Finding Your Land with Jonah Mesritz

Posted on March 26, 2022 by
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Finding Your Land with Jonah Mesritz

Inside Community Podcast — Ep. 006

Sometimes the community dream only starts to “feel real” when the time finally comes for forming groups to purchase land.  Putting down a large sum of money and taking that responsibility on with other people often brings up a load of fear and hesitation in addition to excitement. The process may feel daunting, but today’s guest, Jonah Mesritz, has helped numerous communities buy land and has helpful insights to support you into stewardship of community property. You’ll learn how we started our first community in San Diego and what was learned from that process. Jonah shares everything from discovering what aspects are most important to you in a property search, to financing and purchasing arrangements that are vital to understand. Tune in for his great advice and our fun conversation on finding your land… and then what.

  • Jonah Mesritz is a cofounder of the Emerald Village, a thriving ecovillage in San Diego, California and a cofounder of the newly forming Terra Lumen Community in Southern Oregon. He is a firefighter with the Orange County Fire Authority, a former Navy SEAL sniper and a licensed California REALTOR. Bringing to bear his experience investing in both businesses and real estate, owning and managing rental properties and “flipping” houses, Jonah has helped many new intentional communities to find and successfully finance community land without traditional bank loans.  He is passionate about supporting the communities movement and his Activated Villages Facebook page is a forum for discussions about creative financing solutions and sharing unique properties that are perfect for intentional community.

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— Rebecca, your podcast host

Episode Transcript

Rebecca Mesritz 0:03
The inside community podcast is sponsored by the Foundation for intentional community. The FDIC has been working to promote the communities movement for over 35 years with educational programs, publications and videos and incredible communities, directories, scholarships, and more. If you’d like to learn more about the FDIC, or this podcast, please visit ic.org/podcast. And while you’re there, I hope you’ll consider making a donation to the show so that we can continue to bring you along for an inside look at the beautiful and messy realities of community. Hello, and welcome back to the inside community podcast, Rebecca here. Before we get started with today’s show, I just want to give you a little preface that this is actually the first interview that I recorded, maybe about 11 months ago, my husband very generously offered to be my guinea pig. And so I think the information in here is pretty awesome. And also kind of funny, you might get a kick out of our familiarity. And I hope that you can take away from this a bit that acquiring land for your community doesn’t need to be a big scary thing, a big scary proposition, but it’s actually quite an attainable goal when you have the right steps and the right plan laid out. So enjoy the show. Today, we are going to explore what it takes to find your land the place where your community will live and grow. Here today with me is an expert on this topic, Yona Mesritz. You may have noticed that Yona and I share last name and that is because Yana is my husband, we are married. This has definitely been a topic that I know very little about because Yona is such an expert that he’s pretty much held down this knowledge base for our family and for our community and also for our future community. Because he is such an incredible expert. And really his gift is the problem solving and kind of working out these creative financing techniques. Yona is a firefighter with the Orange County Fire Authority. He was a Navy SEAL. And he’s a California realtor. And over the last 1520 years, he’s done a lot of investing in both real estate as well as bushcraft, high alcohol, kombucha, and myriad other investment opportunities. But his passion has been supporting people who are interested in creating community and starting community to find their land, and to purchase that property and helping them out as both a realtor and a sort of counselor and advisor on their community journey. Yona Mesritz Welcome to Inside community,

Jonah Mesritz 3:03
huh, thank you. That was great. That was good. It was lovely. I love that I had for all of you out there. It’s a good thing. We’re not on YouTube, because it’s distracting sitting across from my beautiful wife during this interview, I don’t want you to be distracted, because there’s going to be a lot of great knowledge today. So please, please enjoy. Um, I think I think inside that what people are here for and community is, is the support. I’ve been given a community and I think, you know, me, as a person who loves creative financing, loves creative projects, loves looking at interesting processes. So when we came here to EVO, within a short period of time before I was a realtor, I was traveling up the West Coast, creating a class and teaching people for free. How you can do this, like I was just like an aha moment, like what everybody wants to live in community. Everybody wants to own their own land and living community. And we’re doing it and we did it from the moment we set our intentions and did our visioning 90 days later where we were we own the property. So I was like, why shouldn’t we all be doing this?

Rebecca Mesritz 4:13
So why don’t you talk about a little bit about that initial experience of you know, how how we came from, from the financial and the property finding standpoint. How the Emerald village? Yeah, got there. Got our spot.

Jonah Mesritz 4:28
Well, we were all good friends. And eight of the 10 of us shared the same spiritual teacher. So we were kind of like we knew each other. We were meditating together, we’d seen each other cry, we’d seen each other’s processes. And that built trust. So that was the first part and then we were spending Thanksgivings and Christmases together that builds some of the community glue and then our lovely co habitants See love Craig cilona came up with this beautiful idea that we should all open a yoga studio with a kitchen in the back with some offices on top, we all come hang out together. And everybody was like, No, I do not want to do that. But let’s live together. And so we went. So we started that process of figuring that out. And it didn’t take long, a little bit of visioning a little bit of like, what’s possible, what can we do? And once we did, Bianca had given us a visioning exercise where we sort of like, wrote all of our needs and desires for what we would want in a community property. And I’ve led that activity for other communities. And what we got from that was like, Oh, wow, 95% of the stuff on this board, hot tubs, hella pad, zip lines, crystal caverns, we’re like, Yeah, we all want this. We’re so attuned. Like, yes, what, of course, we want this. And I would say 90% of that stuff. Even though there’s probably not a crystal cavern below our property. We don’t know that. But we could have a house. And there might be a crystal cavern below. So there was like, there’s like, a lot. So once we did that vision were like, We could totally live together and, and that, that exercise for other communities, the great thing is like whether you have vegans and meat eaters and stuff, they’re still like, Wait, we could live together just don’t use my pan, I didn’t realize that it’s a great exercise. So from that moment, I think it was a month later, we found this property. And two months later, we owned it. And I would say the specifics on that were a $910,000 sale, of which we needed about $170,000 down, so $17,000 for each person for 10 people. And the rest was a seller carry loan for three years. And so we had three years, this is probably 2010, bottom of the real estate market. And we had three years to figure out a refinance, which we didn’t, we actually didn’t we were late on that, which maybe we can talk about that later on why but So for $17,000, a person of which not everybody had the 17,000. So other people like here, I’m gonna I have a little extra, I’m going to lend this to you. Maybe you pay me 5% interest on that over a period of time. And we can all we decided we’re all going to be equal owners of this project with in the name of an LLC, and we all own 10%. And it was a great, it was a great process, a lot of magic and imagination. And just like let’s do it, we don’t really completely know what we were doing. Many of us had red diamond leaf Christian’s book creating life together. Some of us had been in other communities before, but we didn’t really know what we’re doing. But we were willing, and able to work hard to do a lot of meetings to try to figure it out. And I would say we were highly organized, there was a lot of highly organized women who were good at like, processing information, writing things down and sending us in a direction. And I learned years later from Diana DLC, Diana leave Christian, I’ll say DLC from here on out from DLC that what she realizes from successful communities is they’re successful business minded people. It’s not a hippie commune. You need structure, you need rules, you need agreements. And we already had a lot of that. So that was kind of the the process for getting us into this into this initial into emerald village.

