Disclaimer: I tried to make this interesting, entertaining and pleasant to read, but if it's too wordy, at least watch the video below (since, you know, we went to so much effort and all.)
My Background For those of you who don't know me, I grew up outside of St. Louis, Missouri, moved to California when I was 18, did an apprenticeship in Los Angeles doing multimedia (video production, graphic design, etc.) and performance art. After a few years in Los Angeles, I met a nice German lady, married her, and moved to Europe in 2005, which turned out to be its own whirlwind adventure.
It took me some time to adapt to a new language and culture, but when I was ready, I decided it was time to get back into video production and in 2012, I started my production company, doing mostly client work.
My path into permaculture started in about 2010, when I started exploring ways to deal with my waste streams more responsibly. I started composting, then worm composting which led me to discover Black Soldier Fly Larva (which are amazingly fascinating creatures with several applications for the modern homesteader as well as in the third world).
Shortly thereafter, I was introduced to the concepts of aquaponics, and somehow in the wonderful way the internet works its magic, one YouTube Video led to another until at one point I discovered Rocket Mass Heaters, which more or less brought me to permies.com. (Seeing how meticulously Germans sort their trash is what got me interested in composting in 2010, so perhaps if I had not moved to Germany, I would not have discovered permaculture? At least we can safely say that the journey would look differently.)
It was here that I heard about the first Permaculture Voices Conference. Sensing an opportunity to juxtapose my skills with my passion, I reached out to Diego and offered to bring a team together and film the conference for him. He agreed, so that's what happened. (More about that and about my journey can be found in the podcast he recorded with me, no need for me to write a novel in this post.)
My Project For years, my wife and I have been fruitlessly searching for a place to call home, or as I have learned to call it, a homestead.
It took a while to consolidate our thoughts and come to agree on what exactly we were looking for, but one thing was certain, the property must enable our handicapped son to be more independent, meaning wheelchair accessibility, one story, no stairs or awkward hills.
This single requirement eliminates probably 90% of the properties we were considering, until we recently found the home of our dreams.
Like Mary Poppins, it is practically perfect in every way: large and secluded enough for me, yet centrally and conveniently located for her. Ridiculously affordable, good fencing and hedges for privacy, countless fruits nuts, and berries of several varieties, and most importantly, our son is able to navigate in his wheelchair from the street to anywhere inside the house by himself.
In many ways, it seems as though this property was created and tended over the past 30 years with us in mind, as though somehow the land has been waiting for this moment to arrive, and that circumstances have brought us to this point where destinies intercept one another.
Almost as evidence of this, what began with a few open house appointments with the realtor and about 30 interested buyers underwent several rounds of bidding, the end result being that we were overbid by two other potential buyers, and the seller STILL chose us, because we had convinced her with our permaculture concept and she felt strongly that ours were the best hands into which she could entrust her property.
The Vision The property is about 0.78 acres with its own well water and septic system. With the addition of some energy systems, we could go completely off grid if we choose. For the preppers among us, it would be an ideal Bug-In or Bug-Out location. In addition to the existing perennial food systems, we would like to add some micro-livestock, including a handful of chickens, quail, ducks, and rabbits. For additional fertility and waste management we would also include composting worms, black soldier flies, bees, and habitat for bats, butterflies and other beneficials. We want to bring new life to the pond, with the addition of various aquatic plants (including duckweed, azolla, water chestnut, and water hyacinth) and animals (such as trout, tilapia, oysters, frogs and snails). As there is an ample supply of fuel, a rocket mass heater in the house makes a lot of sense, as does the addition of a passive solargreenhouse on the south side. With the material available to us, we could do pretty well with an anaerobic digester/biogas generator. We would also like to create additional living space and develop a place where people can have a vacation spot to escape from the craziness of society-at-large and find some peace. Of course, all these ideas take time to implement, it's not going to happen overnight, and certain aspects of the plan may change by the time we're ready to implement them, but using only what's available to us now, I think that just having this property would add a few hundred dollars a month to our pockets, either in the form of reduced expenses or increased income, and we could easily grow from there.
