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If barn doesn't sell...what to do.

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  • If barn doesn't sell...what to do.

    I am finding this all very stressful, and hoping that putting it down in black and white, and getting outside opinions helpful.

    We put our facility for sale last fall due to my poor health. I just don't have the energy or strength to run the business in a profitable way and I am tired. Winter is way worse for me.

    I also realized at the last two shows that I miss having a group to show with (my clients don't do the same type of shows I do...they mostly jump or do dressage at schooling show levels). I also find I am tiring myself out dealing with the business, and sacrificing my own goals/riding time. I also miss having a regular coach to help me out.

    I do like teaching and being able to pick and choose who I have to ride with. I like being able to care for my horse(s) my way.

    I don't like having to spend so many weekends taking students to shows, or they emergency type stuff that a barn owner has to deal with (colicky client horse, fence down, frozen waterer). DH and I also find frustrating to not be able to just pick up and go on vacation...I finally got DH to allow someone to stay in our house while we are gone, but she has a full time job, so still limits how long we can go...and last time we came home to a frozen solid waterer.

    I also kind of miss working in the "Real" world. I would likely go back as a part time admin or book keeper.

    On the other hand I think the daily forced physical work is likely good for me. My body is stiffening up, so having to move helps.

    I can't control if the barn sells or not (although when our contract is up we are finding a new real estate agent...the current one has not lived up to our agreement as far as advertising). Not sure if keeping the business going helps the ability to sell or not.

    Options as I see it:

    1) Keep going as is. Maybe raise rates and hire someone to do morning chores once a week. Of course I might be delusional and forgetting how hard last winter was on my body. (I do not have staff.)

    2) Put up a second house and have live in staff. This would take away most of the physical work and allow me to have a real job. Cost would be minimum $60,000, and I don't think we are actually legal to have a second residence, not sure we could recoup that cost when we do sell

    3) Closing the boarding stable and either keep my personal horses at home, or just keep one horse and board. this would be sad and lonely I think, but maybe not. Not sure how DH would feel about my boarding when we have this facility, but keeping the horses at home wouldn't resolve the vacation issue. Maybe stay here winters and board for show season? That means keeping at least two horses though...I don't know if I will have energy for two horses plus their care, plus a day job.

    If nothing else, thank you for letting me put my thoughts down.

    Ideally I wish someone awesome would just come buy the place and keep my boarders/students looked after so they don't have to move and I don't have to worry about them...
    Freeing worms from cans everywhere!

  • #2
    Is there any way you can just skip the building a new house but still get full time staff? I'd also try and maybe find a barn manager?

    Or potentially someone like an up and coming trainer looking to lease a facility but not own?

    Just some ideas. I hope it works out for you!


    • #3
      Many barns have boarders that work board down by doing chores. I have done this at several places over the years, including where I am currently boarding. Works out well for me
      as I get a board reduction, based on how much I work. Works out well for the BO as she gets a few days off, and vacations are covered. There are a few of us who do this so no one gets burned out.

      You have to be careful who you offer this to - not everyone is cut out to do this. But it could be a win-win situation for everyone.


      • #4
        Your situation sounds like a good candidate for leasing our your facility to a trainer or barn manager. You collect a dry stall fee and the lessee deals with all the rest. You can set aside stalls for your own horses and decide how much labor you want / are able to invest. This, of course, requires a well-wriite, detailed contract and clear communication between you and the lessee.

        "Avoid loud and aggressive persons, they are vexations to the spirit."
        - Desiderata, (c) Max Ehrman, 1926


        • Original Poster

          I have boarders that are willing/able to work when we go away or if I am at a show for the day, but I don't have boarders that would be willing to do this on an ongoing basis during the week or that I can count on being available...they are adults with "real" jobs. The other issue with staff is that the barn just doesn't take that much time to do. Once a week I could come up with extra duties to fill our the hours and still be able to fit in the budget, but not enough hours on a daily basis to make having someone drive out to work worthwhile without really padding their hours and having to increase rates quite a bit. (having regular staff worked when I was taking in training horses, but I can't do that any more). Where I live there are more jobs than people looking for work, so you have to pay decent to get someone out.

          We did talk about leasing, but I can't imagine someone wanting to lease when the barn is for sale, and we also worry about them not looking after things as they wouldn't have the same "ownership" in the place. It just seems awkward.