Rebecca Mesritz 8:43
So it was so just to recap what I’m hearing you say. So you had, we had 10, people who were all friends seemed to be like minded had a shared vision had that piece figured out. We were very organized. I remember being a part of that organization. And part of what we were really intense attempting to do at that point was to template a little bit to sort of make sure that we were processing and documenting in such a way that we could create a replicable system. So it was important to us from the beginning to be organized, which we managed to do. And then essentially, even though all people were not in the same equal financial situation, some people had more money, some people had less money, we were all able to basically beg borrow, and come up with the $17,000 to do the down payment. And then the rest of the money. We took out a loan from the seller, the seller carry loan and then had three years after that to refinance and start making the the larger payments that were going to come after that time. Yeah, pretty much sweet. Yeah, I think what I’m aware of for me is that sometimes we talk about numbers and it’s my own place where I find myself shutting down is when we start talking about numbers and refires and sell are carried and you know all of these things, I feel kind of overwhelmed. And it’s a real stopping point for me. And so I’m just imagining that there’s listeners out there that are in kind of the same boat that may or may not have a Yona Mesritz in their court and still want to move into community and create community, but maybe don’t feel as empowered around the financial piece. So I would love for, in our time today, to be able to sort of simplify things and break things down and make it feel a little bit more attainable for people who are historically feeling less empowered around real estate and finance and investing in some of these big numbers.

Jonah Mesritz 10:40
Yeah, and to clarify it, I would, I would argue that there were some of the members who basically had no money. So from zero from no money to paying a rent that was possibly cheaper than the previous rent they had, which was rent that was going towards property they now owned, the years later, they have, you know, each member maybe has $100,000 worth of equity in their name. And they started with nothing. And I think like, people sometimes think of real estate as like, oh, loans and mortgages and this and that. And for me, it’s I was looking at as it is 47 signatures, like I signed paperwork, I sent an insurance, the paperwork 47 times, and I make agreements to a person to a bank or to a lender that says, hey, I’m going to take responsibility for this process. And you’re going to get your $4,000 a month, and we’re going to get space. And we’re going to be able to rent the spaces for $8,000 a month. And we’re going to continue this process. So if you’re the type of group of people that are willing to see that level of opportunity, and take responsibility, there’s plenty of entities out there that would love to have you signed 47 times to get there.

Rebecca Mesritz 11:52
Yeah, and I like I like that. You know, I don’t I think most people who live in community would agree that starting a community is not a great way to is maybe not the best investment, it’s not a great way to make money. But at the same time, it is an investment. And it is an investment of your time. And it is an investment of your resources. And real estate is an investment. So if you are endeavoring to found a community, there is an aspect maybe the all of the time and energy and hours that you put into actually building the community doesn’t count for that. But at least the real estate aspect of it is an in is is an investment of your money and your energy that can grow over time and can give you a level of financial stability. And yeah, it’s something that actually will garner returns

Jonah Mesritz 12:46
hmm, yeah, I often tell people that community is not like is not a great investment. It is, it is a great investment in personal growth, it is a great investment and a great place to live. But if you’re looking at this as a money investment, imagine if you know, you know, what we haven’t gotten to is that you and I and two other members of this 10 member community are departing and and we came to an agreement on some equity and we’re moving to build a new community. But traditionally, how would another community starts the the one of the most likely ways that they can benefit financially from this situation is if their community totally fails. And they have to sell the property and give up and walk away and then everybody gets a chunk. So often when I’m talking to groups, it’s like, well, if I put my money in here, and we build over the years, and there’s a value, it’s like well, would you ever strip that value would you you’d have to stop the community and sell it to somebody else in order to get that benefit. So I hope you’re not depending on that as a financial investment. You know, I hope we can all work towards creating you other financial investments and there is a level like we you and I created a process where we were able to exit this community and receive some some of our equity that we that we built over the years and so that we now get to use that to build the next community. But I think the things like at Earth havens at DLCs community that what you’re really the membership fee and the years of membership fee and the years of work is really what you’re really trying to get is a spot that you can have a home for the rest of your life and possibly maybe if the agreements allow leave it to your children and that what is the benefit to most people to have a place that is a neighborhood that is amazing that you help craft and it’s the your vision and your light and and you love it and it’s and you can die there. You could live there for The rest of your life. Hopefully, that’s really I think that that’s hard to do anywhere, you know, you know, the place that we’re buying up north is the traditional model is someone puts 40 years of their life into a place. And then they get, it’s just time to leave, and they can’t handle it, and they just sell it and whatever money is, there is what they’re gonna live on until they die. And that’s also like, it’s great that this system creates that, and people at least have that to some degree. And I don’t, it’s not a great story, you know, like,

Rebecca Mesritz 15:34
and that’s how most of the world is operating right now. The sort of individualistic, industrialized world operates that way, at this point, I have my house and you have your house, and sort of narrow the twain shall meet, as opposed to having a more shared existence where we have things held in common and sort of a built in more deeper built in network of support.

Jonah Mesritz 16:01
On that, I think it’s it’s important to note that like, Why, then why, why why why not have your own three bedroom house, it’s, it’s a good life do. And I, I’ve been Yona could certainly have supported figuring out buying 10 acres with some houses, doing it myself inviting some friends to rent from me, and we kind of have this thing. But within three years of living here, seeing what everybody brought the events, the tribal convergence, the experience, the different knowledge bases, the permaculture, I was like, I was never going to be able to do this. So now I live on nine beautiful acres surrounded by we’re looking at it now 500 acres with nobody looking down on us with, you know, 220 full sized trees on this property. And it’s amazing life and I could have never done this by myself. So like when people like well, what is what is the benefit of doing this? Like all 10 of us have put in some level of lifeforce into this place. And it’s way cooler than I could have ever crafted. Imagine Don are paid someone to do. I was like, that’s the, at the end of the day come by the ability to go share a beer or whiskey on your friends porch and stop by for a salad or, or pancakes in the morning. And just like it’s amazing. And then you walk home, you’re a minute from your house. Like, there’s nothing like it. So I think that’s the thing that we’re really, I think people are hoping for missing desiring. And, you know, in this conversation here, it’s like, they feel like the first big block is like, I’m broke, or how can I ever afford to buy a place with a bunch of houses. And just like, since we’ve been together, meeting with people talking about this for 15 plus years, our friends have been like, yeah, we want to do this someday. And like maybe in two years, because I can’t really afford it now. And that’s still wanting, I go to I go talk to 50 people in LA and they’re like, you know, everybody in that room wants to own their own property live in community, and they’re so excited, and they’ve been dying to do it for years, you know, but we’re closer to retirement than we are like, starting eco villages. So it’s, I think that’s what this is about is like maybe we remove some of the ideas around the block that we can’t afford it. But figuring out the property purchases too hard.

Rebecca Mesritz 18:32
Yeah. And then there’s the other side of it, too, which we’ve spoken about, which is you know, we have a lot of friends who actually do have the resource to buy a large, semi developed piece of property, a large rural property with multiple acres, several houses on it, and have the idea of sort of coming at it from from that side of I’m just gonna own this place and all and I’ll rent out to my friends. And, you know, what do you think? Like, that’s not It’s not held in common. It’s just held by one person, but what are your thoughts on that just sort of handling it as one person is just going to buy the land or my rich friend is going to buy the land and don’t just rent from them.

Jonah Mesritz 19:22
I’ve got three stories. I got one, I went to a conference and one of a community owner in on the West Coast. She’s like, I I own this community. This is great. We’re a community we’re doing all this stuff and we’re and but I can’t get people to work. Everybody doesn’t want to participate. I was like, wait, you own this completely. Nobody owns this. This is just your place and they’re renting sick. Yeah, I was like, Yeah, you’re not gonna get them to do anything. It’s like, why? You know they’re renting. They’re having the experience. The other ones, two communities that I helped start both financed early on big ideas, domes over here, these kind of green buildings over there do this. But it is it’s a scary step from like, look, I, I did this thing I was in Southern California made all this money, I have my house, I’m selling it. Now I’m going to transport it over into this property. And I’m going to start and I’m going to, I’m going to make the effort. But I was like, look, it’s going to be really hard afterwards to invite people into this process, you started where all of your life is in there all of your money. And then say, like, how would you like to be like you could either earn or buying in to this vision, that’s everything, I have everything that I put in, and you’re two or three years behind me. And now I need to decide if, if we’re not going to argue about this for the next decade, or you’re going to kind of screw me over at some point in the future. So once you’ve made that decision, it’s really hard.

