Thursday, February 22, 2024

Housing Adventures

Note: This blog post is mainly for me: to clarify my thinking. Not for your entertainment or education.


            Our quest for geezer housing continues. We’ve been looking for almost a year, and a brief self-analysis suggests several reasons for our lack of success.


            I previously wrote about criteria when choosing a new place to live.

·      Location 

·      Affordability 

·      Livability

·      Coolness

I stand by these criteria, though I recognize how easy it is to be seduced by coolness.


            We came close to buying a condo in the 1906 Stone School in Suttons Bay, just outside of Traverse City, and we even found a way to stretch our budget to pay the price when an escalator clause (bidding war) took us $50,000 above asking price. But then the whole operation got snagged because the conversion to condos had not been approved, plus the whole building was for sale at the same time as our condo, and if we bought a condo, we would be the only residents until more were sold – and they were not selling – so would we be the entire Homeowners Association. There were also some issues about the lack of storage, laundry room and garage, so we declined. But it was really cool . . ..


            We also came close to buying a condo in a loft in Ann Arbor – on the fourth floor of an old auto parts factory. It was small – about 1,100 square feet with one bedroom and a utility room – but charming in the industrial chic way. We loved the downtown Ann Arbor vibe, and we could stretch our budget to buy it, but we learned that the property taxes were about $1,500 a month, with HOA dues about $500. No way . . . though it was really cool.


            Another cool close call was a co-op in a 1926 building in Ann Arbor that had a lot of the charm we were looking for. Before driving down to see it, we studied the listing online and noticed how many stairs we would have to deal with and the lack of room for a small office and art room. Our realtor said there would be lots of interest in the unit, which meant a likely bidding war. So, despite the charm and the appeal of Ann Arbor, we declined. It wasn’t really livable, though It had a really cool fireplace.


            One problem is that we both are looking for several different things. We want place where we can go in the winter, or sometimes in the summer, to escape isolation, though it can’t require the long drive to Florida. This means we buy it without selling our Bark House, which puts a significant limit on our budget. It would be a condo so we don’t have to look after it when we aren’t there. But we are fussy. We want something old, with the quality of carpentry and design that was put into houses 100 years ago. This is hard to find in a condo. The new ones, in Kim’s words, “look like the inside of a refrigerator” – sterile and cold. When we try our computer search using the word “vintage,” we mainly get 1950’s ranches in need of a major remodeling. But that is better than ones that have been re-done poorly. Truth is, after living for five years in our wonderful Bark House, nothing else really measures up. We are willing to settle for less, but not much less. 


            But more and more lately, we are also looking for our next full-time place to live. It would also be a geezer-friendly condo that would serve us when maintaining the Bark House, and our acre of woods and our beach, becomes too much for our aging bodies. Live in both for a couple of years, maybe, and then sell the Bark House and transition to the condo. If it’s really great, we sell the Bark House to buy it in the first place. The latter is unlikely, given how much we love where we live now. Maybe it’s best just to stay here and get help, as needed.


            Another factor: One of us will likely die first, so it should be a place where the survivor can live – if not happily, then, at least, successfully.


            We are also uncertain about location. We are looking in the Traverse City area, with its natural beauty, along with our familiar stores and friends, our doctors and lawyers, etc. But we also want a location near family, which means either Southeast Michigan or Gainesville, Florida. We are also convinced that if we find just the right house, it could be just about anywhere, and so we have looked (online) in North Carolina, Georgia and Arizona. We are, as they say, all over the map. Some days we want somewhere warm. Some days we want to be with more people, and some days the isolation is very appealing. Wherever we look, we check out the distance from a cancer center.


            We also consider building a house. We’ve built three, plus a major remodel, and we are good at it and enjoy the process. And Kim enjoys using her insomnia to design and decorate houses. Of course, we know the clock is ticking, and it would probably take at least two years, at best, for the whole planning-building process, and who knows what kind of shape we’d be in at the end. No, we are supposed to be simplifying our lives as we rock through our 80s . . ..


THIS JUST IN: We are going to see a condo in Novi, not far from Scott, my stepson. Not cool the way the Stone School was cool, but great location, affordable, and livable . . .. And we looked at a very cool 1874 home in Traverse City – exposed bricks, beams, etc. – but too expensive.


UPDATE: Novi condo did not work out – too much work needed.







1 comment:

  1. It’s frustrating & exciting to look for a place to live. Hope you find a place that meets your criteria. Taxes in Ann Arbor are incredibly high.