young children, and even though my wife tells me what the kiddos did when I was away, I still ask the children to tell me for themselves, not because I need to learn about what they did, but because I desire that closeness in relationship with them through communication. After that day I understood that prayer is just drawing us closer to our Father. He wants that closeness even though He knows everything. Since then I have been praying. Many times I’ve prayed for strength to keep praying, but one main topic I would talk to Him about was the future of parkour and the direction He would have me go.

      Now it’s January 2020 with three months left of my current lease plus the four-month extension, and I’ve been praying. I’ve been asking Him for clear direction, that I would have the courage to do what He asks, and to be patient with His timing even if He swoops in at the last moment.


Chapter 4: Explore the Ship

      God has placed some amazing people in my life, people with invaluable experience. Through this experience and sharing my story, an abundance of friends with commercial real estate wisdom and specific business knowledge have been revealed to me. I’ve learned from my life that when the Lord really wants to get my attention, He communicates it three times. During February and March of 2020 when I shared my parkour business predicament, there was one resounding message from these friends: everything is for sale. I had never thought of possessions in that way. My gut feeling about this diamond-in-the-rough property was that it was going to sell before ever being offered on the market, and I never knew just how to snatch it up before that happened. Here I had the building owner give me a price and I didn’t make an offer. So I prayed. I gathered my thoughts and words, and I called.

No answer.
Another lesson to show me that everything is out of my hands. In mid-March 2020 the owner called back and invited me to come take a look at the place. I could not have been more excited!

      The future home of Axiom Parkour (and whatever else sprouts up) is in sight. We scheduled the time and I collected my thoughts and questions and prayed about making a great impression. Even though we’d only talked I had a feeling that he was like me, that he has value in his possessions beyond his possessions, that he looks for the right person to sell to and not simply just the sale. I wrote down all my concerns and anxieties and tried to get a good night's rest before making my first impression.

      In the morning I drove to his place and less than 3 minutes before I arrived, he called. “I’m not feeling well. We’ll have to reschedule.” 


Chapter 5: Lord Be With Me

      Reschedule? I was almost there already. I gleaned from his weathered speech that he’s quite old, so perhaps I should respect it and fold, but just before the phone call I said a simple prayer, “Lord be with me and direct my words.”

      “That’s fine,” I say disappointedly to him on the phone as I drive. “It really is a shame. I’m only about 1 minute away.” I deliberately press with assertiveness.

      “You haven’t left yet? Great. I didn’t want you to waste your time.” It turns out he is pretty hard of hearing.“I’M ONLY A MINUTE AWAY!” I shout into the phone.

   …

      “Well, I suppose if you’re almost here I can open up and you can poke around,” he replies sadly. Off to a great start right? Nothing like forcing my way into an elderly man’s building while he’s sick!

      This should go well, I tell myself sarcastically. Lord be with me. I arrive at the old schoolhouse and shake his hand for the first time. He doesn’t have his hearing aid in and literally can’t hear anything unless I shout. He doesn’t look happy, but I am smiling ear to ear. Most people might have seen the piles of antiques, stained and dirty floors, rust and mold, but not me. I saw a new home. I saw great potential. I saw the diamond in the rough.

      “What did you say? I need my hearing aid,” he states.

      “I can just talk louder if that works!” I respectfully reply.

      “You just want to holler at me?” He looks a little cross. This seems to be going well... 


Chapter 6: A Flood of Possibilities

      Perhaps it’s the parkour training, but I get quite excited when there’s a challenge ahead of me. “DO WHATEVER YOU ARE MOST COMFORTABLE DOING. I CAN JUST SPEAK UP OR YOU CAN GET YOUR HEARING AID!” He leaves to go get it. I begin to take a look around and really have no idea where to start. My mission was twofold: make a good impression and see how big the place is. The impression might be a lost cause, but I’ll take some measurements. Ceiling height is the biggest concern for indoor parkour spaces. I wasn’t too concerned though since I would be able to use the land for outdoor classes, but the ceilings are all perfectly tall enough. It is truly a great space and I can see it working. The man returns and we begin to converse. 

      He shows me around his place, pointing out different antiques and features in the building, and he begins sharing personal topics. The tide seems to be turning and I am able to connect with him. It turns out he does really care about the building and the grounds. He tells me someone offered him more for the property recently and he turned it down. He didn’t like what the guy was going to use it for. I hope this guy likes parkour!

      The deeper we venture into the building, the more the necessary repairs are revealed. He shows me things like the ‘raccoon room’ which somehow I can overlook. Eventually, we weave our way to the last part of the building, the gymnasium. We both step into standing water. He reaches down to grab a wet extension cord. “This water is from the roof drain in the corner. I’m having it repaired soon. I just have to plug in the pump.” 


