Today, we’ll find out if we
bought a house yesterday

By Ken Johnston June 30, 2009 with pictures by Shan and comments in red.

Lest you wonder if we’ve moved to California, and stopped touring, I’d better explain.

Within 30 days, the Glenridge will send us a substantial check as a refund of our entry fee. Because of that I’ve spent some time wondering how we’ll invest it to make the best return.

After careful study and thought, I concluded we should invest it in real estate (we don't have any money invested in real estate).

California has been really hard hit as housing values have dropped dramatically. We read daily about REOs (Real Estate Owned) by banks or other mortgage lenders, foreclosures, short sales, etc. Real estate might be a good hedge against inflation, if inflation blows up.

But, how, where, and what kind of real estate. Should we go into REITs? What kind? After thoughtful consideration, we decided to buy a house that we could use as a west coast hangout, while we traveled.

So, we started looking at properties that we might like to live in, on the premise that the Boomers are coming and they might be looking for something similar to what we’d want. I studied the boomers and found they are different from our generation. They don’t want Florida as much as they want Arizona or California. Half can’t afford to retire, so they’ll want access to jobs. The other half leans toward continuing to work much later than our generation wished to.

They want communities of active, fun loving people (of roughly their age) to play with who share interests like theirs.

To net it out, we started to look for a house with the following characteristics:

• Close to the ocean, because the coastal mini-climate is incredibly constant. Low daily highs, and high daily lows. (Our real estate agent says most of the homes don't even have air conditioners, as they are not needed in the summer. Even on warm days the ocen breeze blows steadily from the West.)

• Also, real estate within a few miles of the ocean had risen most dramatically in the boom, and was suffering huge drops in the bust.

• Age limited to over 55 and over. The boomers are happy empty nesters, and while they value their families and grandchildren, they don’t want to be living with them, or anyone else’s kids. They especially don’t lean towards living among teen agers, and neither do we.

• Gated, with tight security. They don’t want to spend their later years close to the violence they read about in the papers.

• Active, with zillions of activities they enjoy or might be interested in taking up.

• Healthful, with things like running paths, workout facilities, pools, tennis, etc.

Leisure Village

So, we found “Leisure Village” which has all of the above characteristics. It’s on a tiny finger of land between Vista and Carlsbad, which are highly prized communities. It’s address is Oceanside, so it’s kind of confusing, but it is simply beautiful.

Leisure Village has 1600 homes of varying sizes and prices, and every house has at least one person over 55 and the other has to be at least 40. The average age is 75 (just like Ken, whom no one could consider average).

This is what the entry looks like (pretty, like Laurel Oak):




We told the realtor we wanted to look at the bargains that we had read about. She explained that because the community was 25 years old, and so many of the homes were totally owned — without mortgages — the village has escaped much of the damage that other communities are experiencing. But, a bank-owned property had just come on the market.

To give you an idea of how banks were pricing properties — just to get them off their books — the bank-owned property was on one side of the street, priced reasonably, right across from a resident who was selling exactly the same model for $120,000 more.

We put in an offer on the bank owned home and our realtor just called as said they expected an answer today, or tomorrow at the latest. It's a small 2 bedroom plus den house with 1800 square feet. If you want to look at the floor plan, here it is, just picture it reversed. floor plan

I figure we could do a bunch of things that would make it a dazzler, and have a property that we could flip in a year or two and make a decent profit. And, if the market doesn’t come back, it would make a very nice place to hang out when we’re on the west coast.

Here's what the house looks like, from the patio (yes, it overlooks tennis courts), and then through the kitchen sliders into the back .

So many people in the community have recreational vehicles that the community has within it a free RV storage facility. The RVers are an active group and they organize trips regularly to explore the west and the mountains. So, that sounds like fun.

We’re already having fun planning the furnishings. Imagine, furnishing a whole home from scratch. All we stored in Sarasota were a dining room set, a table and wall hanging. Everything else will be new. So, we’ll spend a little time doing what we really love to do, shop!

So what does this mean?

I’ll close this note with an answer to those friends that have responded to my statement that a complete change of life and lifestyle was a bit overwhelming.

Neurobiologists say that brain growth is stimulated by changing routines, doing new things, or in effect, building fresh grooves and new “ruts.” (I can now advise that changes are best taken in smaller bites.)

When we got rid of everything in our old (comfortable) life, and set off in a motorhome to do new things and see the world from ground level, we may have underestimated the magnitude of the change.

Think about it: we’ve spend an entire life time learning and practicing one lifestyle and way of living, and we’ve gotten pretty good at it. We can do things automatically, without thinking, because we’re just following the neural “ruts” we’ve spent a lifetime forming.

When you throw that all up in the air and begin an entirely new way of life, you go from being an expert on the things you do, to being a novice, or beginner, at almost everything you do.

You’ve watched toddlers and youngsters flub around learning new things. They make mistakes, they struggle, they have to really focus hard to make those learnings.

I discovered the same thing holds true for people in their 70’s. I made mistakes, struggled and flubbed around learning to things that experienced RVers do confidently and smoothly.

When we changed everything, all at once, we bit off a lot of learning to do. I imagine my brain is building new neural pathways at a crazy rate. I’ll just tell you, it’s doable, but pretty overwhelming.

Some of you might give better than even odds that we’ll just settle down in California, take up our former lifestyle, and never get back to Florida again. Don’t count on it. Florida is home. We have kids and grandkids in Tampa, plus nieces and nephews on the East coast of Florida. We have tons of friends in Tampa and Sarasota. We miss you all too much to stay away.

Love to all,


UPDATE: Bank accepted offer.

Next Episode: Chapter 19