Saturday, August 15, 2015

The New Adventure Begins!

Yes, I know I should have been documenting everything that happened since we visited Florida in February, starting us down this new and very unexpected path, but things were just too hectic, too crazy and too stressful.  I'll recap briefly:  In early February our friend Nedra called to invite us to see her new place. She'd sold her house and bought a manufactured home in a 55+ community in Sebring, Fl and was loving both the community and the savings.  Because Art hates the long, cold, dark (and snowy!) winters in Louisville it didn't take much encouragement to get us down there.

Once we saw her community and her house (adorable!!!) the wheels started turning.  We figured we could sell our house in Louisville, move to Florida, pay cash for a new place and have not only snow-free winters, but also more money to travel.  Win-win, right?  We had a five week vacation to Italy and England scheduled for June/July, so our plan was to get the house ready, go on vacation, and once we'd returned, put the house on the market.

Being the planner that I am I contacted a few neighbors to see what, if anything, we needed to do before listing our house, i.e. notifying the Board.  Before we knew it one of our neighbors called to say he had two people who wanted to the our!  Things just snowballed from there.  We bought a "For Sale By Owner" sign, printed a few flyers and within eight days we had a nice offer from an all cash buyer.
Additionally this buyer knew about our vacation plans and was willing to delay closing until right before we left.

Now life being what it is things didn't go quite as smoothly as we would have wished, but the obstacles we encountered were eventually overcome, and in the end we packed up the house, put everything into storage, closed on the house, went on vacation, returned to Louisville then drove down to Florida with a car filled to overflowing!  We'd contacted a real estate agent we'd met when we visited in April for a scouting mission, and he'd arranged a three month rental for us.  Although we'd seen pictures we had our fingers crossed that our temporary home would be suitable, and it was/is.

Our landlord, who's bought another house in the area and has this one on the market, left us with all the conveniences of home, right down to the dish soap, paper towels. toilet paper, laundry detergent and cleaning supplies.  We have basic cable for our 42" digital TV (which we upgraded, at our expense, to include WiFi and more channels), a washer and dryer, bed and bath linens and a fairly well-stocked kitchen.

I'm slowly discovering what I miss from my own kitchen:  my scale, my juicing tool, and rubber spatulas!  I brought quite a few disposable plastic containers to use for storage, my stick blender, a few cookbooks, and each trip to the grocery adds a few more staples to my pantry.  I'm really, really missing my water softener because the water here is very hard - I'm sure we'll go through a lot of hand and body lotion!

Right now we're staying in Clearwater, but we seem to be gravitating to Largo, just south of here.  It's a slow time of year, with not much on the market, but we're hoping that by being here and contacting as many real estate agents as we can that timing and opportunity will be on our side.  If we haven't found our new home by the end of October we have no idea what plan B is.  We may stay here and continue the search, or we could take the hint and begin a new search elsewhere.  Que sera, sera, whatever will be, will be.

Monday, August 03, 2015

Fiscally Conservative And Socially Liberal

I just read this article, posted as a link on Facebook (where else do we get our news from these days?), and it struck a nerve.  Here's the article:  7 ideas completely lost on people who are “fiscally conservative but socially liberal”.

In my profile to the right I've listed some of my qualities, and among them is "Fiscally conservative and politically liberal".  Needless to say I was curious enough about the article to read it, and here's what I think:  The term "fiscally conservative" does not mean I think people should live in poverty.  I do NOT.  I support raising the minimum wage to be a LIVING wage.  I think the tax code should be overhauled, and that the richest of us should pay at LEAST - preferably more - the same tax rate as the poorest of us, without loopholes and off-shore hideaways.  I think everyone is entitled to healthcare.  And childcare.  And a decent education.  Free college works in other countries, why not here?  How can you get any job without a basic education?  

I could go on and on, discussing all seven points at length, but maybe I should just tell you what economic conservatism means to me.  It means not spending more than you have, either as an individual or as a government.  It means having priorities.  It means we take care of those who need it, and don't give handouts (or tax breaks) to those who don't.  It means churches should pay their fair share of taxes, and most churches should do a LOT more regarding feeding and housing the poor, instead of buying their televangelist preacher a new jet, or a vacation getaway, which would really help take the strain off the government-funded social services.  