Rebecca Mesritz 21:00
There’s just not room for, it’s like you’ve put as the owner, you’ve put so much of your life force into the project that there’s no room for other people to sort of come and play as equal partners.

Jonah Mesritz 21:12
Yeah, like if you as an artist are an amazing artists, you spent four years and $100,000 building the most amazing sculpture, and then you just met someone four months ago. And you’re gonna let them now help you finish it over the next decade or a baby, you’re gonna marry a new man and bring them in your life. And like, this is how we raise you know, that’s why my mother was single the whole time I was in the house with her like, look, no, no one else is raising this boy. Not gonna do it, right. It’s like that, you know? So I think it’s

Rebecca Mesritz 21:46
definitely a mindset in there, too. That’s I mean, it really comes down to control and agreements and sort of how do you move into trust? And how do you create space? Clear collaboration,

Jonah Mesritz 22:01
clear process and agreements? Yeah, like, if you show people away, like, look, this is a, if you show people away how other people can play, and an out for those people and an out for you. So you make it safe enough for other people to try, then, then you have a better shot, but it’s still really hard. If you just go out and just buy it all yourself and you’re not collaborating early on, it’s gonna be a lot harder to get there.

Rebecca Mesritz 22:32
Well, how do you think we’re going to do it? It’s my question. Because, you know, our, our two families have been the sort of initiators of this new project in Oregon and have purchased this land and now we’re wanting to invite other people in Yeah. To that energy?

Jonah Mesritz 22:54
Well, I think what was so the four of us, what we have going for us is a decade in a community where we’ve all been chugging away at the similar and same idea and visions and framework, and we feel comfortable that we could solve these problems that come up. But, you know, really what happened, I mean, you and I are money, your your money, you you gave me some money the other family gave gave us some money, but not much. But a lot of that chunk of money was like, Look, this is a level of trust, here’s $170,000, down 460 acres, for an $800,000 purchase price. And, personally, that I make because I personally am excited to make this a communal thing. I don’t want to work. I know how much work it is to run nine acres and I, I’m, I’m on maintenance, I don’t do land. I don’t I don’t like plant things. You know, it’s like it’s a lot of work. I do not want to be working 160 acres, you know, in a small group. So I’m excited for the membership process and I believe that I’m okay with the money sitting there. I’m okay with people buying a portion of it. I’m okay. You know, I’m okay with a lot of different interesting processes. I’m not as attached to that $170,000 So I think that’s how initially how it’s working is that all four of us are really excited to bring other members on board and play. It’s not about like, Well, does this person have five grand or 20 grand or 50 grand it’s more like Are you a community all star and ready to do this and Mike, you know, what system can all of us build together that feels amazing for for all of us to move forward? And we have a lot of great examples from from Earth havens, occidental EVO on and we’re attempting to find New ways of creating membership processes that may be exciting to people. So I’m not sure how we’re gonna do it. And I also don’t, I’m not so worried about it. You know, the most important thing to me is that we have some amazing people who are inspired to come and put their time and energy. Because as I said before, community isn’t necessarily a great investments, not about the money. It’s about people are going to come there and put years of their life into this, and what do they have to look forward to. And I hope it’s a vision and a lifestyle and a life and a beautiful community that they get to be a part of everyday. That’s the benefit years later, when there’s not necessarily room for a lot of new people. It’ll be like, oh, man, I’m so glad that I’m here. And I put years of my life in here, because this is one of my favorite places on earth. That’s what it’s really about, at least in my, in my eyes.

Rebecca Mesritz 26:05
So, you know, I think one of the things that I really wanted to cover in this podcast was to talk about kind of demystifying the process a little bit for people who are coming at this fresh and maybe aren’t real estate moguls or investment. whizzes like some folks that I know. And, I mean, I feel like in some ways, we’ve been fortunate that we’ve we have been able to skate by and on Grace somehow magically. But if you were going to, if you had a group of people who are coming to you, and they’ve got their mission and their vision, and they have their governance model figured out, and they’ve got their their crew all figured out, and they’re ready to buy some land and build their dream. Knowing what you know, now, what you’ve learned from EVO, and what you’ve learned from all the other communities that you’ve helped what what would be the sort of next steps? What are the easy processes that you can sort of take people through? I mean, I know it’s a huge question, because obviously, it’s a very big process. So location.

Jonah Mesritz 27:18
Yeah, well, and is location so important. It’s really like what are the aspects? So you and I traveled around and I have an Excel spreadsheet with 20 things on it that says days of sunshine, school taxes, like what are all the aspects of

Rebecca Mesritz 27:33
it to airport

Jonah Mesritz 27:34
What are water quality? Right, so what will help local zoning like, can you build there? Can you not like hospitals to you know, so you, what we did is everywhere we traveled like hey, maybe we’d like to see if we want to live there someday. So we’ll go which I was like, wow, grass Valley’s really hot in the summer. Jesus is a hot like this everywhere. It’s like well, apparently, if any, if you’re not on the West Coast, like within four miles of the coast, maybe this is surprising you because all the rest of America is hot in the summer. We’re so used to like 76 degrees again all year long.

Rebecca Mesritz 28:13
In San Diego, it’s pretty Yeah, but

Jonah Mesritz 28:15
you’re close to the coast. You get a nice all the way up to BC remember, It never snows up a BCA mile. Yeah, so aspects. I think there’s where I start with most people. How much space do you need? You need 10 acres, you need at least 10 acres. How many? How many bedrooms do you need? It’s easier than houses. How many? You know? Do you want one kitchen you want multiple kitchens? Do you want you know do you do? Does it have to be well won? Are you gardening? Are you growing food do you want to do businesses there and then all the other things you said? And then what I often ask people do is like look go up on a Zillow Redfin realtor.com and then set up a profile with these aspects but less than the aspects so if you know you want 10 acres make it five acres if you know you can afford 700 grand put a million because maybe you offer 700 grand for property has been on the market for a year and you get it you know or you find somebody else to make it to get it to a million so tighten all your aspects up and because like when we found EVO this was a single family five bedroom house if I would have just looked for multifamily properties, we would have missed this but this is four houses on a property with some other buildings. We would have never seen it so I tightened all that up and I looked at everything within our parameters of distance to the airport. So we wanted to be within 45 minutes of San Diego airport. So I looked at everything for sale that had like over 1800 square feet of housing and over four bedrooms until I found this place every listing so aspects of the property Bennett kind of send them like here ship send me some example property so I know so start looking set. goes up, Oh, I love this place. I love this place. I love this place, but I don’t think I can afford it. Oh, you don’t think you can afford it? Why not? Like, so then you got to get into assets and liabilities, so that the inspiration comes a little bit first, then it’s like, okay, you’re gonna have to get a loan, you’re, it’s 98% of people are gonna get a home some version of a home loan. So do you have downpayment money? If not, do you have a couple of veterans that can be a part of this that can do 1%? Down, you get a million dollar property for almost nothing and a multifamily property for, you know, $10,000? You know, can you do a seller carry loan? Is there something special or awkward about a property. So, you find some property that’s got one big kitchen and all these like, individual large rooms, that’s a care facility that they don’t run anymore, for some reason, because it was too rural. So you got 10, weird rooms and a massive commercial kitchen. And it’s just not selling. But nobody, everybody’s thinking this is this has got to be this type of place, or that type of place, but nobody’s thinking about intentional communities that might find this place valuable. So you find these awkward properties that will be great for community. So it’s the kind of search aspect the assets and liabilities. And then you get into, yeah, different ways to finance a property and then ownership. You know, don’t own as tenants in common, maybe own as an LLC, maybe an escort, maybe a nonprofit, why not a nonprofit, let’s

