Happy New Year! Thank you for continuing to follow along. I know I’ve been fairly quiet, but with very good reason. We bought a house in North Carolina! We’ve been keeping that exciting news close hold for awhile until we were sure it was going to work out. Before I get into that, let me quickly summarize the end of last year.
We had a quiet Thanksgiving and Christmas at home–just the two of us. It was strange being away from friends and family, but we made the best of it. It was a big departure from the lively and fun Thanksgiving and Christmas of 2019. Hopefully you all had a nice holiday season, and a good start to 2021.
During November and December, I did a thorough review of my first full year retired. Though 2020 was a strange and challenging year, we managed to take 7 trips (thanks to the RV). I was able to spend more time and energy doing things that I find meaningful like spending more time outdoors, enjoying more quality time with Andy, learning new cooking and baking skills, forging new friendships, and sending more snail mail to friends and family. I found that 2020 was a pivotal year in working toward personal health and wellness goals. I exercised 215 times, which was about 19% more that I worked out in the year prior. I now have a full year of meditation under my belt, and I got a bike. I also established some personal lifting records. I’m very proud of my 140 lb deadlift. I’m looking forward to improving even more in 2021. Overall, 2020 was full of growth and learning for me.
Andy remarked the other night that it’s as if we’ve been sprinting since we retired. Right out of the gate we headed to Germany, and then to Colorado to ski. The pandemic hit while we were in Colorado, so we jetted back home. We were heartbroken to cancel our 2-month trip to Montana last spring that we spent quite awhile planning. Between March and April, we hit the pause button to regroup. We began doing some house projects to prep for our eventual move.
By springtime though we were a bit restless, and ultimately decided to purchase an RV. For a month or so we were immersed in the research process, and then we were off camping… seemingly everywhere. However, once it started to get cold and we were settled back at home, we began to get really serious about choosing a place to move. If you’ve been watching the housing market over the past few months, you know how crazy it is. There’s very limited inventory; houses across the country are getting snatched up within days. The rental market is just as competitive.
We considered moving to Michigan, Pennsylvania, Virginia, Delaware, West Virginia, South Carolina, North Carolina, and Tennessee. Ultimately, we began focusing our efforts on finding a home in the areas to the west and south of Asheville, NC. We love Asheville and the surrounding mountains, waterfalls, trails, and artsy vibe. After 2-months of looking, we were getting kind of annoyed though. Each home we were serious about went under contract before we could even contact our agent to get more information.
In early December, we found a beautifully maintained 70s rancher that sat on a 4-acre wooded lot, with a stream, and mountain views in the foothills of the Blue Ridge mountains in Tryon, NC (self-proclaimed to be to be the “friendliest town in the south” for 125 years). The house met many of our criteria: an open floor plan, high ceilings, lots of natural light, mountain views, nature, close to shopping, airports, and things to do. I was initially dissuaded by the vintage kitchen that needs a makeover. Andy liked the house, but we kept looking because the town wasn’t in the area of North Carolina that we focused our search.
About a week after seeing the house online, I confessed that I had been revisiting the house daily to see if it had gone under contract. I was seeing it’s potential and falling in love with the idea of living there. We decided to pursue it and took two virtual tours via Facetime, and asked a lot of questions, before putting in an offer. Knowing how competitive the market is, I also wrote a letter to the sellers. The listing agent responded to our offer with a request that we see the property in person first. So, a few days later (early January 2021), we drove 8-hours down to see it.
Being inside the house and walking the grounds really sealed it for us. Before heading home, we learned that there were other offers on the table, so we improved ours and then hit the road. It was a really frustrating drive back to Maryland–between the heavy traffic, accidents, rainy weather, and not knowing whether our offer would be accepted even though we had already put in a lot of effort to make it work. By that point, we had also fallen in love with the town and surrounding area. The sellers left everyone hanging for another day, but ultimately accepted our offer. I was a bit surprised considering that they received one over asking offer, but we think that they liked the letter.
Between January and mid-February, Andy was neck deep in an agonizing loan process that nearly cost us the house. I could probably write 5-pages on this alone, and if you’re looking for a lender and need some advice, send me a private message. I have a lot to say on the topic. One of the biggest surprises to date about retiring early, is that our lifestyle does not compute with most lending institutions. When you manage your own investments, and you’re not collecting either social security and/or a retirement or pension check, you don’t fit into their neat little box and the checklist gets thrown out the window. They don’t know what to do with you.
The lender hit us with a myriad of requests; some of which were the following (our responses in parens): show us your “income” (I’m retired. I don’t have an income.), we need a letter from your CPA or advisor (I manage my own assets.), we need your pay stubs (I don’t have any. I’m retired.), provide us with your last W2 so that we can see how much you could make IF you started working again (Umm.. What?? I’m not going back.), show us proof of payment for your current HOA (Buying the new home isn’t contingent on selling our current home, and the new house doesn’t have an HOA.), provide us with proof that you hold a homeowners policy on your current residence (Again, what does this have to do with the new house??), send us a paid invoice for your insurance policy for the new house (You can’t purchase a policy on a residence you don’t own yet. We provided a quote from our insurance company.), we can’t use a quote from the insurance company, and how can we be sure you won’t just zero out your investment accounts (How can any lender be sure someone won’t default on their loan?).
I get annoyed just writing about it. 🙂
The bottom line is that we dropped the lender, figured out another way to make it work, and we are now the new owners of a 70s vintage rancher. We’ve been packing, strategizing the logistics of movers and pods, and donating, gifting, and selling things that we no longer need. We’re planning to be moved by spring.
Let’s talk about moving for a moment. This is a big milestone for us because even though we’ve been married for close to a decade now, this will be our very first move together. It’s also the very first home we picked out together. I’m incredibly lucky that Andy has taken on all of the major logistics of how we’re going to move all of our things. Not only that, but he has been largely coordinating with various contractors for repairs and renovations, and he flew down for the inspections and to meet some of the contractors. Even though I was an Army-brat and have moved quite a bit, I have since become a creature of habit. It’s nice a lot of the weight off my shoulders.
Right off the bat, we plan to fix some things the inspection revealed–mostly minor, but a couple are pretty big. We also plan to enclose the carport to make it into a garage, as well as redo the hardwood floors in the main living area (currently there are two large carpet in-lays). After that, the next big project will be redoing the very vintage, but well-preserved kitchen. That’s in my lane, and I have some ideas about it. I’m not quite ready to reveal that just yet though. I’ve included some of the listing photos below. I can’t wait to get in there and add all of my own furnishings and personal touches. The house is really a mid-century modern showpiece with great bones.
I get a little giddy looking at the pictures and imagining us living there, immersed in nature, like we’ve been dreaming about for years. It’s very bittersweet though because we have built so many friendships here. In many cases, my friends’ families are now my family too. I’m going to miss them all so much. It’s also a scary prospect to start over and to take such a big leap of faith on a town that we don’t know a lot about. Even scarier is that it’s a place where we don’t know anyone and will have to re-establish roots and connections. However, what’s life without taking some risks and trying new things? Once we’re settled, we are so looking forward to hosting family and friends who want to visit us.
I’m sure some of you might have some questions. Hit me with them. I’ll try to answer them all. In the meantime, stay warm. I heard Punxsutawney Phil predicted that we still have quite a bit more winter ahead of us.