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

Preface & Chapters 1-5

      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 & 7 coming soon!