Everything Has Slooooowed Down
Hey Race Fans,
We are still here. Sorry for the hiatus. It has been a long, long time. Everything for us, much like many, many others, has slowed way down.
So what are we up to?
We are currently marketing our "Main" Avenue project which burned through four separate contractors and employed a handyman at the end to fix the items that were wrong from the last contractor. But that bad boy is finally on the market -just in time for the Pandemic. It is too bad that times have to get tough before good contractors can be had. When things are really roaring, the bad apples seem to be abundant among the crop. One of our contractors was really good, but had some money issues, and therefore the job lagged. We are fortunate enough that we saw this before with the recession of 2008-2010. We have already received one offer to "fix or work on anything you might have." That being said, we know a lot of contractors that are still very, very busy. May the bad apples go into another line of work.
At any rate, we are now talking about renting "Main." Renting properties is the long term plan for wealth creation, and we are fortunate to have built up a few rentals, as well as some properties that we sold by seller financing them to the buyers. We would prefer to sell Main due to the size and tax bill, but are okay with renting it if need be.
In the past year, we also finished selling off the last parcel of our 72 acres of land in Sanford, NC. This was after the utility power that is made it very difficult for our potential partner from Spain to get their solar farm development off the ground. They pulled stumps and headed out for California. That is saying something when California regs and working environment is more favorable than the local one. <slow head shake> But, all in all, the ROI on that land was fantastic. We didn't get the twenty years of escalating rent that we were hoping for, but no complaining here.
Now we are working on our other businesses... The rentals we just spoke of, our motorcycle lifestyle business, our architectural products business, and a new double-secret-probation project that cannot be shared at this time. The architectural products business has slowed down with the Pandemic. The housing and commercial rentals are going good with one or two possible default coming up, but the diversification is good enough to cover those kind of draw downs if that happens. (A little lesson for anyone looking to get into the rental business -diversify!) We'll see what happens. The motorcycle lifestyle business is moving forward because, surprise (!), we have the time to work on it now.
We are currently looking for the next Box Bend project or Box Bend rental property -other than "Main," that is. We have leased out our Washington, DC area property, and are thinking in terms of looking for projects in other markets. The property in Maryland taught us that we can do things from afar with the right people in place. Of course, as stated earlier, we would like to sell "Main" before we buy the next project or two. And again, we shall see. There is no telling what the fall out will be from the second wave of the Pandemic that we guess is coming. We are on standby for a window order that is now approaching four weeks.
The one thing we can say with absolute certainty today is that we are glad we are no longer in the corporate world. This has to be incredibly stressful for those companies with big overheads and slowing revenue. If you are there, we offer our thoughts and prayers.
The other thing we can say, although it is a bet right now, is that the deflationary climate of printing money will probably give way, in a very big way, to an inflationary period that hasn't been seen in quite some time. Depending on the marketplace that one is in, this may be a great time to stock up on renovation buildings -if one can swing the insurance, property tax and other carrying costs. The same can be said of other assets. We were betting on this slow down in the economy due to the economic cycle (the bull market) being over due from a cyclical point of view, but we were not prepared for the way in which it actually showed up on our doorsteps -sporting death and face masks. Interesting times.
Well, that is enough rambling for now. As you can probably tell, we are waaaaaay out of practice when it comes to the old blog. We'll try to pick it back up again in the days and weeks to come.
Stay safe and please stay tuned.
Hello Race Fans!
Welcome back to the track.
It it has been a while so let’s get going.
Main Ave is ten minutes from the finish line. We are literally waiting on finishes now. The drywall is done and the bathrooms have white carrara marble on the floors. Money has changed hands for cabinets, etc. So, once the rest of the items go in, this bad boy will finally be at an end of this trip. And what a crazy, long, frustrating, and asinine trip it has been. For those that are new to the circuit, we are talking about some world-class, Olympics-bound, gymnastics on this thing. Three different contractors, (one of which was on the job twice), some serious money spent, and over two years on the job. Whew!
The good news is that comps are now hitting the upper 400s to 500+. So, there is a possibility of drinking sweet cool lemonade from all the flippin’ lemons that have been thrown on this job. (Pun intended... on the “flipping” reference.) We shall see.
Preacher Road is moving from a straight flip to a renovation project. Kind of like Main, we see comps climbing. But beware the Comp-ladder, grasshopper. It is leaning against an inverted treasury yield curve wall. The last nine times the yield curve inverted, a recession followed within 12-24 months. And that “R” Word is either manna from heaven, or a meal that will cause IBS for many -depending upon one’s perspective. And leverage. To mix it up a little more, it depends partly on how far out over your skis you are. So, if you are well funded, not over-leveraged, and ready to pounce when the sky is falling, then it is a happy tummy and smooth skiing through dry powder. If you’re over-leveraged, and your eyes were bigger than your stomach, then you will be running to the bathroom in the lodge, after you take a serious tumble on what has been a beginner-slope of a season. That’s if you make it to the lodge. You might make a mess right there on the bunny trail. How’s that for a whole bag of mixed metaphors?
