Sara, 36, and Rich, 37, Combs weren’t planning on purchasing 38 acres of empty canyon in the Arizona desert, but that didn’t stop them from jumping into the new project headfirst.
“It was a huge risk… but we really believed in this place, knew it had a lot of potential and just put everything into it,” Sara tells CNBC Make It.
In 2015, the couple quit their full-time jobs as web designers to start a hospitality business, The Joshua Tree House. Now, the group’s properties include two that are available for guests to book in Joshua Tree, California and Tucson, Arizona. The Combs also have a property in Marfa, Texas that they plan to eventually open up to guests.
“We were really craving working with our hands again and looking for a creative retreat from San Francisco, at the time,” Rich said.
In 2018, Rich was browsing listings online when he came across what looked like an empty canyon in Tucson, Arizona.
The property was an abandoned inn, sitting on 38 acres of land and had been empty for a decade. The property had a main building that was 7,500 square feet and two additional houses.
Altogether, the three structures came in at over 10,000 square feet.
The owner accepted an offer of $615,000 with a three-month escrow and requested the Combs include a signed copy of their design and lifestyle book “At Home in Joshua Tree” as part of the deal.
The couple couldn’t get a traditional mortgage: Banks generally would not give out a loan on an existing property that had been gutted and wasn’t functional.
They eventually found a bank to give them a hard-money loan and got to work on finishing the renovation with a goal of opening the inn within 12 months. It was enough time for them to refinance the original loan into a small business loan.
Rich says the couple spent over $500,000 on renovations alone — that money came from maxing out credit cards and borrowing from family and friends. The couple also received free products from various social media partnerships.
The Combs didn’t specify but did say they ended up getting “hundreds of thousands of dollars of product” and “wouldn’t have been able to do this project without that.”
“We love offering this as a place where people have the time to really think about what they love, what they want to do with their lives, what they truly enjoy, and get a quiet moment to reflect on everything,” Sara added.
When it came time for the inn’s design, the couple wanted to incorporate as much of the surrounding nature as possible and keep the connection between the two spaces like using furniture and art from the local community throughout the space.
The Combs opened The Joshua Tree House: The Posada, in September 2019. Rooms range from $200 to $600 a night. Guests can book the entire 7-bedroom inn starting at $2,200 a night.
A stay at the property includes access to a hot tub in the style of a hot spring, a grove of olive trees, a canyon pool, a walking trail and a fire pit.
Looking ahead, the couple’s ultimate goal is for the inn to be completely self-sufficient and use the electricity grid as a backup. That will mean adding solar panels and rainwater harvesting.
The couple plans to continue expanding The Joshua Tree House: “Eventually, we would love to have a couple more inns throughout the Southwest,” Rich says.
“But right now, we are working on our personal home and our personal lives and just enjoying everything that we get to experience every day,” Sara added.
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