Our Journey to Find Our Retirement Home

On June 30, 2014 Judy and I put our house in Williams Township Pennsylvania on the market through "For Sale By Owner". On July 27 we had a signed contract with a closing date of October 24. We began packing and storing most of our furniture and belongings in a climate-controlled storage unit as well as in the basement of our close friends Bill and Beverly. For health reasons Judy's mom was only living on the lower floor of her house, so we decided to move into the upper two levels which made it easier for Judy to care for her and also provide us a place to live temporarily. Outside of our bed and a couple of reclining chairs, all the furniture, wall decorations, etc. in this house have remained the same as they were when Judy's mom was using the entire house. So we have been living in someone else's "space" for almost four years.

The following month we began our search for a retirement home by flying to Tennessee. We found a house that we liked and were planning on presenting an offer the morning we were scheduled to head home. However our realtor had to take her husband to the hospital for an emergency surgery to remove an infection in his shoulder. By the time she was able to meet with us, we felt rushed and decided to not to make an offer at that time. When we returned home, we decided to hold off on any purchase until I retired at the end of 2015.

I ended up retiring at the end of February 2016. At that time it appeared to be to everyone's benefit that we continue living with Judy's mom, so we put our eventual move on hold. This February when all her children celebrated Judy's mom's 90th birthday, we told the family that we were going to resume our search for a home and that they would need to figure out to best way to take care of Mom. By then we had decided to look at the Carolinas.

Several months earlier at the reunion concert of The Carpenter's Tools, we had reconnected with our very first close friends as a married couple, Ken and Edie Freno. Although they had moved out the area over 40 years ago, after spending only a few minutes with them it seemed as if no time had passed. So we decided to begin our search in Waxhaw, North Carolina (near Charlotte) where Ken and Edie live. We spent four wonderful days at their house at the end of March. Ken showed us possible developments we might want to consider. What we discovered was that this area is booming, and it is a seller's market. Every house we thought we would like was already under contract. We decided to return in August and spend up to a month looking at houses as they came onto the market.

We then drove to Carolina Shores (only 30 minutes from Myrtle Beach) and stayed with Judy's aunt Carol for a few days. Although we were not looking seriously at this area, we did drive around and looked at a couple of houses. We had always wanted to have at least a water view, and we drove by a house which was for sale that we liked from the outside that was actually on a small lake. The day before we left I noticed they had dropped their price by $10,000, but it was too late to get a showing. We returned home with every intention of making our return trip in August and looking at both areas. The main draw to Waxhaw was to be close to our friends, which was very high on our list of criteria. What began to attract us to the Myrtle Beach area was the coastal breeze which makes the summers more bearable, a more friendly retirement-like atmosphere and a location that has a lot to offer and draw friends and relatives to come visit.

The following Sunday Judy got a call from her aunt informing her that she had gone to an open house at the house on the lake and that it was wonderful. So only a few days after returning home, Judy made airline reservations, rented a car, downloaded and used an Uber app to get from the airport to the car rental, and returned to look at the house with a realtor. Although it had many of the features we were looking for (especially the fact that it was on a lake), it was small and needed a lot of work so we decided it was not the right house for us.

Since she had a couple of days before her return flight, Judy spent some time with the realtor looking at other houses in the area. Because she wasn't impressed with the curb appeal of the one of the houses availble, at first she wasn't even going to look at it. However, she did and her reaction was that this felt more like "us" than anything she had seen. The house was in excellent shape in a development where the houses are spaced out well, had a super view of the creek and golf course which borders the property, had a lot of room for storage and came with a mother-in-law suite with a separate entrance, kitchette and bathroom which guests could use. Although I had not yet seen the house, after nearly 50 years of marriage Judy knows what I would like and we decided to make an offer. After some negotiating, we agreed on a price with the seller and had a contract for a closing date of June 27. Click here to see web site I created for this house.

But wait - there is more to this saga. Red flags starting popping up. First I noticed on one of the web sites that this property had vacant lots on both sides which were for sale. We then found out that at least one of the lots was going to be built on this summer. Upon further investigation we realized that the advertised "wooded lot" could very well soon become a lot with only a few trees out back. Then we got the results of the home inspection and found out that there are two HVAC systems, one of which is 15 years old and would soon need replacing at the tune of $5K-$7K. The other system is 12 years old. In addition, the hot water heater is past its life expenctancy. So Judy started to add up what this house would really cost, and began looking online at other houses in that price range. The house we are buying is one of those she found.

So we put in a request for the owners to give us $3,000 credit to put toward these unexpected expenses. They denied this request so we asked to be released from the contract and get our earnest money back. Again they refused, so we backed out of the contract and gave up those funds in order to purchase the home we are buying. It was a costly lesson learned, but when we compare the two houses, purchashing the second house became the obvious choice. We would have been making the first house work, and it would have been nice. Instead we are moving to a house that both of us are very excited about.