The Hurdle We've been searching for a property for a long time, and we've been saving up for a long time. We've had several appointments with the bank, the first of which was a general inquiry about what our price range should be in our search. The banker looked over our accounts, compared income to expenses, and gave us a number. The price of the property we're now looking to buy is significantly lower than that, only 150,000€.
Based on other conversations with the bank, we know that they need an additional 10% up front for closing costs. They don't lend this amount, because theoretically, in a worst-case scenario, these are costs the bank could not recoup. So if you're doing the math in your head, this means they'd need 15,000€ from us.
The property is what we're looking for....check.
The price is right....check.
We can cover the 10% closing costs...check.
So we went back to the bank, fully expecting to get a loan, and were blindsided by what we found out: This property is zoned as agricultural land, and the bank sees it as a higher risk than normal residential properties, and they want 42% up front, or about 65,000€.
We've currently got about 30,000€. So we're about 35,000€ short.
If I had more time, I would just continue to save up. We're a debt-free, net-positive income family, so that would be a perfect solution. Things being as they are, however, I've got about two weeks until our appointment with the notary.
Even if I had enough time, I can't set up a kickstarter campaign because it's against their policy to do real estate projects. So I set up a page at gofundme.com.
For a quick review, take a moment and check out THIS WEBSITE or watch this video.
The Solution If you give money through gofundme, it's done, no going back. And they'll take 5%. Essentially, what I am doing instead is collecting PLEDGES, and using the website to track progress by manually entering the amounts pledged as an "offline donation" and as I've promised elsewhere, whatever money we collect will be repaid with interest. It's not exactly a crowdfunding model, more of a microfinance model: You put money in, you get more money out.
I think most people are daunted by the amount we need, and think to themselves, "Well I could give SOMETHING, but it wouldn't be nearly enough, so I'd rather not even bother to offer." Don't be intimidated. All we need is:
*35 people who could lend 1000€, or
*70 people who could lend 500€, or
*100 people who could lend 350€, or
*500 people who could lend 70€, or
*1,000 people who could lend 35€, or
*2,000 people who could lend 17.50€, or
*any combination of the above.
I'm sure that there is some amount that you could lend which you wouldn't miss. How much is that amount? All we need is a "jet pack" similar to Paul's when he purchased The Lab.
If you're interested in helping me, please let me know what amount you can contribute, and a valid email address where I can contact you about repayment. Send me a Purple Moosage, or reply to this thread.
Wildcards *I know a guy who's part of an alternative housing project which is currently saving up about 1,000,000€ to purchase a larger complex for something like an intentional community. He suggested to me that since it will take some time to collect the rest of what they need to begin (currently, they only have about 700,000€), it might be possible for them to lend us 10,000€, perhaps more.
*It MAY be possible to negotiate with the bank, I imagine they have dozens of other ways to mitigate risk (higher interest rate, longer terms etc.)
*It may also be possible to convince the seller to do some sort of owner-financing model, for the full amount, or perhaps just for the remaining ~$35,000.
I am fully convinced that this deal is GOING to happen, though I'm not sure at this point who will be getting repaid with a little extra to say thank you. You could be among them, which I would prefer over faceless institutions like banks or money-lending websites.
There are also a few people who have told me they will contribute but haven't indicated a specific amount, as well as people who have given me an amount, but I don't have their email address yet to update the list at gofundme.com
The Offer To reiterate, if you contribute $X, I will repay you $X.X, or 110% of your contribution. That's likely a better rate than your bank will give you. We anticipate that most supporters will be repaid within 3 years. Aside from that, there's no tiered reward system, but:
If you want to name an animal in exchange for your contribution, fine.
If you want to sponsor a building or feature, we can hang a plaque with your name on it.
If you want graphic design or video services, or any sort of media consulting, we can talk.
If you want a free place to stay next time you're in Germany, I'm happy to provide that.
If you want fresh eggs, produce, or other farm products, you may have to just come pick them up in person.
(These offers are EXCLUSIVELY for permies.com forum members and, if Paul agrees to it, recipients of the Daily-ish Email.)
If you have questions, thoughts to share or wish to join in, please reach out to me.