Monday, July 15, 2019

On Retirement

My husband retired a couple of months ago after selling his portion of a design firm that he and his business partner had developed 20+ years ago. While he will remain on in an advisory role for 12 months, for all intents and purposes he is done working.  I have not worked in corporate America since 1997, though I did contribute to our organics company until we sold that several years ago. Since then I have been writing and doing photography, so I have been working out of our home for many years.

We knew that we would not want to stay in our 2 1/2 story Queen Ann-style home for much longer, so last year we began to talk about where we would want to move. We could stay in St. Louis, of course. But a lot of the work involved in moving would take place whether we moved a mile or thousands of miles away. That thought process opened up all kinds of opportunities to us.

When we moved to St. Louis in 1978 with our fresh college diplomas in hand, we thought we would be here for a couple of years and then would move on. Yet here we are, 42 years later. St. Louis has been very good to us, and was a wonderful place to raise our children. But they don't live here any more. We have got one on each coast of this vast country.

As we started discussing where we might like to live, several things became clear. First of all, the benefit of being with the same person for over four decades is that you do tend to think alike. We both wanted a location that has all four seasons - just a little less of the winter season. That automatically ruled out a number of retirement spots such as Arizona and Florida. We have zero interest in owning and maintaining two separate residences. Neither of us wants to live any further north than where we are, or to spend way too much of our retirement savings in expensive cities like Washington, DC (where our son and daughter-in-law live) or Los Angeles (where our daughter lives.) Being adverse to worrying about our house being demolished in a hurricane, the coastal United States was off the consideration table as well. That still left a lot of options to examine.

view from the community center
North Carolina made the top of our list due to its natural beauty. We had visited the state and loved it. It also seemed that anytime we wanted to fly somewhere out of St. Louis we had to go through Charlotte to get where we were going.

We thought we found the perfect place in a community called The Coves. Located in northwestern North Carolina equal distance between Charlotte and Asheville, the development would allow us to buy as many acres as we would like and to build a custom home. With 3,600 acres of land, it offered a community center, hiking trails, a riding stable, a vineyard and community garden, rivers, waterfalls and miles of hiking trails. On paper it looked perfect. For a number of reasons, it was not right for us once we visited in June of 2018 even though the mountain views were quite pretty. On that trip we looked at a several places in central North Carolina as well as the Charlotte area and didn't fall in love with any of them. We were back to square one.

After talking with a number of my pickleball friends who either travel extensively or own second residences, we began to think for the first time about 55+ active adult communities. In a million years, we never thought we would even consider such a concept. But the more we read about them, the more intrigued we became. People are drawn to them because they want to make new friends, have a variety of activities available, have their yard maintained, and be able to "lock and leave", knowing their home will be safe and looked after when they travel.

I decided to give the Charlotte area another shot due to its great international airport and good health care reports. Did you know that Charlotte has 38 of these kind of communities? Holy smokes! That says something about the area to me. I could eliminate a lot of them because they were too large or too small, or they focused on an amenity (like golf) that was not important to us. I was left with a list of 6 or 7. Through my search I found Roger Holloway, the YouTube star of 55+ communities in the Charlotte area. I reached out to Roger, who is a buyers agent, and we set up a time to go to Charlotte and see some of the communities. That happened in February of 2019, prior to our Southern Caribbean cruise out of Fort Lauderdale (because yes, we had to fly though Charlotte to get there from St. Louis.)

We were very impressed with the design and amenities of the Trilogy development, which is about 50% built out. All the people we met were friendly and gracious, and the community center and gathering spaces were incredible. The only problem was that the most desirable (in our opinion) lots were already taken. We were not interested in a lot that backs to a retaining wall, or the neighbors screened in porch.

Imagery by Lennar
Then we went to see Imagery by Lennar. It is the only community that is built on a lake - Mountain Island Lake, to be specific. So new that there were not even models built that we could take a look at, this 320 acre development is being constructed on land once owned by the Bechtler family, for whom the art museum in Charlotte is named. They had a home on the land as well as 6 or so large cabins, where visiting artists could live in residence while creating their art. When the Bechtler's sold the land, a commitment was made by Lennar to keep the "artistic" feel of the property, including the house and cabins which will become activity centers for the new community. While it is a little hard for some people, me included, to visualize what the community will become, fortunately Lennar has a similar community nearby that we could visit. Tree Tops is not located in a lake, but it gave us a good sense of what Lennar is going for in the new development.

As it is so new, lake view lots are available. Well, once you see that you cannot unsee it. We knew we would not be happy in a home that did not offer us a view of the lake from our own property. We just were not sure that we wanted to live through the pains (and noise) of a construction zone for quite some time. We headed off to our cruise, enjoyed going over all the pros and cons with our friends on the trip, and came back to St. Louis to think some more.

proud owners of Lot 33
After a couple of weeks we decided to make an offer on a lot and one of the house plans that was available to go on it. Following a little back and forth, we came to a mutually acceptable price. And just like that we were landowners - in a new land. With these communities, you must have them begin construction pretty much right away. While that pushed us some, we like the fact that people aren't buying lots and then just letting them sit, which is pretty much what is going on at The Coves. With a construction timetable of 5 months, we selected a closing date of October 31. Happy Halloween!

We quickly kicked into purging mode here on the home front. It has been a dirty, challenging, frustrating, and somewhat freeing process. The unusable has gone in the trash or recycling bins, but three truckloads have been picked up by the Salvation Army and a couple of other loads delivered by us in our pickup to their store. We will have at least one more load before it is all said and done.

The toys and games of our children were boxed up separately for them to review. They both came home recently and went through the boxes. Andy took what he wanted back to DC in his pickup, and Katie has 2 plastic bins that we will take with us and store for her. Her apartment in Los Angeles has no storage space, and she couldn't have taken them on the plane anyway. The remaining toys were taken to a charity.

I've also had some fun with a Facebook group called Webster Groves Buys Nothing. Local residents are always putting out a call for something they are looking for, such as the original "Home Alone" on VHS which I gladly re-gifted. On the opposite end, people like me are getting rid of things, so a simple photo on the site usually results in multiple people vying for the free item. It is fun to see that others will enjoy things that we no longer want.

Less fun has been getting the house ready to go on the market. More on that in my next post.

Saturday, July 6, 2019

Photography Challenge Week 27

For this week we were to show gratitude in our photo. I'm grateful to live in a community that still embraces a hometown parade, and for the men and women who make it possible for us to celebrate America's freedom. It was an added bonus that our son was visiting from the D.C. area and wanted to attend the parade with us. It was been many years since the kids have been here to enjoy the 4th of July festivities.

Dogwood Photography Challenge Week 27

Wednesday, July 3, 2019

Photography Challenge Week 26

For Week 26 we were to use geometry in our photo. I really dislike math, so I was not excited about this challenge. However, I spied this bell tower at the Salvation Army when I arrived to play pickleball this morning, and it seemed to fit the bill.

Dogwood Photography Challenge Week 26