Speaking of cra-cra... Sanford is gone. Rear view mirror. Adios. And in its place is a condo in MD. We are still working on lining up insurance before we start kneeling down before the task-master of renovations. So, for those of you who have been counting, that is three projects at once. It really is starting to look like the recession days-once again. We spell recession O-P-P-O-R-T-U-N-I-T-Y.
We are also working on two other new businesses-stay tuned. Our architectural products Rep business has been quite the struggle. However, it is over a year old as of February 5th. It’s also starting to see a little bit of cash trickle in. Which is nice. Really nice. The other two businesses? Well, we shall see.
And, we added a new-old Kawasaki to the stable. See the photo above. That’s a KLR-650. 2018 was the last year for that bike. This particular bike sat on the showroom floor for over a year, when we stumbled upon it. KLR owners call these things “Pigs” because they like to play in the mud. Kind of like renovators. We dig both. The renovation mud and struggle, and the motorcycle in the dirt struggle. You can call us crazy, but that is our kind of fun.
Well that’s enough rambling for one day… Possibly for one lifetime. Thanks for spending your time here today. And, until next time...
Stay Tuned. You crazy...
Just a quick note to say that we have sold the 52 acres in Sanford. The 20 Acres + Farmhouse that we sold on Contract for Deed (seller financing -if you prefer), will more than likely be sold to the same developer in January. If so, we will receive the balance owed on the 20 acres + farmhouse. Pretty cool either way: Monthly income or Cash on the Barrelhead.
Main is gathering speed. This long, twisted, torturous project is finally on the last leg. Enclosed, roughed in electrics, HVAC and plumbing, and now prepping for drywall. We are guesstimating a late-January or early-February finish. (Please let it be so. Please let it be so. Please let it be so. Please let it... Oh. Sorry.) Depending on the local market, we will then either sell -now estimated in the 430 to 450K range, or we will rent the beast until we get to a point where we feel comfortable selling. Due to the looooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooong nature of this particular project, we are in a break-even-ish proposition. But okay. Buy the ticket and take the ride. Not every project will be a home run. If you can't stand the heat, get out of the kitchen. And other numerous cliches about having cajones or not. The good news is either putting all that cash back into the Box Bend mixing machine, or generating a pretty good little rental income out of this project. Speaking of which...
We still contend that this market is overdue. Our particular area may ride out a recession a little bit better than other areas with 65+ net people moving into town every day, but even a place like Raleigh can become too ________________ (you name it.) So, our best free advice* is to stockpile the cashola, kids. Because when the recession does arrive, everything, and we mean everything, will be ON SALE. That being said, if you get a good deal, take it. Don't let a pending recession or some half-baked blog stop you. It's not stopping us. We won an auction last week. Granted, it is "Subject To," but subject to is better than no seat at the table at all.
Stay tuned race fans.
*Please consult your magic 8-ball, lawyer, magician, cat, accountant, banker, pastor, preacher, spouse, financial advisor, guru, or own guilty mind before engaging in, or staying out of, any investment. Caveat Emptor. Buyer beware. Box Bend, Box Bend Home, Box Bend Crew and this blog are not responsible for your ability to read and think. Nor are we responsible for your cutting corners and not consulting experts. Past blog posts are no guarantee of future posts or performance. INVEST OR NOT AT YOUR OWN RISK. And hug your loved ones. Thanks.
We ended up selling one of our businesses, starting that other one we talked about before, and then hiring contractor number four -which we also mentioned in the last post. So, what’s there to do after that? More business? Sure. But there’s also R and R. A sabbatical to cleanse the mind and soul. So...
So the author of this post met up with a buddy in Portland, Oregon, rented a couple of motorcycles, and drove them down the Pacific coast. It was good. Head cleared? Maybe a little. Soul cleansed? No comment. But good.? Yes. Good. Tiring. Long days followed by nights where one sleeps like the just. Or farm laborers. Or possibly the drugged. Hearty breakfasts. Lack of a timetable. Seven days to do 1,328 miles of coast, Redwoods, and wine country. We did it in six days. And then two days in L.A. in a Jeep. Going to motorcycle shops. (Of course.). Recommended-both trip and motorcycle shops.
