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The Rewards of Development

March 14, 2021 by  
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In last week’s post, I shared parts of a bio of mine written years ago. Part of what that bio recounted was how I got into real estate. I started with small properties at first, but later on I gravitated into a much more profitable part of real estate known as development. Looking back, some projects I did really surprise me. I find myself thinking, “Wow, little ole me did all that!”

My work in the development side of real estate has been some of the most profitable of my entire career in investing. I’ll never forget getting a call from a guy in Pennsylvania telling me about a 77-unit apartment building that was for sale at a great low price. Shortly after that I heard, for the first time, about people converting apartment units into condos. After a lot of red tape with the local authorities of Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, I got the go-ahead to convert all 77 units into condos and, wow, what a quick 2.7-million-dollar profit I made. It was so easy because most of the renters bought their own unit.

I followed that up with a 44-unit condo development in Mississippi and walked with 1.3-million-dollars in profit from that. After those great successes, I developed a 13.3-acre commercial development right here in Salt Lake City and made 1.1-million-dollars in profit there.

I was on a real roll when my Kauai attorney called me and told me of a great plot of land on which I could develop a bunch of condos. I was skeptical at first, but after I drove by the golf course that was next door to it, I forged ahead and laid out plans to build 68 condo’s right near beautiful Princeville, Hawaii. Wow, was I super surprised when I sold all 68 condo lots before we even broke ground.

Timing is so very important with development. You sure don’t want to get into a big development when the real estate market is at the top and there are reasons to believe that the market is turning and heading down. You also don’t want to get into a market that is oversupplied in the type of real estate that you want to buy into. That’s when you need to be patient or need to look at another city or state where the market is already down but looks like it’s picking up.

I continue, to this day, looking for the right and best real estate, whether it’s dirt to be developed or apartments and commercial developments. In August 2003, I hired an office manager (Kimberly Wangsgard), because, wow, did I need help with all my properties. Ms. Wangsgard had, in her former job, played a critical role in development for S-DEVCORP, a company that had developments ranging from 1.5 million dollars to 30 million dollars.

She helped me so much that I eventually had her change her last name to HAROLDSEN. Yes, I married that very beautiful, brilliant, and kind woman and it’s been an absolutely wonderful and happy marriage. An excellent development indeed!

The Blessing of Time

May 4, 2018 by  
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Time seems to move faster and faster as we age, but I must admit that sometimes the passage of time can be a real blessing. 32 years ago, this week, I was hit in the face and heart with the biggest, most shocking tragedy of my entire life. It took years to recover from the overwhelming pain, but those passing years became a huge healing and soothing help.

It was on May 2nd, 1986 that my 16-year-old daughter, Kristin, died. The photo here is of Kristin and her brother on the way back from her last trip to Hawaii. Losing a child must be the biggest tragedy one might have to endure in this life. But what I have discovered is that the passing of time really helps and allows a person to deal with the death of a loved one. It’s true that you really never get over it but time diminishes the pain so you can heal and eventually deal with the tragedy.

It’s so ironic that on March 30, 1986, just 33 days before my beautiful Kristin died, I wrote the following in my journal:

“Big, bright fun, changes and growth. What a difference a few years can make. Life seems so sweet now, so full. I’m so content. I don’t see how life could be any better. With my kids and friends and I guess even my age – I am almost 42 – it all makes life pleasant and full. Spent a fabulous month in Hawaii with all of my kids – super times!! Life doesn’t get any better than this. Life is all it ought to be. If this is how the decade of the 40’s is going to be, then I love it. No wonder they say life begins at 40, mine sure did. I’m beginning to look forward to the next 40 years – that’s 14,600 days. This journal now covers 22 years. Big changes in my thinking and perception of life’s meaning. I wonder what the next 22 years will bring as far as changes.”

My very next entry in my journal was quite different: “Not in my wildest imagination could I have ever dreamed that the biggest tragedy of my life would occur just 33 days after this entry.”

My heart continued to bleed for 4 and half years before I pulled myself out of the deep well of depression and self-pity. Those years helped a ton and helped me to finally realize that I needed to move on with my life. I needed to help and pay attention to my kids and loved ones and see how I could help others who have been faced with great tragedies. The bottom line is, time can be a great teacher of some of the biggest lessons of life! We just have to get up and pay attention.