Being fiscally responsible means not funding 'bridges to nowhere', or hiding special projects behind important legislation.  It means not building equipment the military does not want or need, but it DOES mean keeping our infrastructure in good repair.  Being fiscally responsible means that everyone should have the ability to earn a decent living without worrying there is no safety net.  We, as a society should make sure that the poorest among us have a fighting chance, and as we all know, that takes money.  Let's spend OUR money wisely.  Let's invest in our future by educating our children, making sure they go to school well-fed and well-rested, not hungry and sleep-deprived.  Let's decide to make our standard of living for ALL Americans one that is the envy of the rest of the world, not one that's an embarrassment.  

Sunday, April 26, 2015

A Nester Without A Nest!

Last time I wrote about being a nester, of wanting my own home, but also about the importance of who I share my nest with.  Now, as I continue to pack and to plan, I've realized that once the movers arrive and we leave our house, we'll be homeless for the next several months.  We'll be living out of a suitcase for a full week before we leave for Europe...then homeless once we arrive back in Louisville five weeks later.....then still homeless as we wrap up loose ends in Louisville for another week....and basically homeless once we arrive in Florida...although we do plan/hope to have a furnished place waiting for us once we get there.

After having lived out of a suitcase for the previous seven weeks (yikes! - what will I forget???), living in a furnished rental will be nicer, yes, but still not home. I'm hoping that I won't be desperate and ready to buy the first property I see - but on the other hand I hope that we see properties that are not only affordable but also desirable.  Searching for the perfect nest is not a task for the faint-hearted, but I know we're up for the challenge!

Sunday, April 19, 2015

Confessions Of A Serial Nester

I'd never thought about it before, but while we were living in Italy there was a discussion about renting versus buying.  To be honest, we never considered renting, and although in hindsight it might have been better, at least from a financial point of view, I've just always been an owner, not a renter. Others pointed out to me that this was because I'm a nester, and I guess it's true.  As we prepare for yet another move - a move that took both of us completely by surprise - I've thought about what being a nester means, and how it's not exactly what  I expected.

I always loved our house in New Albany, Indiana.  I lived there from the first grade through the seventh grade, and for years I dreamed of buying that house.  When my kids were little we bought a house in Crescent Hill, in Louisville, and I thought that would be my forever house, the one my kids would bring their kids back to for Christmas and Easter, but that didn't work out quite as I had planned. Once Art and I got married he was really the one to push for a house, and of course if it made him happy it made me happy, so we bought the cutest little house, and I thought we'd live there forever. And then we went to a new home show, and decided to build. Although I poured a lot of myself into that home I don't think either of us thought we'd be there forever - the lot was large, and hilly, so eventually the maintenance would be an issue, but we just enjoyed the house until it was time to move....

When we did move, it was into a patio home - one we loved, one we thought was perfect, and one we thought we'd live in forever.  And then we went to Italy.  As we'd said so many times before, we didn't choose to move to Italy;  it was really beyond our control - it was just what we were supposed to do, and sometimes you just have to follow the path life sets out before you.  We hadn't expected our path to turn towards Italy, but when it did we embraced it completely, sold everything and took the plunge without ever considering whether or not this would be our forever home.  At that point we realized that life would take us where we were supposed to be, when we were supposed to be there, and that all we had to do was pay attention.  I also realized that it really didn't matter where we lived as long as we were together, so the 'where' was much less important.

Eventually the decline and continued weakness of the dollar forced us to re-evalute.  We'd moved to Italy as much to enjoy Italy as to travel throughout Europe, and our travel funds were being eaten by the disastrous exchange rate.  Once the house in Italy sold we talked about where we'd move to in the United States.  We eventually decided to move back to Louisville for several reasons.  Cost of living was a big factor, as was the climate.   Further norther would mean more severe winters, further south would mean hotter, more humid summers.  We didn't want to go west of the Mississippi because we didn't want our transatlantic flights to be any longer that they already were, and although I would love to live on the East Coast it just wasn't financially practical.  The fact that we had family and friends in Louisville, as well as the fact that we knew our way around made Louisville feel like a comfortable fit, like we were really coming 'home'.  We bought a patio home and both of us said we were never moving again.  Although it wasn't my dream home, it suited us in many ways and I didn't mind the compromises.

