Date: Sat, May 15, 2021 at 6:34 PM
At some point in the past few months I was, I guess, feeling something I couldn’t and still can’t quite put into appropriate words. A desire for a more goal oriented future I guess. Twiddling my fingers while waiting and hoping that health improves was not cutting it. We were wanting to return to Turkey and Alegria but were at that time still uncertain about Dave’s health, and we were uncertain about the tourist rules in Turkey as well. So what about in the meantime?
I got thinking about asset diversity as well. We are dependent on Dave’s assets for income as our SS is insufficient for our expenses. The constant refrain is to diversify, diversify, diversify. Except that seems to mean a bit of stock, a bit of mutual funds, and a few bonds. That just doesn’t seem broad enough to me. I felt that a three cornered strategy should include Financial Investments (the stocks, bonds, and mutual funds), Commodities (like silver), and Real Estate.
If the first couple of legs of that triangle collapse then one can be in serious trouble. If the third collapses, at least you still have a place to live. Granted you have to be able to pay the taxes and utilities, etc. Still it seems to me to be a good hedge against rising rental rates and in the long run the safest investment since no new land is being created.
On top of everything else, despite loving the open ocean and the rootless lifestyle of a cruising sailor, I nevertheless always felt a desire for a home base – a more permanent anchor shall we say. A place with fewer restrictions than an apartment where the landlords too often say “no pets, no painting the walls, no this that or the other, oh, and the rent is going up.”
Long story short, I started looking at Real Estate with an eye towards either investment and/or a home. One of the first places we looked at turned out to be a turnkey mobile home and work shop on 5 acres. Complete with furniture and other usable stuff. We made an offer which, of course, included contingencies. The seller wouldn’t accept the contingencies, so we kept looking. It continued to sit on the market and we kept wondering if we should reconsider it since he had belatedly agreed to the contingencies. Trouble was that in the meantime, we had decided that we wanted to get raw land rather than a house. We did not want to go to Turkey and leave a house unattended nor could we have a tenant when we have no idea how long it would be for.
House prices are going through the roof now, with a sellers market. Each house has several buyers trying to outbid each other so selling prices are even higher than the already high asking prices. Talk about a bubble! But that’s what Dave’e been thinking for 50 years! Yet it keeps going up with minor hiccups.
The same is true of raw land but not quite so bad. The houses in our price range are older mobile homes of a quality that does not appeal. We feel that we can build something far better for the price. If we find out we can’t, then we would probably resell the land.
The story of our search could fill a lot of pages but I’ll settle for the story of the Wye Lake property. By the time we saw this we had narrowed our search to the south Kitsap/Key Peninsula area for a number of reasons including it being near dear friends of ours. We were mostly looking at larger acreage – ideally 5 acres – for the elbow room and the ease of development. But most of them were considerably more than our desired budget of 50,000 which we quickly decided was a pipe dream.
Yes, there are places that cheap and cheaper! But they are from sellers who are hoping to unload unusable lots during this market where people are actually foregoing due diligence! These ($50k) places are just wet lands, or have no access, or are way too steep, or are under high tension power lines, or 500 x 50 ft next to a major highway, or whatever. Mostly places I would not want as a gift!
So we were looking a bit higher but still trying to stay under 100k. This property at Wye Lake was asking 78k but consisted of the land north of Shirey Street and west of Bouchard – 250 feet of Shirey road frontage by 100 feet deep EXCEPT the middle 50 feet!! A large private forrest to the West and only 2 houses in sight. Given the lot in the middle we felt it was overprices and offered 70k. Other offers were already on the table complete with escalation clauses! Were we willing to go higher? We added an escalation clause going as high as 86K if I remember correctly. Can’t even do due diligence without a foot in the door and we could back out if we determined it wasn’t worth it. Someone else got it, meaning they bid over 86k. Wow!
But then we heard that he had backed out and the property was taken off the market! Rumor was that it was not possible to put a home on each of the 100×100 ends of the street. One home site was enough for us, so we offered 55k. They countered at a firm 63k. Okay. Then begins the due diligence – including negotiating with the owner of the lot in the middle.
Lots of telephone tag with a myriad of county officials and a lot of buck passing later, we were pretty confident that we could build there. We would have to put the well on one end and the septic at the other and pipe from the house to the other parcel, but this could be done in the county right of way with a letter from the county saying that the land was not buildable without a utility easement.. We would need a survey and an engineer’s design and fees, but it was doable. Nothing guaranteed until accomplished, but short of that. . .
The perk test passed. But then we got an e-mail from the head planner saying they would ‘likely ask for a wetland specialist’s certification’ that development would not harm any nearby wetlands. So we hired one for the preliminary report and that came back okay. It may cost a bunch more to get it more officially written, if required, but since the conclusion is already made, that may be enough.
We asked for a reduction in the price to 55k given the still existing unknowns and hassles and it was excepted. All the while we were negotiating with the owner of the middle lot and were pretty confident that he would sell as well, giving us the entire block and eliminating the hassles, but we were okay with the possibility that he would not. The day that we accepted the feasibility study and agreed on the 55K – thus clearing the way for closing, our offer (18k) on the middle lot (asking price 30k) was accepted.
We can redivide the land and sell part of it or make it all one. We have several options now. And got the entire block for 73k which is pretty good considering that the 2 asking prices together had been 108K and most places are getting what they ask for if not more! It is just over half an acre but with the forrest next door we have the desired elbow room, plus access to the lake for boating and polar bear swimming is included.
The lake is about 36 acres and surrounded by homes of all kinds. Big and small, old and new, elaborate and simple, plain and ornate. Eclectic. All of the neighbors we have met so far have been very friendly and welcoming. Our kind of neighborhood. Neither of us had ANY interest in living in a senior development.
So the next step is to get a snowbird permit which allows you to put in a well and septic and park an RV there for 90 days per year. This will give us time to figure out what we want to do for a house. We don’t want to wait on the first step because the rules keep getting tightened and we don’t want to be told “too many building already in the area, no more permits.”
In the meantime, Dave’s health continues to improve. Even the neuropathy is slowly receding. Quality of life improves and we are SO glad that we gave up on the maintenance chemo – complete with its ever present expectation of failure. He had been told by his oncologist that he would “’probably not live past the Spring of 2021.” It’s fun to prove them wrong!
You know what? I’m not the only writer here! I’d love to hear back – rants about this crazy world, boring day to day events, latest book read, plans, jokes, whatever.
Keep sane and healthy, Robn
Not sure why I didn’t send this out when I wrote it, but I may as well bring it up to date.
We closed on the first property and signed P&S on the middle lot. Verified that the title was okay and said to go ahead and close. Then we got the Escrow bill and were shocked that they wanted 760.90 from each of us (seller and buyer)! When questioned, I was told that was the minimum for anything up to 100,000 sales price. That’s more than the brokers would have charged if we had used any! I belatedly looked around and found that escrow fees vary all over the map. I got a competing quote for 1250 each!!!!! But I also got one for 381.50 each, which I shared with our company. I was told that they could not honor that quote because it was from a company in another county – the county where the property is located. So I found another quote from one in their county for 385.35 each. Close enough. That one they agreed to match. So that was a 50% saving (rounded) on the escrow fee.
So we are now land owners trying to figure out the next step.
In the meantime Dave has been having trouble with an intermittent fever that he is having trouble shaking. Tested negative for Covid. Doctor says it is bacterial infection. Only bothersome for a couple hours a day, but still.