Wednesday, June 24, 2009

The Two Year Plan

So how do you go about jumping ship from an area you have lived in for 37 years?

This was going to take a lot of planning, time and preparation. In the fall of 2005, I started formulating The Two Year Plan. I figured it would take that long. I was just hoping that financially I could hold on and the South Florida real estate boom would continue.I was born and lived in South Georgia until the age of ten and then moved to Miami. Huge leap in lifestyle. So now I planning to do the same but in reverse.

After much discussion with my two girlfriends that were living in the same community and life circumstances it boiled down to research. Both of my daughters were out on their own and my only other family was living a short distance north in an area I couldn't even afford prior to the hurricanes so where ever I went, I was going to be on my own. Being that every part of Florida was being affected by the rising costs, I was going to have to look elsewhere.

I nixed returning to South Georgia due to the miserable summer weather. After much time spent on the internet and talking to people I knew living in different parts of the country, the Piedmont area of North Carolina fit all my listed requirements. (And yes, I truly DID have a list).

I was looking for something rural but not too far from the perks of a large town, major airports easily accessible, good job market, affordable taxes and cost of living, lower crime, affordable housing, beautiful scenery and temperate winters. This Florida girl never did well under 68 degrees so unless I was looking at Mexico, I was making an adjustment. Having traveled to western North Carolina several times, I had always enjoyed pretty much everything about it and it had been high on my retirement list. When reviewing the winter climate history, the Piedmont was a much better fit.

Luckily for me, I had gotten my first show dog from a breeder in the very area I had narrowed my search down to and we had remained in contact through the following years. I contacted her with a "Guess what? I am looking to move to your area in the next couple of years and I need a realtor".

Over the next few months, and I had a very meaningful relationship. I asked and it delivered listings from Charlotte as far north as Raleigh, just in case.

I looked at pictures of land, farms, cabins, houses, manufactured homes and trailers. I even found a river front community of travel trailers with extensive built on rooms and porches which unknowingly at that time would be within 5 miles of where I would land. I learned terms like "perked". And every so often, the realtor would send a new listing.

Even though when I purchased my villa I had no intention of moving until retirement, I always looked at it in terms of resale value. Being hooked on DIY home improvement shows, believing I could do anything and truly enjoying home improvement projects I had constantly upgraded my home and yard as I could afford. Add to that the true joy of a trip to any home improvement store to drool over tools even a small project gave this hardware store junkie my next fix.

So I finished up old projects, started new ones that I thought would increase value and make it more attractive to a buyer.

And I cleaned out closets.

Here from there- how did THAT happen??

Many people have asked me how I wound up here in the country on a farm from the big city of West Palm Beach. They are truly perplexed that a single woman would willingly pick up and move several states away, with no job, no friends, no family with 5 dogs and a cat to live in a hundred year old house and farm she bought over the internet, sight unseen. Me too.

The exact moment I made the decision to make a change, a break, an escape from South Florida was during the third out of three hurricanes to directly hit to my area in one year. Shucks, the storms were not that bad; alot of wet, wind, damage and inconvenience. It was the aftermath that drained my love for Florida. The atmosphere changed- everywhere. People, never known for being a wealth of love and friendliness were more rude and less tolerable. Drivers became more erratic long after the streets were cleaned and order restored. And everywhere you got hit with rising costs with the explanation "because of the hurricanes". Gas, electricity, taxes, HOA dues, insurance, food, everything. It was brutal. To remain in my little 800 square foot villa, I was going to need a second job and I was already working 50 hours a week in pretty well paying job.

As I laid in bed with four of my dogs and the cat listening to the wind, I did not make the decision, I just bumped up the time frame. I decided I was not waiting to retire to live a more rural lifestyle, I was getting out. I was going to take advantage of the housing boom that escalated home prices thru the roof and run.

When the winds died down, the rain slowed and the skies lightened, I walked the 40 steps to my best friends door and the first words spoken were me; "I am outta here".

Life As I Knew It

In the beginning of 2004, you would have found me with heels dug in at my little 800 sq ft villa in West Palm Beach. Following a divorce and living for a couple of years in an apartment with two daughters, two dogs and a cat, I had worked hard enough to enjoy home ownership. I had a good but stressful job, one daughter out of the nest and another soon to follow.

While doing my real estate search, my only priority was a yard for my Australian Shepherd, Buddy. Being that he was aged, size was not a real concern, but after years of climbing stairs he deserved it. In the land of McMansions and Home Owner Associations and with a meager budget, this was no easy feat. My search lasted well over a year.

One day late in 2003, I caught an ad in the real estate section of the paper that said "Dog Lovers Welcome". Visiting the site, I found a small 24 unit community in the process of being rehabbed by a contractor. Tucked back off a main road and surrounded by single family homes, Margarita Villas had become a drug dealers haven and the city had forced a sale by the owner in an effort to combat the crime. The homes were attached three to a row, simple in layout and options but very livable. And each one had a yard. And best of all, no dog restrictions so prevalent in the county. The contractor has taken steps to clean the place up and make the entire development livable on his meager budget. Great starter place for all.

I bought and settled in. My home was a bare slate, contractors paint, cheap carpeting and no landscaping or grass to speak of. I quickly made friends with a few of the people that lived there. I threw myself into home projects and landscaping. In the back of my mind, I was always looking at the resale value of everything I did. Doing most of the work myself with a few helping hands along the way, I saved tons of money and learned alot.

My yard became a tropical paradise that Florida is known for. Orchids, pond with waterfall, fountains, blooming bougainvillea, butterfly gardens. It was serenity and a great escape for me and friends alike. On the inside, I had replaced the carpeting with Pergo like flooring, upgraded paint and mouldings. Other than a little tweaking, my job was pretty much done.

I was proud of my hard work and loved my home.

Why a Blog?

It is really not that I find my life so interesting.

First up, I am a frustrated writer. I have no literary talent but have tons of journals that I started to capture the words trying to escape my brain through my fingers. None are completed, heck some are just a few pages of ink.

Secondly it is apparent that something about packing up all your possessions and moving away from your home, family and friends in a busy city to a rundown farm and 100+ year old house purchased sight unseen over the Internet is interesting to others. But boring to repeat after the hundredth or so time.

So here we are. For the first time in my adult life, the last three years did not lend to me starting a journal or any type of method to document my journey other that brief, sometimes illogical entries in my computer calendar.

So to the best of my ability, here is the story of my life in North Carolina. The good, the bad and the ugly. Kinda like Lucille Ball meets Martha Stewart.

And make no mistake that even if I poke fun at my new home and community, it is really a slice of heaven on earth. I have loved it hear since the day I arrived.