Maybe I watch too much HGTV, but last fall, for reasons unknown, I announced to Art that I thought I had one more home renovation in me.  He got excited, and was ready to start house-hunting - he'd always wanted a single-family home with a yard, and thought the time was finally right.  But I really didn't want the hassle of packing and moving, I just wanted a project - but not enough to go through the pain of moving.  In the end Art really didn't want to leave our neighborhood - mostly because of our proximity to Tom Sawyer Park - and the idea just sort of faded away.

And then a friend called from Florida and invited us to visit her in her new digs - a 55+ retirement community in central Florida, where she'd bought an adorable 3 bedroom, 2 bath manufactured home for $55,000.  Something clicked in my brain.  I'd never liked the idea that we had equity in our house that wasn't serving us.  Sure we had an equity line, but you have to pay yourself back every month, and what I wanted was fewer monthly obligations, not more.  It seemed to me that if we could buy something for $55,000 free and clear we'd have extra cash in hand PLUS we'd have more cash available every month for fun things like travel.

Of course things are never as simple as they first appear.  We discovered that although we loved our friend's house, and even her subdivision, living in the middle of the state was not where we wanted to be.  We knew that proximity to a large airport was important to us:  we want to travel as much as we can for as long as we can.  Eventually we won't want to endure those long transatlantic flights, so being somewhere with lots to do would be important, both for the short term and the long term.  We'd always been attracted to the area around Tampa, so we began to search the internet.

As you might imagine, living in or near a large metropolitan area is more costly than living in a smaller, more remote community.  I was afraid that we might not be able to afford what we wanted in the Tampa area, and I worried about the lot rental fees.  Our friend pays $700 per month, with an expected 3% increase every year, and most of the communities we looked at were about the same.  If we had to pay more for the house itself, plus $700 in fees, our monthly savings would be minimal. Even if we were in Florida avoiding the snow and ice, we might end up like we were in Italy - loving our home and our community, but unable to travel, so only half our wish list would be fulfilled.

Knowing the questions to ask is always the biggest challenge.  Initially we had no idea that moving to another state could be as complicated as moving to another country.  We discovered that there are different types of 55+ communities:  in some communities you own the home but rent the lot, while in others you lease the lot.  Lot fees vary, as do the Home Owner Association fees, based on location, amenities, and who knows what other factors.  In some communities you lease the lot and have the option of owning a share of the community, which gives you voting rights.

Eventually we discovered that there are resident owned communities - basically condominium associations where you own a percentage of the entire community, much like our current home.  This dramatically reduces the chance that the subdivision will be sold and razed to make way for another Super WalMart.  Anyway, the point is we're learning a lot, trying to educate ourselves and trying not to move too fast.  We're hoping this home will be our last home purchase, and realize we've said that many times before. This time we're trying to consider what we need to make this home for a long, long, time.  As always we'll try to learn as much as possible so that we can make the best decision for now and for later - and hope for the best, since life always has a way of changing the best laid plans.  Yes, I'm still a nester.  I still want to own a home rather than rent, but where we nest isn't nearly as important as who I share the nest with, so as long as I have Art I know wherever we settle will be home.

Wednesday, April 01, 2015


I have to admit my head is spinning, and right now I'm trying to take a breath and make a long list of priorities.

We've sold our house.  We really didn't mean to sell it this soon, or this quickly, but the whole thing just sort of assumed a life of its own.  When a cash buyer makes you a reasonable offer and  agrees to postpone closing to suit your schedule it would be foolish to refuse, but now I have about a million questions running through my head.  The packing itself is an overwhelming task - I know from experience.  Every time you think you're almost finished, and that another 5 or 6 boxes should do it, you pack TEN more boxes and still need more.  And more. And then a few more after that.