Rebecca Mesritz 31:32
come back to that. Because I just want to, I just want to a lot of stuff. There’s a lot of aspects. So you know, you’re finding your location, you’ve you’ve, with your group, you’ve made your list, you know what you want, you think you found a house, and I remember you saying this earlier about, somebody shows up and they’re like, this is the place, this is the place, but maybe that’s actually that’s just the inspiration house, because a lot of times you’re not going to get it because all of the people are not going to have their their finances in order. Or as you were talking earlier, about, you’re in escrow and people start dropping, people start dropping out, because all the sudden it gets really real like oh, well, we’ve got 10 people, we’re all super committed, but maybe only by the time escrow closes, maybe there’s only five people that are still. Well, that example. So

Jonah Mesritz 32:23
yeah, I’ll take it back to keep it more focus in a second. But I’ll say that, you know, the financing seems really tough for a lot of people, but it’s way easier than the rest of the stuff then, then how are we going to communicate governance, how are we going to live together, can i is are these meetings going to be facilitated these meetings are painful when I go to them. So the first community I helped buy property, there were seven members. And Justin the 30 day escrow of choosing a four unit property in central San Diego for half a million dollars. And it needed some work. Five of those members of the seven dropped out leaving to to close. And if you know anything about an escrow, losing that many people and possibly financing and stuff is a mess. And that really went in line with Dan leaf Christian’s book, creating life together was just like, you’re going to start with two, our sorry, you’ll start with 10, there’ll be doing this process, eight will drop off, you move to Idaho, you’ll find four more mammals, you go to six, because Idaho, there’ll be a spot in Idaho that doesn’t have any zoning restrictions, and you’ll build the community you want. And now I was like, wow, I guess that’s kind of true. And it was really that part was the harder stuff, which is like, making sure everybody feels like they belong there that they don’t have fears about communication, that they’re safe that they can they can they understand legal agreements, that they actually own this, that it’s not a risk or liability that there’s an out for them or other people. So that’s kind of the that comes afterwards, which is much more difficult than the financing. But I think for me in the financing I

Rebecca Mesritz 34:04
love about you though, this is this is the part that I love about how you view this thing. And the part that I find so empowering, is that there’s a lot of people who have a lot of big ideas about community, and they’re like, we’re gonna do it, we’re gonna do it. We just got to figure out the money. We just got to figure out the money. It’s like, no, no, like, the money is actually the easy part. I see your logical brain sort of saying no, we can just you know, one plus one is always going to equal two, we can make the numbers work, we can move things around and make the numbers work. But you can’t make people work. Like it takes work to make people work. And I love that piece of this of just it’s how important it is to address kind of the interpersonal blocks that are keeping people from community and this idea that, yeah, it’s not, don’t let the finances be your reason. then don’t let let finding the land be your reason, you know, because those things are pretty easy to solve, if you’re willing to do the deeper work and actually take responsibility for yourself and your emotions and work through your fears, and all of the things that you might have to surrender or give up or compromise on in order to move into this way of living that you feel so passionate about and so inclined towards, but there’s always those little hooks that are kind of like, Oh, scary and different. So I think that’s just a beautiful thing. I don’t want to miss that. Yeah, gloss over that?

Jonah Mesritz 35:37
Well, I think also, the biggest benefit people can probably get from me, because I can just wax on about community in general is like, how are you going to be able to buy your community property. And I think the best way for me to explain that is we just closed on 160 acres in Southern Oregon. So maybe I could tell people our process, and the financing, and some of the tips and tricks in there that will kind of people can like take nuggets from there and sort of feel clear about what’s possible.

Rebecca Mesritz 36:15
Yes. Before we do that, we were on another thread. And I want to make sure we didn’t lose the other thread.

Jonah Mesritz 36:24
But the other thread I thought was like what are the aspects? What? What is the process? And I want to take him through it on 160 acres, because I can see I’ll get lost, not that I’ll get lost, but I’ll just start talking about everything. Yeah. And if I talk about one thing, yeah, at least I can take into the process.

Rebecca Mesritz 36:41
Okay. So let’s do that. Okay. So, okay, to come back to this. What is the process so you’ve found your land, you’ve made your list of your aspects, you found the property, all the people who are involved, have hopefully, who are going to be buying it and have hopefully qualified for some level of financing because as you said, you need to you’re going to need to get a loan. So start working with a loan, mortgage broker, mortgage broker, that’s what it’s called a mortgage broker. Do you need a realtor for this?

Jonah Mesritz 37:18
Do you need a realtor? Um, when we bought EVO, I was not a real tour. And I got us EVO, because there was two other buyers. And the seller or the sellers tax person was on a cruise ship and was coming off tomorrow. It was like, so I went to that realtor, being a tactical Navy SEAL. I am, I was like, So tell me, what do we need to come in to buy this place and as a realtor, they have a fiduciary responsibility to their seller and to other people to who they work for. They have a fiduciary responsibility. And so, to look, I can’t I can’t tell you that, but we’re, we’re definitely above 900,000 You know, you gotta you gotta come in strong. So I said, let me rephrase this. Um, I don’t have a realtor. I’m basically that person. So but I don’t have my license. So I’m going to use you as my realtor. So if you are my realtor, what would you tell me? I need to come in at 910,000 and that’ll beat the other guys. Yes. Okay. 910,000 so that realtor got not two and a half percent of the total sale price but 5% So of a million dollars instead of getting about 25 grand, he got 50 grand for using me. So do you need a realtor? Well, we use that realtor. Do you need a realtor on your said? Yes, you do. And I don’t know if you want to trust the listing agent for the place you’re buying. It’s in California. There’s obviously me in community real estate but who’s the lovely woman up in Sebastopol? Her name is Cassandra Ferreira up in Sebastopol. So there’s other realtors who help communities by their community properties. I think that would be amazing to find that in every state might be difficult. But the tips and tricks along the way of like, well, how do you find a lender like Cassandra, she she found a lender who was able to take for her property. They have seven homes in a very expensive area. And they were able to take the income from each family and attach it to each house and then give them you know, I think their property was well over $3 million. But because there’s lots of hard working families who are blue collar workers, they were able to afford it. And so having a realtor who can support you with Financing and figuring out all the things is very important. If you’re trying to do it by yourself out there, and you’re like, I want this million dollar property with all these homes and I don’t really have an agent, then I’ll just use a listing agent. They don’t know your situation, you’re trying to qualify eight of your friends and own it as an LLC. And where’s the money in the agreements? You’re,

Rebecca Mesritz 40:20
you’re not so short answer. You need a realtor.

Jonah Mesritz 40:24
Yeah, I guess I don’t need a Realtor you you out there.

Rebecca Mesritz 40:27
You don’t need a realtor. And they should also know that the buyer doesn’t pay for the realtor, right? The

Jonah Mesritz 40:35
the a lot of people come to me they feel bad. They’re like, Oh, can you show me this house for this thing? And I what do I owe you? And I was like, oh, no, that seller pays for all both the realtors for the buyer’s agent listing agent, we can go look at properties for the next two months and go through a whole process and you’re not buying it doesn’t cost you anything. So definitely, as a buyer, go out there and find a good realtor who is comfortable working with your situation, which for many of you might be a bunch of earthy people who maybe don’t have great jobs, and one person does. And that’s not always the best. So find a good realtor for something like that. And a good mortgage broker.