          I really think my options listed are the best options available, but I appreciate the other ideas.
          Freeing worms from cans everywhere!


          • #6
            I agree with those who suggest you put it on the market not only as a sale but as a lease/rental. It would probably mean you need to move elsewhere if it rents out so the renter can have the house.
            McDowell Racing Stables

            Home Away From Home


            • #7
              It's hard to give you advice without knowing all the details. However, I think that raising rates and hiring an employee are good places to start. If the boarding receipts don't provide enough money to pay for an employee, that's a good sign that the business may not be worthwhile and in that case your best bet is indeed selling the facility.

              As far as building a house on site, I think there are pros and cons to that. First of all, if you are trying to get OUT of the business, that is effectively locking you into it further, unless the house would be a good rental investment. Having a house on site may help you attract an employee, but on the other hand if you have to fire someone you also have to evict them.

              Another thing to consider is that no employee is going to be as invested in the business as you are. Most employees want semi-regular hours, days off, etc. It might be hard to find someone to cover the after hours emergencies, or even day to day problems outside of regular duties.

              My opinion is that if you can financially swing it, cut back on your clients and downsize your business. Hire some part time help to ease the load. If it comes down to it, you could even get rid of all of your boarders. It might seem silly to have a big facility with just a few horses on it, but depending on the financial details--including the fact that you would probably be earning more at your other job--it might not be such a money loser as you think. Boarding is typically a business with a lot of cash flow but little income. I know that I collect a lot money in boarding checks each month, but a surprising (or not so surprising) amount of it just goes right back out for payroll and other bills.


              • #8
                Have you looked at alternate uses? Our barns were specifically constructed in manor that allows us to strip the stalls out providing a clear spanned structure which could be used for nearly anything. The buildings actually appraised at twice the value as garages rather than barns.


                • Original Poster

                  It is very expensive to buy/rent here, so leasing it out and having us move somewhere else would not be a good plan budget wise, but at the same time, makes it easier to attract someone to live/work here. Still, not sure about the $$s

                  The place is staying for sale, but who knows how long it will take to find the right person? Need a plan for in the interim. If the plan is to close to boarders, then want to give them plenty of notice so they can go to shows to scout out new trainers/barns and move before winter.

                  Alternate uses are a good idea. Renting it out to dog agility or archery in the winter would be a possibility. Dog agility pays well. Not sure how our resident dogs or cats would feel about that though!
                  Freeing worms from cans everywhere!


                  • #10
                    Maybe converting to full kennel... boarding here is $30 per day for large dog... and they are easier to take care of than horse


                    • #11
                      Originally posted by CHT View Post
                      It is very expensive to buy/rent here, so leasing it out and having us move somewhere else would not be a good plan budget wise, but at the same time, makes it easier to attract someone to live/work here. Still, not sure about the $$s

                      The place is staying for sale, but who knows how long it will take to find the right person? Need a plan for in the interim. If the plan is to close to boarders, then want to give them plenty of notice so they can go to shows to scout out new trainers/barns and move before winter.

                      Alternate uses are a good idea. Renting it out to dog agility or archery in the winter would be a possibility. Dog agility pays well. Not sure how our resident dogs or cats would feel about that though!
                      why do you feel you have to move your household? Why can't you just rent out the barn / stalls / pastures and let the lessee commute in every day? Lots of places in my area do this.

                      "Avoid loud and aggressive persons, they are vexations to the spirit."
                      - Desiderata, (c) Max Ehrman, 1926


                      • #12
                        I would try to end the contract with the realtor early, and relist. The next listing should have great pictures, and be on the national MLS, not the realtor's company only (some companies tell you it's the same, but it isn't). The prime sales time is late spring, to summer, and the realtor is really screwing this up (and I know you already know this). I would also look at the price you want, and see if it's really the bottom you would be comfortable selling at. I'm not saying that you reduce to a loss, but just examine how much it will cost to keep trying to sell at a higher price vs. carrying costs for keeping going. Don't limit yourself to horse farm buyers only, because your buying pool will be bigger if you advertise to a wider audience. Your horse farm might be a great dog training and boarding facility, or a place for people without animals that just want land in the country, or someone who wants to raise another kind of animal, so your market might be bigger than your current realtor is aiming at.
                        You can't fix stupid-Ron White