Upon return, low and behold, the new business was waiting. Lots of work. Sound and fury hopefully signifying something. Anything. A few shekels. And Box Bend? Well, the house, the long strange trip of a house, has finally been painted. (Evidence below.). Now if we can get the plumber, HVAC and electrical guys to move their caboose...
And of course, one morning had to include a motorcycle ride north of the southern city. (Evidence below.)
Stay tuned race fans.
Greetings, Race Fans!
Quick update for you:
We are back from the Dead on Main Avenue. For the fourth time.
For those not in the know, we had to say goodbye to our contractor and pick up a new one. Yes, this is contractor number four. Some things seem like they will kill you, but are more along the lines of tuition. This is one such graduate degree.
The new contractor seems cool. The guy is moving fast. Windows and siding? No problem.
Now to see how the rest goes.
The Airport Property has closed. Sold. Gone. Finished. Off the books. Check cashed.
That is all for now.
Our airport blvd property is under contract with three backup offers. Whew! That feels good. In a land of new ventures and old, it is good to be moving again on ye old box that bends. It's been too long, amigo.
We are starting to see signs of a thinning herd. What we mean by that is that for a while the local market in our neck of the woods was so hot that it was hard to find a deal. We are now seeing an upswing in auction properties and less movement in the local community. We are not sure if this is due to a seasonal slow down, early signs of a recessional slowing in the overall economy, or the fact that a lot of people play this game and some make money. For months (years?) we have been thinking, and possibly saying, whining, complaining, that the deals we're seeing were going for too much. Which is a nice way to say that we were or are too stupid to pay, for example, $115,000 on a property that would have an ARV of $145,000, and in need of approximately $15,000 to $20,000 in work. Ten grand in profit is great. However, banking on expenses staying within budget, failing to take into account insurance, taxes, city and utility expenses, and a realtor fee -if not marketing the property on one's own -seems extremely foolish and overly restrictive. Like 99.9% of all coach airline seats. These numbers might make sense for rentals, but even there, the value of the rehab (compared to the cost or dollars invested) may produce a marginal cap rate instead of an extraordinary one.
At any rate, we are now seeing more deals. However, we are being extremely judicious about what we jump into. And oh yeah. There is that project that never ends -Main Avenue. This is the project that never ends. Yes it goes on and on my friend. We were just people who started working it, not knowing what it was, and we keep working it forever just because... it is the project that never ends. This is the project that never ends...
Actually, Daylight may be around the corner. Now that we found out that our historical window sizes are not the normal off-the-rack sizes that are all custom sizes. "Hey? That was fun. And cheap, too." However, the silver lining in these clouds is that while this project has drug on and on and on and on and on and on and on and on, we have watched the very-bad-never-live-there-in-a-million-years-neighborhood catch up to the old Box Bend vision. There are now some $500,000 and $600,000 projects that have sold not far from us. So... to wrap up the Main briefing, it would have been more economically efficient for us to sell this project a year or more ago, but, we have witnessed a potentially 10% or greater increase in our potential price; from $390,000-$410,000 to the $430,000 -$460,000 estimated range. That is, if we can finish this pig before the summer is over. That's a big 'IF." We have also discussed renting it, and still are debating that move. If we do not need the cash, we may do so, but...
We want to build up our cash reserves. No matter if the recessional forces of all cycles are two years away, or four years away, as sure as Main is having trouble with Lift-Off, those economic currents of slowdown and forces will present themselves again. And when they do, everything will be on sale. Every thing. It will be a time of make or break. We are betting on make -meaning that the discounts in real estate, stock, and other assets will be considerable and fortunes will be made. Legacies will be created. The caveat is that one will need either the cash, or access to cash. Access to cash will be hard to obtain. Just our guess, but the flush and eager sources that are out there now will suddenly become miserly and detail oriented. Of course, building up the cash reserves is no easy feat either. For us, right now, today, the biggest fiscal events on our calendar are taxes (we have an extension) and a Box Bend family member attending college at a not-so-cheap school in a place we like to call, "The City." We also like to call it, "The Big Dirty Apple." Resources are burned at an incredible rate in The City. Good news is that they can also be produced at astonishing rates.
Anywho, it is time to fly. Time to lift off on Airport, use those funds for other things. Other obligations. Others. And time to wrap up Main. We have put new ground controls in place in order to help our contractor fly those friendly skies without incident... or bird strike. Enough with the weak metaphors. But, really... Time to fly.
Welcome back, race fans.
“Dude, where have you been?”
We apologize for the interruption of our regularly scheduled blogcast. A few things have been happening around, or adjacent to, the old Box Bend/C21/Earth’s Pull ranch and elephant ear food truck. Just kidding about the food truck. Although that could be cool in a “Hey kids, are you hungry” sort-of-way.