Rebecca Mesritz 41:14
Okay, so we’ve we’ve found our people we’ve made, we’ve got our agreements, we’ve found the land, we’ve got a realtor, we’ve hopefully at this point, gotten some loans qualified for VA loan or some of these other things. So we figured out some of the financing. And now we are ready to make our purchase.

Jonah Mesritz 41:36
Probably not. But that’s a good feeling. I’ll take you back to the 160 acres we just bought. Okay. So what brings us up there, we’re looking at all the aspects we’re traveling, I know I love Williams, I’m kind of scared to tell you, my wife, like I think I want to move here. I know we’re talking about other places, but it’s 30 minutes from the closest coffee shop and restaurant, it’s 30 minutes from a grocery store. It’s 40. It’s an hour from the really cool grocery stores. And we go there on a vacation and go visit and go look at this property. And not on the first time. But on the second or third time you’re on that property, you walk and you go and you sit or stand at a really magical space next to the pond looking at the view in the valley, and you’re like, Oh, this is it. Like something happens spirit has told me that this is the land not necessarily the valley or that this is just the land. Um, so all the other things? I’m not sure if the internet works great. I’m not sure if Amazon will drive up this dirt road. I’m not sure. Like, I don’t know, if there’s working septic or one laundry here. But we’re supposed to do it here. What do we need to make that happen? So that first spark for us came from that place of like, and what a relief to me that I wasn’t the person who’s like, I want to move here. Now I’m like, roping you into this really rough situation. You heard that you heard your yes for yourself. So starting from that place, was like, Okay, this seller off market deal wants to sell this property. What do we need to look at? Well, legally, it’s 160 acres. It’s a Buddhist retreat with a bunch of houses and buildings and stuff. And legally, it’s one farmhouse, and one small barn. So we need to hire a land use consultant for $1,000. If you could you would make an offer on the property, you would lock it up for enough time say six, six plus months, in order to figure out if the land use consultant will tell you, you can do all the things we want to we want to do a circus over here and a regenerative farm over there. And we want to school over here. And we want to pigs and farm animals and we want 22 houses for all our friends you know, and so you got to go through that process. So if you can lock up the property until you can find out, do your due diligence and find out if you can do all this stuff that would be the best in this scenario. They couldn’t wait. So we need to do close as soon as possible. Which still was like how long was that? For six months?

Rebecca Mesritz 44:27
Oh, it took a long, painful, painful,

Jonah Mesritz 44:30
stressful journey of closing. But the process was this is the land. This is a space and here’s a couple of houses that would fit two of our families who want to move here we need to remodel them. So we’re going through the process of like well if we can remotely spaces maybe we could live here if other buildings could be built and we could have more community that was one of your Rebecca’s really high points is like I don’t want to do this alone. I’m not moving out here. You know if I could be with Good people with other kids with people living this life, I’ll do the 30 minute drive to the grocery store. But if not like I don’t want to do this all by myself, so there’s a process and for us, I would say, for most people, you don’t do this, but because I’m used to buying real estate and I and I have a comfort level of flipping houses, and if we had to, we could, you know, if we needed to sell the property later, we could. But I was like, let’s go, let’s just make this happen $170,000 In, and we’ll get a loan for the rest. And we’ll close this. And of course, the land use consultant came back afterwards and told us, you know, had a lot of questions. But as you look at these properties, I’ll tell you a little bit about code and zoning is like your this is Josephine County, that Josephine County did not write a 400 page book on all of the zoning allowed there. It looks very similar to every other county in Oregon. And then it looks very similar to every other county in America. So what do you get when every county in America is basically giving you the same zoning and code? You get a very kind of vanilla process? But if you see that vanilla process, what do you see in every county? That may be good for community? You see, bed and breakfasts, big houses with lots of people. But Can there be long term tenants there? 100? No, you see farms with farm housing. You see campgrounds and tiny homes, you know, so you have to look through the lens of like, what do all these counties once and what can I do? So some of the questions like in our property, you’re allowed to have 30 campsites 10 of those could be your sub domes. And you could have drive in tiny homes and trailers, as long as people didn’t live in there 365 days a year. You can build a lodge with 15 bedrooms, you know, like, what does that look like a lodge with 15? But what what sort of community space could that be? And then the other aspect we have, well, if you can’t legally have all of the housing on this property, what’s the big deal? So there’s, there’s structures there that people can live in, right? Now we can remodel them, that’s fine. But in order to attract good members, they want to know that the money and time they’re putting in doesn’t mean that code enforcement will ever ask them to leave. And that’s a good thing to have. So it’s like, well, how do we do that? So then we start looking at like, well, can we purchase properties close by, that people could either own part of being owner of and then this 160 acres has a real specific vision. This is our vision, this is, this is the work, this is the place, we come to do the work. But we live right across that little dirt road and a lovely house that we either built or bought and remodeled. And so that’s kind of the how in this country in this situation where most people don’t want you to just go and buy some land and build 30 homes with your friends. How do you how do you move through that? Now, if we lived closer to the city Grants Pass or place like that, you can definitely find 50 acres and the allowability to do one house per every acre or five acres. So the closer you get to towns, maybe you find zoning that says if you and that’s the other part, or whatever you think of it, like a developer, go talk to a developer, and then say, hey, we want to do this. And we want to have 30 homes here, and a school house and some businesses, can we find some land to do that? Yes. And build it from scratch.

Rebecca Mesritz 48:38
This is I mean, this is really, yeah, what I love about being in this process with you is is this, like the creative, the idea of creative financing isn’t just sort of like pulling money out of a hat. It’s really allowing this whole process to be emergent and to be a dance. So there’s aspects where you say, this is what we need, this is what we want, this is what we’re trying to do, and you have your mission and vision. But then there’s also this kind of, you know, breathability flexibility that you put into the process that says, you know, whether it’s what is the actual property look like? What is the zoning, what are we allowed to do, maybe those things start to shift, what you’re doing and how you’re doing it. And I love that kind of back and forth. Play in there. I know, you know, in our conversations over the last few years before we found the place in Williams and and decided that we were going to leave the Emerald village and move up there. My deep commitment has basically been to be listening to the land and this knowingness that I’ve had inside of my own heart that when we found the land, the land would tell us like the land would would deeply speak to us and make itself known. And I was shocked when we went and ended that property walk that you were describing earlier. And look down over this valley from the top part of the, from the the hill of the property and look down. And my heart just knew in that moment, like, Yes, this is where it is going to be. And it was so sure inside of me, but being open to receiving that from the land and, and hearing that I mean, you know, we’re, we’re definitely more on the kind of spiritual SPECT end of the spectrum. But it was that knowingness was so sure inside of me, and the specifics around what exactly we are going to be doing still have room to be fleshed out. So we, as are a part of our mission, and part of our vision is to create a learning center of some sort. But the specifics of what that look like can be very variable. So it’s actually working out really perfectly with this new piece of land, that maybe there are some things we can’t do, maybe everything we want to do, we can’t do. But maybe there’s ways of looking at the property through different lenses that are going to help us to figure out how we can not only just acquire this piece of property, but actually be in service to the land as well and be good stewards of the land as well, which is kind of coming back to this something that’s very near and dear to my heart of this sacred reciprocity with the land itself. And I think, you know, coming back to sort what we’re talking about earlier, with this sort of industrialized philosophy of how we relate to property, like, Okay, this half an acre is my piece of property, and I own it, and everything on it, and the one next to it is yours, and you own that and everything on it. And I know something that I’ve been and we’ve all been sort of dreaming into is sort of how to not be owners of the land, like how to return the land to itself. And, and we might be stewards of it, but creating ways that the land can support us and we can support the land and this, it’s very permacultural, like that kind of philosophy of building systems that are going to support everything supporting each other. So I just love this part of the conversation, because it really speaks to, to that dance and allowing things to emerge in a way and your eye in particular, as a problem solver and creative finance dude, kind of gets to gets to shine on on this more logistical kind of logical side. It’s a little foreign to me, but it’s nice that there’s room for both of these mentalities in this space.