                        • #13
                          I think I would go with option 3, and close the boarding, etc. part and only keep your own horses. This would make the workload on you much easier, and allow the boarders to make other arrangements, and you could then vacate quickly. Quick possession before school starts, or the end of the buying season is a great advantage, and very attractive to potential buyers. Plus places show better when it's green, and pretty. It's much easier to find a place for you, and the animals, than having to shut down a business and feeling rushed about that. A potential buyer won't want to wait to close the deal, and take possession. Plus, the boarders is physically and mentally taxing, and the extra stress must be very hard on you.
                          You can't fix stupid-Ron White


                          • Original Poster

                            The realtor was supposed to be advertising in the national horse magazines that have real estate sections...and he did not, so yes, he will be fired and a new agent hired as soon as our contact is up. There is possibly one interested party that came out a week ago to discuss the business side, but haven't heard back. Wish we had some follow up regardless of what they decided!

                            We would LIKE to move for a few reasons. We want a house that is more friendly for my progressing disability...for example the stairs in our house are very hard for me to negotiate now. A lower maintenance/smaller yard would also be great as DH works long hours and I just can't do it. There is also the pleasant idea of having some $$ in the bank.

                            JanM, you do have some good points. I guess I thought having some clientele already in place might be a draw for a new trainer and help them get a loan...but maybe you are right.
                            Freeing worms from cans everywhere!


                            • #15
                              What about keeping your barn private for only your use and work a job of your choosing. This might be a good temporary solution until your barn sells.


                              • #16
                                I liked the suggestion of leasing out part of the barn to a trainer and their students. Allow the trainer to run their section of barn to include feeding, stall cleaning etc. Maybe with an agreement to care for your horses when you travel? I also agree that you need your property advertised in local and regional horse news outlets. I think it helps to have a real estate agent that is also a horse person or has at some time been in the horse business. I also agree that closing the boarding now might be more attractive to a potential buyer or for someone like a trainer to lease. Buyers see boarders and they might worry about the potential of shutting down the boarding and having disgruntled boarders leaving etc. especially if they are looking at the property for their own personal use and not as a boarding barn. Do you need the income from the boarding?

                                In regards to the stairs in your house, why not put a lift chair in, at least for a temporary solution to help you.
                                "My treasures do not chink or gleam, they glitter in the sun and neigh at night."


                                • #17
                                  I also question if a buyer would be upset about having a lease situation with a trainer on the property. I don't know if the lease would convey with your property if it sells, or not.

                                  The Land & Farm website does do Canada too. That might be a good place to do an online ad too. That way you get to anyone who wants a place with acreage, and not just horse people. I looked, and if you go to the Land & Farm website, and search Alberta, you get some properties. http://www.landandfarm.com/search/?S...&Auction=False
                                  There are 59 properties, so that might give you some good exposure. I'm sure there are others in your province, for farmers and ranchers.
                                  You can't fix stupid-Ron White


                                  • #18
                                    Are you needing the income that the barn produces now? Can you convert to a co-op/self care barn, letting boarders that aren't ok with that leave, to lessen your duties?

                                    If your current agent hasn't fulfilled their promises, you can talk to their broker and they will usually allow you to terminate your listing agreement with them early.


                                    • #19
                                      What about finding a trainer that's compatible with you, who could run the majority of the barn work and handle the showing? You could cherry pick your students and manage your own horses and let the other horses be the trainer's 'problem'. That way you could still teach, but only as much as you wanted to and specifically whom you wanted to. Your horses would still be cared for your way, you'd still have the mandatory physical labor every day since you'll care for your own horses, but not the full barn. Working with a trainer you like keeps you with a trainer handy, so you could still train, and show, but not take the full load.


                                      • Original Poster

                                        Originally posted by jetsmom View Post
                                        Are you needing the income that the barn produces now? Can you convert to a co-op/self care barn, letting boarders that aren't ok with that leave, to lessen your duties?

                                        If your current agent hasn't fulfilled their promises, you can talk to their broker and they will usually allow you to terminate your listing agreement with them early.
                                        No, we don't need the income from the barn. Now that we have scaled back, the income is minimal anyway.

                                        Co-op/self care isn't really a thing around here. I couldn't see that working for any of my clients anyway.

                                        Our realtor contract is up July 1, so we will wait it out. Starting to look for a new person now though. Unfortunately we didn't make the outside advertising part of the signed contract

                                        Did think about bringing in an outside trainer (as employee not as a lease). Definitely a possibility.
                                        Freeing worms from cans everywhere!