In 2018, Sarah and Rich Combs were planning on expanding their hospitality business when they remembered a spot they found during a road trip to Saguaro National Park in Tucson, Arizona.
Couple already owned and operated Joshua Tree House, Property in California with separate guest houses. But he also fell in love with the Arizona Territory during his 2014 visit.
Sarah told CNBC Make It that the couple made a mental note that this would be a wonderful venue for a new experience that their guests could choose from. The location was only a six-hour drive from Joshua Tree and offered an isolated, but still natural setting.
“We were finding a lot of satisfaction and fulfillment in creating a place for people to get out in nature. We’re also focused on giving people a place to reset,” says Sarah.
Fast forward to May 2018, Rich was browsing properties online for what he calls a “form of meditation,” and came across a listing for what looked like a 38-acre empty canyon. But he disregarded that property as they were planning to buy a place just down the road from him.
That deal fell through, so the couple looked up that empty valley on Google Maps. A large building in the center and two casitas were visible in this area.
In fact, the property that Combs received consisted of a main building that was 7500 square feet and two other homes. In total, the three structures came in at more than 10,000 square feet.
“Our agent recommended we go see it immediately, but was hesitant, so we asked him to take the video for us,” says Sara. “We fell in love with what we saw in the video and made an offer before we even saw it in person.”
The property owner accepted an offer of $615,000 and requested Combs include a signed copy of his design and lifestyle book “At Home in Joshua Tree” as part of the deal.
After his offer was accepted, Combs left for Tucson to find that what he had only seen in photographs was actually an inn that had been abandoned for 10 years.
They closed on the property in late October 2018.
The property was in such terrible condition, the couple say, that their biggest challenge was finding someone to loan them a hard money loan because they couldn’t get a traditional mortgage. Banks will not lend against existing assets that were destroyed and were not functional.
After the couple found a bank that was willing to give them the loan they needed, they got to work with the goal of completing the renovations and opening the property within the year.
Rich says that after purchasing the abandoned inn, he learned that the previous owners, who bought it in 2006, tried to renovate the property into a complex of luxury homes, but lost money during the 2008 recession. . They demolished most of it before allowing the remains to fall into disrepair.
Sarah says, “I love this space. There are so many beautiful details here that aren’t essential to the structure, but are really nice.” “You can tell the original creator loved what he was doing.”
Some of those beautiful, but totally unnecessary details are beams throughout the inn—the original builder, Mark Larson, used scraps from a disassembled bridge in New Mexico to build them.
“As designers, we thought the bones were incredible and it excited us to bring them back to life,” says Sarah.
The couple admitted they did not have a budget for renovations and relied on income from sponsored content, loans from friends and family, and maxing out their credit cards to open the inn in less than 12 months.
“By the end of the project, we were in very bad financial shape and it was very stressful,” says Rich.
The couple told CNBC Make It they estimate they spent more than $500,000 on the renovation.
“It was really risky but we just had enough confidence that this was a place that people would enjoy as much as we did, and luckily, it all worked out,” Sarah said.
Sarah and Rich converted the main building into five suites. One of the smaller houses serves as his own residence when he is in Tucson, and the other as the house where the property manager lives.
When it came to designing the inn, the couple says they reached out to people in the Tucson community to create the space, from the furniture to the art on the walls, including a mural above the bar in the common space.
“It turned out to be a collaborative project and it was a lot of fun getting to know the community and feeling that support through the process of being inspired by them,” says Sarah.
The Joshua Tree: The Posada Opened in September 2019. Rooms range in price from $210 to $427 per night. Guests also have the ability to book the entire 7-bedroom inn for $2200 a night.
The renovated property includes a chef’s kitchen, rock canyon pool, hot spring style hot tub, rooftop lounge, yoga room, dining patio, fire-pit lounge, BYOB bar, living room with projector, and on-site walking trails.
The couple said the best part of giving new life to the inn was the support of people who were following the renovation process on social media.
“After all the work we’ve done, it felt like a very vulnerable thing to put it out there,” Sarah says. “It means a lot that our followers feel like they were part of the experience and then came to see it as our first guests.”
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