Jonah Mesritz 52:43
Well, what if we also what if it wasn’t us? What if it’s some one of these listeners, it’s like, okay, $800,000 property, it’s got a bunch of spaces on it, what what it what can they do and as creatively, you know, how many of your family and friends in in the west coast have a 10 year run in real estate, and they’ve got a bunch of equity sitting in their houses. If you went to a family member and you borrowed, they borrowed 200,000 at three and a half percent, and then you borrowed from your family member, at 5%, they’re making one and a half percent on the money. And they’re not just giving it away. It’s real estate, it’s collateralized real estate, that 200 grand is going into this new 160 acres of which the deal is, hey, we’re going to these friends are going to move there, we’re going to remodel all the we’re going to put all this work, and in this house, lots of free hours, the value of this land is going to go from 800 to a million to 1.2 million, we’re going to put all this effort in the land your 200,000 is, is reasonably safe, but you’re just splitting you’re taking your $200,000 equity that’s sitting in your house you live in and you’re now you’re just putting that pot of money somewhere else, you’re not losing it, you know, you’re not spending on a business that might lose it’s sitting in the land. And as long as you don’t sell the land, you’re in a good space. And that’s just like one of the ways that somebody that has no access to money. You still someone needs to have a job. You know, like can you afford that? So what we also did a week after we bought this 160 acres, we went into escrow on another million dollar property in Williams, for more housing. And I personally didn’t think I could do that. I’m a firefighter, I have some other income. But because I knew the system because I knew that the lender when I look at a three unit property and they say when they do their math, they’re looking at it as if, if you have if you have a mortgage that is say $7,500 But your income your rents are 25% More than that are $10,000 We’ll give you credit for $7,500. So if you have $10,000 in rents coming in, the lender will say I’m not going to give you all that as rents because you got bills, but I’m going to give you 7500. And then they look over and like how much is this property going to cost you monthly 7500. So immediately, they give me a loan, because I show that the rents are going to be 25%. More. So in that process, you’re like looking at these. So I just gave you an example of how someone can get 20,000. Now I’m giving you another example of how someone can go to the lender and say, Wait, there’s rents gonna be on this property, this is a rental property, and we’re gonna buy it with an LLC, which would be a smart way for us to own it. So now you’re buying with an LLC on a property that has rents, and you were able to use your family members money. So right there, just for someone else who doesn’t who hasn’t sitting on 200,000, to be able to go in and make something like this happen. I think that’s the creative financing side. And to be fully in full disclosure, I have often steered people away from creative financing, because I’ve also gotten community member people, other communities into situations where they, they are going to sell a car loan, and now they can’t pay it. I was like, wait, you were supposed to work for two years? Then refi? Why can’t Why didn’t you revise like, Oh, we didn’t. We didn’t do step number three and four in the five step process, you’re told. But I would never

Rebecca Mesritz 56:20
think was hitting on you. I

Jonah Mesritz 56:21
would never think not to. I was like, Wait, that’s, that’s I do that all the time. But I go through all five steps. So that’s another part is like you can’t when you get creative, there’s a lot of money flow plan, you got to follow the plan. You got to get the renters, you got to do the things you got to pay back the parents for the money you get like, yeah, yes, things going on here as long as possible adult things you signed 47 times, you gotta You can’t just let that go. You’ve got a thing we borrowed $100,000 for this property from a friend. We owe that in nine months time. I’m thinking about that every month, every time I pay him, like, nine more months, I got to find 100,000 It’s not a you don’t wait till the last month. Yeah, you know what I mean?

Rebecca Mesritz 57:03
Yeah. Well, the other thing that kind of comes up in all of this, just around the sort of the creative flow and allowing things to emerge, you know, even when it comes back down to the zoning, which I think is a big concern, and finding these kind of permaculture solutions, that’s that stack functions, you know, you’ve got things that help at every, at every step of the way, you’ve got a solution that maybe you’re looking at zoning, and you can’t do what you want to do, but maybe you’re creating something that would actually serve the community around you. So in our example of looking at Josephine County, I mean, who knows what, what the best way that we’ll be able to be in service to that community will be we will find out more when we arrive there, I’m sure. But as we’re looking at the zoning and the things we want to do, and we establish ourselves in the community as upstanding members and do things to give back to that space. Give back to the community there. I mean, it’s my hope, I know that people do apply for variances. And I’m not just saying that people should bank on get on being able to get variances, but also finding ways like these systems have been created these cookie cutter systems all across America, because that’s just the way that it’s done. But I think that when you, as a community member, start thinking outside of your own little house, and you start thinking about the greater community that you’re surrounded by, and how you can be in service to the people around you and the land around you, then you start to be able to invite in collaborators, you know, in local government, where you join local government, and I, I love this piece of our vision that we’ve created, where we talk about being a feather in the cap of the local government, and such a beautiful vision to me, as opposed to how I know that there are a lot of communities that do things that are maybe not 100%, aboveboard. And you know, I certainly wouldn’t name any names. But that’s one way of doing things is to kind of be below the radar and, you know, not not up to snuff with code and things like that. And you deal with the ramifications when they come along. I really like the possibility for this next thing, especially because we want to be in service to the world of what we’re doing of being more aboveboard and finding ways to innovate new ways of working with local government and code and, and all of that to create new systems that could be a model for new ways of doing things.

Jonah Mesritz 59:52
And it’s tough. I mean, we, you know, speaking to a friend in that community who was trying to build a Waldorf school and they actually had To go to the state level, Oregon State level in order for their local county to sit for their state level to say, Wait, yeah, of course you can do that great. We support you when their local county wasn’t supporting them. And it was like, it can be frustrating. And I think there’s multiple ways to look at it. If you and your friends want to buy a four unit, multifamily property and just live there, it’s totally legal if you want to buy a 14 unit, U shaped apartment complex, and that sounds amazing. I have your pool and all your friends right there. Do that. And if you really want to cool development, like, it’s not so hard, you know, I say development. But yeah, so it costs $5 million to build a full development in a space that’s got some businesses and apartments and single houses and all this. But there’s places local counties and cities want that money, they want the property taxes they want you to build and that is not. It’s a development, it’s housing, it’s whatever. You can go into the system. When I say 5 million, I’m like, Well, where are we going to get 5 million? No, you’ve got 20 units there. 20 divided by 5 million is 250,000. A unit? Yeah, no, maybe some of them are 150. And some of them are 450. But you’re like, Wait, can you find 20? People who want to get a home mortgage for 150 to 450 in an area, then you’re like, wait, yes, I can’t, well, really, you only need five of those to start and you’ll get a bank, if you can get five people to sign on the dotted line that they’ll buy one of those units, you’ll get a bank to give you the rest of that money. So it’s like all there’s like, Wait, that’s it? Yeah, that’s it. And now and then exactly. And I’ll say developers make their money by supporting you with that whole system. So when you work with a good developer, they’re like, well, that’s a big journey. But that’s what I do for a living. Yeah. And they, they build it, this is what you need. And here’s the plans. And here’s the county plans. And like, This is it. If you want this, you need those five families to sign on the dotted line that says that they they’re getting a mortgage for this. And they the developers done it, so it’s not so far out. But it will be two, three years of your life. And it’s a good two, three years of your life. It seems

Rebecca Mesritz 1:02:17
like I mean, that seems like a pretty good investment, though. If you’re five families want to build a development work with the developer? Yeah. Would that be an investment opportunity? I don’t know.