Chapter 7: Step Onto (Into) The Water

      This is the end of it all. We’re standing in a musty puddle with 60 year old electrical components, and he is plugging in the dripping wet cord. It was nice while it lasted I suppose.

      The pump kicks on and the lights flicker dimly in the old gymnasium, and now that I see what it looks like, the smell seems to match up perfectly. He invites me to take a look at the culprit pipe in the corner. I trudge through antiques to discover a crystal glass pyramid flowing with champagne like the ones you see at fancy parties, except this one is 15 feet tall and made of rubbermaid tubs and old cabinets blackened with mold. Lovely. This is fine. I’m not looking for anything more than high ceilings and open space, and the history and character this wonderful schoolhouse adds is a delightful bonus. I finish up my measurements with my handy laser measuring tool and we begin wrapping things up. I ask to walk the land and he agrees.

      It’s mature and beautiful, but a little overgrown. There are so many trees ripe for climbing, large open areas, thick woods, a peaceful stream (that threatens doom for the property), and an incredibly tranquil silence.

      The owner and I meet again before I leave and he expresses how he likes me. This indeed did go well, certainly better than the death by electrocution it started out as. 


Chapter 8: The Calm

      And we wait. It’s in the bank’s hands now. All of the paperwork has been filed and I am purely at the mercy of some strangers with pens. I received a call on April 7 from the banker and my loan was rejected, but that’s not the end. The asking price is higher than the assessed value. What? That can’t be. It turns out that I forgot to mention that the neighboring property is included in the price. They are also concerned that the property will not suit proper business needs. Oh if they only knew how perfect this property is for Axiom! I send a rebuttal email within the hour fully explaining, defending, and selling my story.

      The biggest struggle is not anxiety, but a continued motivation to maintain prayer. I have some people helping with putting it up to the Lord (you know who you are and thank you!) but it quickly slips my mind and I’m onto the next immediate need, like covid-19. I’m feeling guilt from lack of time in God’s Word and prioritizing aspects of my life higher than they need to be. A quote from a devotion helps: 

    “When we relate to God out of a guilty conscience, we try to earn our worth by being severely critical of ourselves. Rather than relying on God’s mercy, we struggle to show God how good we are. A sense of inadequacy drives us to prove that we are deserving of God’s forgiveness.”

      So April 8th I wake from a dream. Before going to sleep I watched The Bible Project’s video “Water of Life”, which basically is talking about being thirsty and fulfilling that need with the wrong thing. That night I dreamt I was hungry and looking for food. When I decided on what to eat I noticed there was already bread for me to eat. I woke and immediately knew that God had spoken to me, telling me to eat and drink of what has been given to me and stop replacing it for something else. After prayer and some scripture from Isaiah, I had a Deja Vu, and it left me wondering if it might come true.


Chapter 9: The End?

      Every chapter up until this one has been written as a reflection. This chapter records it as it is happening, with all the thoughts and emotions. I wake at 5:45 am again on April 9. I spend some time praying and reading a devotional, and then talk with my wife in bed before the children wake up, which is one of the rarest things to happen. I ask her, “What if I don’t get the gym? What would we do?” She says she hadn’t really thought about it.

      Right after breakfast I receive an email from the banker with another decline. “Due to the virus…” But I remember a story.

      When I was first starting Axiom, I was contacted by a woman who owned a cheer and tumbling company and she was interested in bringing me in to teach parkour classes. Eventually, she found a great space and everything seemed perfect. However, the landlord did not want to lease to her the section of the warehouse I was going to use, and so I had nothing. I was led by God to what seemed like a dead end. Some days later the idea was planted that I would personally offer to lease that area separately, directly from the landlord, which is the exact arrangement I have today. My idea of a perfect plan was upheaved by God’s perfect plan.

      And so, my perfect plan was to secure a loan from my bank and purchase this building, but my plans have been upheaved again. The doubt in my discernment is developing. Why place this into my life? Why have so many Godly people lead me to this place? Why answer my prayers only to stop me at 95%? Surely God has a sense of humor with His timing, but in the midst of it, it doesn’t seem so funny, and I’m not quite sure what the next step is.


Raw thoughts and emotions:I want to spend money now. I want to travel and get a nicer car. I feel selfishness creep in; ‘If I can’t have this then I’ll have that,’ the childish voice says in my head. “If God told me to leave parkour then that’s what I would do,” I have told my students. Am I ready to obey in the way God wants? Lord let me be a vessel for Your will.

Chapter 10 & 11 coming soon!