And our situation is just a little more complicated because just days after closing we'll leave for five weeks in Europe, meaning that we'll need to separate our vacation supplies and clothes from everything that's being packed away.  And then we we get back from vacation we won't actually have a home to return to...and I'm not sure how much 'stuff' we're going to need to keep accessible.  Sure, we'll need more clothes that we're taking for vacation, but also we'll need 'stuff'.  Stuff like computers, laundry stuff, cooking supplies, toiletries.  What else?  With no place to call home in Louisville it's a safe bet that just a few short days after we return from vacation we'll head south fro Florida, where we won't have a home either.  

We are making an exploratory trip to week because you can only learn so much from the internet.  What we've learned so far is that yes, we can afford to buy a home in our desired area around Tampa, but we need to figure out what towns and areas we like, and why.  I'm hopeful we can also arrange for a furnished apartment for a few months so we can take some time to find the perfect home.  Due to the flurry of activity surrounding our decision to sell - eight days from the sign in the yard to a signed contract - I haven't even thought about this trip since initially booking flights, a rental car and a motel.  At least I had all that taken care of before the craziness started.

The good news/bad news about our upcoming vacation is that all the reservations were made long ago.  So long ago, in fact, that I really don't remember the details.  Normally I can tell you what time we fly out, and where we're staying, and what the rental car company is, but this year I'm going to have to hope that I did a thorough job and kept all the email confirmations.  Oh, except that I haven't made any reservations for our time in Umbria.  I know we'll stay with friends, but I'm just not sure which friends and what nights.  For me, returning to Umbria doesn't require a whole lot of planning - it's like when we lived in Italy and came back to Louisville for a visit, it was just coming home.   Except that when we're in Umbria I want to maximize every waking moment, and that does require a little thought.

Now lest you think I'm complaining, let me assure you I am NOT.  Who could complain about selling their house in eight days, going to Florida for a week, vacationing in Europe or moving to Florida?  No, I feel very fortunate, and very blessed to have so many wonderful things going on in my life, and I feel very grateful for the many wonderful friends who've helped make all these things possible.  But of course, me being me, I do feel overwhelmed, and stressed, and worried, it's just my nature.  I hate to say it's just too much of a good thing, but I won't because too much of a good thing is definitely better than not enough, right?  In the back of my mind I've been wondering what our next adventure would be, and this is it!  But I really do need to start making some lists, and maybe pack another box or two.

Saturday, March 21, 2015


There would have been a time when retiring to Florida would have seemed rather boring, but we've decided it will be our next adventure!  In addition to freeing up the money that's now tied up in the equity of our home so that we can travel more, we'll also be returning to the state where Art grew up.  When we first married, over 25 years ago, we talked about when and where we'd retire, and naturally Florida was part of that conversation.  And then life happened, and we fell in love with Italy....and you know the rest of that story!  Once we moved back to the states we thought long and hard about where to settle, and because of central location, reasonable cost of living, family in the area AND knowing our way around, we finally decided on Louisville,  Florida just wasn't quite right for us then, but now, after two brutal winters in a row Art is ready to head south and I'm happy to oblige!

We put the "For Sale" sign in our yard this afternoon and although we're in no rush, we don't expect it'll take long to sell.  Here's the link to the photos on FLICKR .

Friday, January 23, 2015

The Dollar Is Strong - NOW Might Be The Time To Buy In Italy!

As many of you know, when the euro cost us $1.60 in 2008, that's when we just had to say "uncle" and put our house on the market.  Since we moved back to the states in 2010 housing sales - never as strong as in the U.S., because people just hand the houses down from one generation to the next! - have been increasingly weaker, and the strong euro has probably kept a lot of people from buying.  For those of us living in U.S. dollars, the euro is down to $1.13 today - a rate we haven't seen since late 2003 or maybe early 2004.  For this reason, NOW may be the perfect time to make that fantasy a reality!

And -  I have a suggestion for you.  Several years ago we helped our friends scout locations for a second home in Italy and were very pleased when they found a fixer-upper in Panicale.  They did a wonderful job with the restoration, as the pictures clearly show.  The village is charming, the location is not just panoramic, but also easy to get to, and there are always English speakers around, just in case!

Here's the link to a beautifully restored house in Panicale, and I have to tell you, that roof-top terrace is amazing!  Take a look, tell your friends - YOU could be living the dream too!