Jonah Mesritz 1:02:28
Yeah, no. And then and you the five families could either make money that you’re,

Rebecca Mesritz 1:02:33
you’re renting out those other 15 houses or

Jonah Mesritz 1:02:37
rent to own and you’re ready to move into Grants Pass? No, but but that’s the thing is, it’s totally possible. But yes, work with inside the system, and how many examples of amazing they’ve got, instead of these 200 unit developments they’re building there’s there’s groups called, they’re building farms, instead of having a little community center and a dirty pool in the middle. It’s got a organic farm in the middle and you walk through the orchard. And if you live there, you can pick the apples from certain trees and like families like that’s, that’s amazing. And it’s like, yeah, there’s pigs. And there’s, that’s what we’ve always wanted to return the country. But it’s right here in San Diego. Yeah, the 200 units are building that. And so there’s no reason that we you anybody can build a really cool vision within certain means. You know, within it, some things are hard, but you’ll get to like San Diego County, there’s only one developer and I did a real estate deal with him that was allowed to do cluster housing. So you drive in, you park your cars over here, you walk a little further, you’ve got all the housing walk a little further, you got the playground and all that. Because in San Diego County, you need a driveway for every house. 25 feet of frontage space, your own meal. And so that. So in some levels, you’re like, Oh, I could do all this when you get to the down to the level in your county where like, we have to do it like that. I want it to look like this and really communal farm feeling like so you got to work within certain means. But it doesn’t mean that you can’t like, get that variance, as you said, it’s like, look, we’re a little different. We want it this way, will you give us a variance, and we’ll make this $5 million development and you’ll get your property taxes to build the new firehouse down the road.

Rebecca Mesritz 1:04:22
Yeah, and as an artist, I always I like having I think there’s a real benefit to having some parameters. That’s where the real creativity gets to be born from. You know, sometimes it’s really a blank palette can be daunting. So yeah, so okay.

Jonah Mesritz 1:04:47
You could speak to me for hours because

Rebecca Mesritz 1:04:48
I could talk to you for hours.

Jonah Mesritz 1:04:51
Kids not here. Hang out. Can someone get us wine please? Like a glass of wine. A fan

Rebecca Mesritz 1:05:00
Your podcast we should just do this

Jonah Mesritz 1:05:05
doing another podcast. Thanks community for watching our kid.

Rebecca Mesritz 1:05:09
Okay, so we’ve got, I feel like we’ve kind of come full circle now maybe maybe there’s a step that we’re missing. But we’ve, we’ve sort of taken the journey from coming together. You’ve you found your you found your land, you’re hopefully you’ve got a realtor and a good team on your side, you’ve got a good lender, a good mortgage broker,

Jonah Mesritz 1:05:33
how do you want to hold the land? Do you want to hold it as a, an LLC, a church, a nonprofit? Do you want to do some private?

Rebecca Mesritz 1:05:41
Because I’m trying to, I’m trying to synthesize all of that. So if you interrupt, then I can synthesize. We can still talk about that, though. No. Okay. So trying to bring this thing full circle, we’ve started with finding our group of people that we’re going to work with, we have some personal practices in place so that we can move through the fear and the other things that are potentially going to create some blocks or some stops along the way. We’ve got some some governance, and we have found a piece of property. We’re working with a realtor who’s hopefully has experience working with helping communities buy property, hopefully, they’ve got a good lender that they work with as well, who’s not foreign to community purchasing. And we are ready to purchase the property. We’ve decided some way of holding the land. So I think that’s the one piece that we haven’t really hit on very much. And I don’t know, I mean, it’s, it’s a huge topic, there’s, you know, for profit, there’s not for profit, there’s land trusts, there’s 501, C threes, there’s churches, their sole proprietorships, do you have just a couple of tips or resources for people who are at that stage, like, shoot him in a direction,

Jonah Mesritz 1:07:00
almost everyone I talked to, regardless if they want to do a church, or nonprofit or anything like that Co Op, start with an LLC. Like, there’s the pros and cons of all the different types. Banks understand, like, if you go to a bank and say, me, and my friend here would like to buy this multifamily property as an LLC, they understand that and they call will give a loan to an LLC, you’re just doing that for liability protection for your other assets. You come to them with we’re a nonprofit, we say like, Oh, we don’t lend to nonprofits, like, you need to go over there, there’s maybe 1% of the lenders will deal with that. And they’re kind of over in their pocket, and it cost you a little bit more, or you need to be inside certain guidelines. So I think for most people listening to this, set it up as an LLC, there’s a lot of protection, there’s a lot of flex in how you can, you know, you can have one member bring in 400,000, but they’re a limited partner. So they don’t live there. And so they and they only own a certain percentage, but their money is protected or alone. So there’s a lot of flex in what you can do and the operating agreements for the LLC are the operating agreements of our agreements for living in community. What happens if a member dies? What happens if someone wants to leave, you can put that in the corporate LLC operating agreements don’t own as Tenants in Common Pleas.

Rebecca Mesritz 1:08:30
That could be a problem. Okay.

Jonah Mesritz 1:08:32
Okay. Most people do. People, most friends, couples, you and I own property is tenants in common.

Rebecca Mesritz 1:08:39
Don’t do that with all your friends. And don’t do that. Because

Jonah Mesritz 1:08:41
if one friend wants to, oh, right, right. So we’re gonna

Rebecca Mesritz 1:08:46
say what happens if it happens wherever the French were to me to get my real estate license, which I have never used?

Jonah Mesritz 1:08:53
Well, we we go over to our friends. We were at a friend’s property in Williams. And we actually go over to his neighboring property, which has been an intentional community for a long time. We go over there and we’re walking through the property because he he does as he as he’s allowed to over the years, and a guy comes out with a shotgun starts yelling at us. He’s like, I’m gonna shoot you get off my land. And we’re like, Whoa, we’re leaving. No, we’re leaving. We’re definitely leaving. So then he goes back and he calls his friends. What’s the deal? So all of the other community members had to leave. I’m going to call him Bob crazy Bob, who’s going weed now? Is freaked out every all his neighbors, all his co owners, and he’s been there and it takes them a sense of tenants in common and all the other members continue to pay the mortgage though Bob doesn’t anymore. A judge looks at that as like, look, this is America. He’s got rights. He’s a landowner, the mortgage is paid. I can’t I can’t tell you to get so it took two years to kick off crazy Bob with the shotgun. Because they were tenants a common noun. They’re an LLC, and they had a lease with each member. You’d like it EVO with us even though we own On this property, we have terms inside that lease that allows the LLC to evict even though we own the LLC. And that’s that’s a much safer process for multitude.

Rebecca Mesritz 1:10:12
Okay, good to know No, don’t don’t have a crazy Bob or crazy Baba. Depending on whether or not your spiritual community. Yeah, so you have you found your land, you’ve decided hopefully that you’re going to go with a LLC to buy it, maybe things will change in the future. And you’ve gotten your financing figured out. Now what now you’re you’re moving on, you’re ready, right? Is there anything else there any other tips or things pitfalls, look out? Don’t do that. That’s the one thing that we shouldn’t have done.