First and foremost, one of our little crew (or “squad” if you’re a kid in some parts of the Midwest -like where our niece lives) has undergone a detachment from a major organ. We won’t go into too many gory details (like four new openings in his abdomen like some sort of surgical constellation playing out across a very, very pale sky), but we can offer two hints for the mildly morbid and/or constantly curious: First, in a bloated, unhealthy format, utilizing crappy lighting normally found only in surgical theaters, or on a Nokia flip-phone, this organ looks kind of like a cheese danish. Second, it rhymes with, “wall ladder.”
Take your time. Sound it out. We’re confident that you’ll get it. You’re clever. And good looking. Obviously well read.
Second, we have been in the WWE-slash-funhouse-o-mirrors process of trying to get not one, but two new businesses off the ground. Our attention has been diverted. Fortunately, one of the two is actually off the ground. But the image/storyboard that comes to mind is one of nurturing a baby bird that has fallen out of the nest of one’s mellon. It lands on paper with a sickening smack and there is the precarious sense of life or death hanging in the balance as one nurtures and feeds it, holds it and soothes it, and occasionally plays obscure Heavy Metal for it at ear bleed volume. All babies need a jolt once in a while. But overall, these are dark, insular, and flightless days.
Then the day comes when you launch the little bugger. You’ve named it. You’ve claimed it. And you have jabbered on about it incessantly. You’ve fed it. You’ve read to it. You’ve even named it again -deciding that the first name was unworthy of something that can fly. But now, now is the time to see if the bird really can fly. Named or not. So with heart beating wildly, you throw it up in the air and watch in gobsmacked horror as the thing flaps wildly as it try’s to find purchase on invisible currents. It comes within millimeters if crashing into the dog feces splattered on the ground. It is wobbly and unsure. It has the flight pattern of a drunk pilot. It darts out into traffic as 18-wheelers and kids on cellphones careen by at breakneck speed. They’re doing 80 and this thing is doing 1. One mile per hour. You cover your eyes, but watch through splayed fingers. You have to pee and you have heartburn. It may be your gallbladder. Finally, the bird is across the street and out of sight. The bird is off on its own. Survival is dubious, but you spend countless hours looking for it, preparing for it, hoping for it, working on half-cooked schemes to make it soar. Oh little bird. Sweet, sweet little bird.
Fly, you bastard!
Meanwhile, the second baby bird not only falls out of the nest, but regurgitates all over your clean, shiny, moleskin notebook. This one has some issues unto itself. Possibly stomach related. You understand. The question isn’t one of flight or first launches. The question is one of survival past the paper stage, as well as the initial investment of time and money. It may need surgery in order to fly. The lab results are still out for analysis. But that’s true of all businesses-established or new. So you soldier on in a Florence or Fred Nightingale sort of way. You hope and pray. But if surgery is necessary, so be it. And you know the truth; not all birds live.
In the meantime, your contractor in your Bent Box business has experienced some bad truck ju-ju and your Main project is delayed while a medicine man disguised as a mechanic performs ancient and secret arts on the motor. But, in possibly good news, the little commercial project/land by the airport has closed. And a county far, far away has recognized the subdivision of yet another plot of land. This has now been recorded in heavy plat tomes.
So one does a happy dance to some heavy metal music-while stocking up on birdseed. This is the dance of all bird launchers. But it is only truly known by those that dare in the realm of flight.
And that’s about it for now. Nurturing on a personal, slightly north-of-the-border-way. And nurturing in a mental-cat-mouse-bird-Granny-and-Sylvester-throwback-flying-word-association-game-way.
But there is more to come soon, race fans, so please do stay tuned. In the meantime, we hope that you launch a few baby bird ideas yourself.
And that you avoid the cheese danishes.
Hey Race Fans! Welcome back!
In our last post, we talked about a preferred change in direction; one of working towards more rental units -both commercial and SFR/multi-family. That doesn’t mean that we’ve stopped doing the other things that the old double-B does. We’re working on Main -when it isn’t snowing. And we’re still on the hunt. On the prowl. Looking and bidding and working the system we have developed. Sniffing out deals.
This week we found ourselves snowbound in NYC. Not that there was a lot of snow in the Big Apple. There was some snow in the Triangle area of North Carolina, though. And this equated into flight cancellations after flight cancellations. So, when in Rome or Babylon or New York...
