Monday, October 22, 2012

We're Back!

It's been too long since this blog was updated and much has happened. The short story is that we sold our home in Athens, Georgia, and moved back to Southwest Florida -- Bonita Springs, to be specific. It's been about five weeks now and it feels SO GOOD. Not that Athens wasn't a great place to live, but Georgia has many families who have lived in the same county for eight generations or more, so there isn't a compelling need to reach out to newcomers. In contrast, many folks in Southwest Florida moved there as a result of some kind of life change, so everyone makes a concerted effort to make friends or at least get acquainted.

The long story follows.

First off, we sold our house without a Realtor! It CAN be done, and in our case, it needed to be done. If we had to pay a Realtor's commission, either the additional 6% would have put the minimum selling price over the amount that an appraiser could substantiate, or we would not have netted enough to buy the home we wanted. I prepared our brochure and thanks to all the free sites on the internet, there were no sale expenses.

This was the most difficult move that we endured so far. Traveling is a little more difficult with a dog and we needed to stay overnight halfway between Georgia and Florida. There were not many acceptable places around the halfway point where we hoped to stop. You can't leave your dog in the hotel room and go out to dinner if there is any possibility whatsoever of barking or whining, so we ate out of a bag for three days because either everything was packed, or we were enroute, or nothing had been delivered yet.

The moving van broke down on I-75 about 150 miles from us, so instead of delivering at 8:30 AM on a Friday morning, the movers didn't arrive until 6 PM, then couldn't work past dark as moving vans don't have lights inside. We became a little difficult as we wouldn't let them leave until they found our bed and at least placed the mattress on the floor. But, that's all over with now, and except for the unforeseen breakdown, overall, the Lindsay Mayflower did an excellent job. Nothing was damaged.

Our house is new construction on a new street in a subdivision that was started in 2005. I'm guessing that about 1,000 homes have been built so far with another 700 planned. There were no closings on our street before late July or August, so we're all getting acquainted at the same time and there's a nice mix of ages from young marrieds to retirees. Lots of dogs for Kosh to get acquainted with, too.

Despite prices still being depressed, Florida real estate prices are still quite high for what you get. Our new house is not nearly as large or as unique as our Georgia house but the floor plan is excellent and the abundant amenities suit what we would like to adopt as our lifestyle. The community is high density but many people only live here seasonally or sporadically, so the density isn't overwhelming. We gave up a 4-sided brick, with an 18-ft. great room ceiling, 6-car driveway, fenced half-acre lot, basement, attic, and almost 1,000 SF of extra living space that we didn't use anyway for 2,029 SF where we don't have to worry about any exterior maintenance, or possible violation of a constantly changing irrigation schedule as the Homeowner's Association takes care of it all. (Don't have to worry about a possible DUI either as there is a wonderful pub/restaurant within the subdivision that is within walking distance.)
An on-site bank, post office, hair and manicure salons add to the convenience and every other possible business, profession or specialty retailer can be found within 2-4 miles, so the location is at least as convenient as Athens. A full-time activities director arranges an awesome schedule of things to do for those who want to participate. It's a different lifestyle, but an excellent change.

A word of advice to those about to move, especially to a newly-constructed house. TREASURE YOUR WINDOW DRESSINGS. The cost of new ones is astonishing! Our new house is very open (with a 50 x 50 inch picture window over the bathtub!), so it was critical that we have some kind of window dressings installed immediately. We've put blinds on all 13 windows and have ordered side panels for the four most prominent windows. The cost to date is almost the equivalent of 2% of the house purchase price and we still have three more "undressed" rooms. If I had it to do over again, I might negotiate harder before leaving the custom draperies that we had in Athens.

But, the weather is great and the neighborhood is wonderful. The builder did such a good job on our house that the only item on our 30-day punch list was an incorrectly installed tissue holder in one bathroom. Someday, the boxes will all be unpacked. My frustrations are all money-related, which is the easiest type of problem to fix. And someday, I'll find a job.