Jonah Mesritz 1:10:48
I’m working some of this out before you own it. The the agreements like well, what does it mean? What does it mean to have memberships? Who who is going to pay for this stuff? There’s money that needs to happen immediately after you close? So are we setting up a bank account? Are we gonna put more money in that bank account? Are we gonna run this as a business? This, once you get to that point, you you started, maybe you have an accountant, you run this as a business, then the hard part starts, you just did a big process, and then probably all your other podcasters all your other guests on your podcast are gonna come on and be able to say like, oh, this is membership, this is mission and vision. This is what you do after or in order to get there. Because there is so much work

Rebecca Mesritz 1:11:35
to do that before you have the mission. No, I’m just saying all the

Jonah Mesritz 1:11:39
work, we were still talking about Evos mission and vision, like there still is still like it doesn’t it all that work is tough. And I think that, yes, you need to do it before. But also, the hard work is making it a beautiful space that everybody’s really excited about living together. And on. So the tips and tricks afterwards is make sure make sure you pay your bills, make sure you pay your mortgage, make sure you’ve when you say that this place could get $10,000 in rents. And you’re like, I mean, Evo, the amount of rents we receive, you know, we, our expenses are the same amount we make we make a good amount in rents. And it’s amazing how much it costs this place every month to run. And so nobody really figures that in, you’ve got Oh, you’ve got your rents, and you’ve got your property taxes and your insurance. And your mortgage. Okay, I think we can move on. And then you’re like, Wait, why does it cost so much? Why do utilities so much? Why Why does it cost so much to have goats? Why does it we need a new mower white, you know, and it’s just like, you know, for us think of it as another, you know, 10 1215 grand a month that you weren’t even thinking about for Evo. And that’s, you know,

Rebecca Mesritz 1:12:58
yeah, but I, yeah, I mean, I, I agree with you. But I also feel like there’s a lot of things that are operating costs that are what you’re talking about. But we also put a lot of money, put a lot of our income to things like paying for childcare, or Easter baskets, or stockings or events, you know, we have a lot of extra things, the pool and all the, you know, different pool chemicals to keep that up and running. I mean, that’s kind of operating cost, but it’s also they’re also like additional things that are the benefit of living in community that we give ourselves. Yeah, you know, so it’s sort It’s interesting. It’s like, yeah, figuring out those numbers and how how you’re going to budget in advance to say, Okay, this is going to be our monthly expense for me. And we do this because we have different ways. sociocracy we have different circles that have different budgets, but there are different budgets for different circles, and we use all of our budget for sure.

Jonah Mesritz 1:14:01
Well, they just take the one maintenance like most people don’t realize like, Oh, we’re starting an eco village. I was like, oh, remember that place I took you to with like the 17 rooms and 15 bathrooms? Like no, you’re buying a place with 15 bathrooms for septic systems, two of them are illegal. And every room needs work. The $500 Maintenance fund we do at EVO every month would seem cheap compared to that place. And so it’s some level just don’t, as you’re coming into it try to be realistic about okay, we do want to remodel here and after that there is like, try to get into it. See what this place might cost you. You know if you’re if you’re gonna have chickens, how much is chicken feet? We definitely want 50 chickens. How much chicken costume because now these great organic eggs that you have here actually 20 bucks it doesn’t. You know, it’s it’s great. It’s worth it, but it’s still 20 bucks. It doesn’t Yeah, you know, so don’t miss that and Yeah, I think I think don’t stop yourself at the place of like, I, I don’t know, cuz I keep running into as people like, I can’t afford it. I don’t know how to make this happen. I’ve got three videos online, you look up activated villages on YouTube that kind of runs you through the process of creative financing and buying new community property. And just the sort of general sense of like, oh, wow, I can I can make this happen. This is we’re capable. So I think starting there, like, knowing that you can totally do this. And there’s definitely lots of friends in your community who have assets, who can qualify for mortgages, and and you can totally do this. You can do it, you can do it.

Rebecca Mesritz 1:15:55
Right. Well. I think before I let you go, this has been amazing. And I guess the sort of parting question that I have is,

Jonah Mesritz 1:16:09
yes, you are the most beautiful. Hands down, I have never met more beautiful woman.

Rebecca Mesritz 1:16:18
Basically, my I think it’d be my parting question for all my guests. But you know, what do you wish that you had known before? Before EVO, before actually living an intentional community, and it doesn’t have to be related to finding land finance or any of that it can be just any any lesson or any kind of deeper insight for listeners.

Jonah Mesritz 1:16:48
I don’t know, I’d say that as I look back, I’m grateful. You know, we’ve talked about it before. But we’re at this wonderful age of like magic and excitement. And I’m grateful that we just took the leap. You know that there’s a there’s a stage in your life where it’s too scary. You’re too far in you, you have your own house, and you need that and you need to the equity you built up. And then there’s this other stage where you’re traveling with the backpack and sleeping in hammocks on people’s porches. And you’re just nowhere thinking about it. But you’re in this beautiful stage. And I’m really grateful that 10 of us took the leap on real short notice. And like, yeah, we can do this, like we want to live together, we’re excited to and we’ll figure it out. You know, and the whole time. It’s not that it has been easy. There’s definitely been times that people don’t talk to each other for a long time. But and it’s tough, but we’ve always work through it. And because we see this gem that we all live in, and we want to keep it beautiful and sweet and amazing. You know. So that’s it just looking back of like, I’m grateful. I’m grateful to surrender enough to just fall off that cliff into the end of the magic into the blackness into the uncertainty and land in such a sweet space. And I highly encourage others to to take the leap.

Rebecca Mesritz 1:18:16
Yona Mesritz, thank you so much for being on the inside community podcast. This has been a real pleasure.

Jonah Mesritz 1:18:23
Thank you. Thank you for having me. Yeah. We get our kid Hey, put her to sleep already at 8pm

Rebecca Mesritz 1:18:33
She just gonna hang out. Keep recording. We’re

Jonah Mesritz 1:18:35
gonna go in there watching a movie and she’s gonna be high on candy. Wait, no, what did you do? It’ll be up all night.

Rebecca Mesritz 1:18:42
What happens when you record on Easter? Thank you for joining me for today’s conversation. And I’d also like to give a big shout out and thank you to my dear friend Dave Buddha, who helped me out a lot in the early days of getting this podcast started. He let us use his recording studio helped me with the tech stuff, and even watched our daughter while we recorded this episode. So thank you so much, Dave, for your support. And if you would like to hear more and support this show, I hope you will like and subscribe and follow. Come find me on Instagram at inside community podcast. And if you would like to find out more about Yona Mesritz and his work, you can find him on Facebook with the activated villages Facebook group. And you can always learn more about this show and my guests and the foundation for intentional community online and I see.org/podcast. While you’re there, I hope you’ll take a minute and maybe make a contribution to the show so that we can continue to bring you wonderful content about what it’s really like to live inside community. I hope you have a wonderful day and I’ll see you guys next time.

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The Inside Community Podcast brings folks along for an inside look at all of the beautiful and messy realities of creating and sustaining a community. We provide useful and inspiring content to support people on their quest for resilience, sustainability, and connection.

Meet Your Host

Inside Community Podcast host Rebecca Mesritz is a community builder living in Williams, Oregon.  In 2011, Rebecca co-founded the Emerald Village (EVO) in North County San Diego, California.  During her ten years with EVO, she supported and led numerous programs and initiatives including implementation and training of the community in Sociocracy, establishment of the Animal Husbandry program, leadership of the Land Circle, hosting numerous internal and external community events, and participation in the Human Relations Circle which holds the relational, spiritual and emotional container for their work. 

In June of 2021, with the blessing of EVO, Rebecca and 3 other co-founders relocated to begin a new, mission- driven community and learning center housed on 160 acres of forest and farmland.  Rebecca is passionate about communal living and sees intentional community as a tool for both personal and cultural transformation. In addition to her work in this field, she also holds a Master of Fine Arts degree from San Diego State University and creates functional, public, and interactive art in metal, wood, and pretty much any other material she can get her hands on. She is a mother, a wife, an educator, a nurturer of gardens, an epicurean lover of sustainable wholesome food, and a cultivator of compassion and beauty.

Rebecca Mesritz, podcast host

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