We looked at some architecture in NYC —one of our original passions. We ate a good meal at Eataly -Flat Iron, and visited Eataly at the World Trade Center. One terrific steak also went down the hatch. We slept two nights in the fashion district, and one night at The Standard -High Line. And, oh yeah, our oldest son transferred to a university in “The City.” Which brings us back to the system and working it like a dog. A German Shepherd. Or maybe a St. Bernard. Or another breed. Not a Dachshund. Or a teacup poodle. None of that silliness. This is the dogged perseverance of a large breed. We need to continue to produce. The kid, and the rest of the fam, will continue to consume. Breaking it down further, it comes down to two things: Goals or a plan, and work. The goal or plan is the easy part. The work will produce the “food.” So we continue to chase leads -even from New York.
Work. Work you Husky. Keep chasing down those deals, or Frisbees, or soft-balls, or a large steak with plenty of meat on the bone. We’re chasing a porterhouse now -Lucky dogs that we are.
Well Happy New Year, Race Fans! Here’s what’s going down.
Our little project on Main has been wracked to and fro by myriad issues since inception. The last such being the permit process that included new drawings, new engineer letters, new hundred dollar bills, etc. This has been our longest start to not-even-close-to-finish in our history. But some progress has been made. This includes an ominous looking black front door and the beginnings of a beautiful ceiling on the first floor. Our contractor sent over some blurry photos -posted here for your own home-brewed version of a sobriety test. (If some of this looks blurry, you are not drunk. If the ceiling shot is crystal clear, you are drunk.)
Now, as we turn the page on the final and 12th chapter of the year, we are taking a little time to reflect upon not only our year, but our history.
As some of our erstwhile readers may know, this thing of ours started on a small island off the coast of Italy. The island was called, “Earth’s Pull” and was actually a website. So, fogeddaaboutit, it isn’t a real island like Sicily, Salvatore, and this isn’t the mob. When we discuss this thing of ours, that is. We started Earth’s Pull to document our pursuit of escaping gravity (the rat race) and entering that rarified air of a life on more favorable terms than 9 to 5.
As we became more involved in flipping, and very early on into the whole Earth’s Pull effort, we decided to start an LLC or two and get a different name (other than Earth’s Pull) cranking away. After a search or two online, a couple of food inspired naps, and some serious polling of family members, we came up with Box Bend. After all, this is what we do. We take little boxes and pull them and push them and bend them into new and rejuvenated Box forms. And although the domain of www.littleboxespulledpushedandbendedintonewforms.com was available on Go Daddy, we went with www.boxbend.com. And then www.boxbendcrew.com for this blog.
And through it all all we had the goal of being a profitable little LLC. This is not always possible, but so be it. For the most part, two or three exceptions noted, we have been profitable. And this has been good. And fun. However, there are two dark spots on our sun.
The first problem that all renovators and flippers go through, or maybe it would be better to say that the first realization one comes to in the flipping game is, tomorrow you will have to drag your carcass out of bed and go do this thing all over again if you want to maintain the lifestyle you hope to become accustomed to. This is a dairy farm gig. Every stinking day someone has to milk the cows. Granted, it is a good gig when done correctly. And for all the obstacles and hurdles and gymnastics and disappearing materials, it can be a fun gig. Each project holds the genesis of a new adventure. But it is a one-and-done deal if one buys, renovates and then sells.
The second dark dark spot or problem is what we will call the HGTV Paradigm. This is the underlying theory that one can watch someone flip a house on HGTV, then buy, then renovate in one week, then sell, and then get an HGTV deal of one’s own. Subsequent results are an influx of neophytes overpaying for projects, or “lipsticking” over serious problems, and then making a small profit and thinking that this is the way to play the game. Stardom awaits. All that whiny little narrative to say that, at least in parts of our market, people are overpaying for property. Or at least we think so.
So what does this have to do with the price of tea on earth or even on the moon -beyond the gravitational pull? Well, hopefully bringing it all together, we got into this in part to become independent. And, given the current situation coupled with that overarching goal, we are tending more and more towards a model of buy-renovate-hold and lease. We feel that this is where real wealth can be found. We have been slowly doing this with different deals. East Main may be the next such deal. Our new goal being to build up our commercial and residential rental portfolio to greater heights.
Now don’t get us wrong. We will still buy-renovate-sell if we can find a deal that gives us the safety room we need. We will also sell out of necessity if need be, but our strategy is to buy and hold whenever this new direction is conducive to our rental criteria.
Box Bend 2.0 is all about portfolio building and strategic investments married up to old school land and building flips. We’re looking for the ratio to be 51% or higher in favor of portfolio building.
Now all we we need is a good recession. Everything will be on sale and the neophytes will evaporate in a cloud of bad deals and iffy TV.
Oops. Did we say that out loud?
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