Monday, December 21, 2020

How to buy a condo/townhouse...very carefully!

I bought these pink chairs for our town
hour in Arizona. 

We have lived in two condo/townhouse location. They are the perfect solution for someone that cannot or doesn’t want yard work. Exterior maintenance is taken care of and, in many cases, amenities are very like a resort kind of living. But, you need to be aware that you do not have the freedom that you had when you lived in a single family dwelling

While there is very little maintenance, in some cases there is not enough. If you are accustomed to living in a single family home, you might like to make your home your very own even from the outside. But if you happen to buy into the wrong location with the wrong association president you are in big trouble. At the very least it can be annoying beyond belief.

In our particular case, the association was confident that they could keep our condo looking like a motel with each unit like the other. We were not allowed screen doors or plants near the steps. We were not even allowed to hang the American flag because there was plenty of room to put a flag stand on our patio in the front. If the association ran out of money and flower beds were left untrimmed, we were not allowed to trim the plants because “everything needs to looks the same”. We came to dislike it so much we could not wait to escape. 

Now the truth is that a HOA is a fact of life. I don’t want my neighbor to paint his house purple and park dead cars in the front yard so the HOA is a necessary evil. But even at that, they really are a pain in the neck. Yet they are a protection from the worst instincts of humans.

Then we bought a townhome in Arizona. I love the townhouse but we decided to sell. Why? Well we began to look around and realized that in the not so distant future the infrastructure of this development is going to need a lot of work. The pool was restored last year but even though they have top coated the streets they just do not hold up. I am expecting the association dues to increase by a lot.

So here is what I recommend:

  • When you are buying a condo be sure to read the CC&R carefully. Make notes and understand what you can and cannot do. Want to feed the bird? Like to hang planters on the porches? Want your grandchildren to come to stay while they are in college? Find out what you can and cannot do.
  • Note the condition of the complex. Are the units very old? How long has it been since they painted or installed a new roof? In a townhouse/condo that will be an expense the goes to the owner in the form of association dues. You will be asked to pay for those things. Pay attention.
  • If they have a pool, do they allow you to bring in guest or family? How much does the pool key cost? What hours can it be used.
  • What are the restrictions on parking? Is there somewhere for guests to park?
  • Where is your mailbox and if you are handicapped, is there a special provision for you?
  • Is there an onsite manager or how do you make contact with the management company.
  • If you are moving into a large complex, take note of whether the streets are maintained by the city or by the residents.
  • Have a dog/cat? Remember that every pet can be required to have a leash then they are outside the house. You can get away with a lot but that is a double edged sword. Dogs that are not controlled (barking etc) can make your life miserable.
  • While you have no control over the exterior you may still be required to wash windows and keep the sidewalks clear. A two storied unit can require a window washer to take care of the windows. You may even need to stain decks and replace exterior light bulbs. 
So many people want to downsize. Yes, a condo or a townhouse is a good investment. But, it is as always a situation where the buyer needs to beware. How good it works out for you is up to you. DON’T FORGET TO READ THE FINE PRINT!

Can you add to this? Leave a comment.


Friday, December 18, 2020

Whatcha Doing?...Isolated with time on our hands!

Christmas Is Coming...Happy Holidays!

I told you recently that my husband and I were selling our townhome and moving to a house on the golf course that my husband plays. It has occurred to me that we might have too much time on our hands. I told my daughter about the move and urged her to come and take us away if we began building doors to nowhere like the Winchester heiress did in San Francisco. 

How do you fill your day when you have time on your hands? We do really have a lot of interests and are not moving because it is a whim. We are fulfilling a dream while we can. 

Books are my passion...good books, meaty books, hard to understand books. I have always been that way for reasons that I cannot explain. I also love to watch a good TV series or a wonderful movie and those two interest intersect. Many times those really good books are made into movies or TV shows.


Last year we watched The Handmaids Tale on Hulu. I don’t believe that I personally have ever seen a more compelling, all be it frightening, story. It was not long before I was looking for books by the woman that wrote the book. Margaret Atwood, it turns out, is worthy of our attention. 

Recently I found the sequel to The Handmaids Tale at the library. The Testaments is every bit as compelling as the Handmaids Tale. The characters from the original story are revisited in an indirect way. I was not disappointed.

My approach to reading books is a lot the same as my approach to watching TV. I do not feel the need to focus on just one show and I don’t feel the need to read one book at a time. Many times I have 3 or four going and will read what ever I am in the mood for. I know that is not normal but I don’t like to sort my silverware when I put it in the draw either. I am told that is not acceptable in most households but what am I to do. (My husband makes me do it!)

My friend recommended the Susan Hill mystery books and I will borrow a couple she bought last month. I am still getting through Hamilton  by Ron Chernow. That book has to be approached as though I am eating an elephant. The poor book is beginning to show the wear and tear of being picked up many times in the last couple of years. I put it down for a season because I could see that awful duel coming and for some reason it upset me. 

I also read on Malcolm Gladwell’s books a chapter at a time. The last one I purchased is What the Dog Saw and it is every bit as interesting as his previous books. I read the chapter on Enron’s financial woes titled “Open Secrets” a few days ago and thought it was a mirror held up to Donald Trump’s not paying any taxes But in this particular case, Enron told everything and no one picked up on the clues. So interesting. I love Gladwell’s books.

As for the move, I am beginning to see what I want to do in the new to us home. We have hired movers, the loan papers at at the underwriters and the bank will appraise our townhome tomorrow. The beat goes on for us. 

The question now is “whatcha been doing?” I would love to hear from you! 

Take care.


Saturday, December 12, 2020

Snowbird Life Style: How To Own Two Houses

Wow! You are retired...that day is finally here when you wake up in the morning as late as you want and do what you want all day. The reality of this life will slowly settle in and you will establish a routine that works for you. 

This is that time that you can make all those dreams come true. And, in many cases, that dream includes some changes. For example, some of you have always dreamed of travel or selling your house so that you can live full time in an RV. And some of you have dreamed of having a second home in a warmer place for your winters. That is what I am going to talk to you about today...a vacation home.

The life that you live in retirement can progress through many stages. I want you to see that the life you might choose in the beginning will probably not be the same life you choose to as the years go by. I call it growing up in retirement...infancy, adolescence and finally, full adulthood. There are many stages even as you grow older.

So lets suppose you have progressed through all of those stages moving from travel to several month in some southern location or you are the type of person that simply wants to settle into a home right from the beginning. You want a second home in Florida or Mississippi or California or Arizona. But, the reality is you think you cannot not afford a second home without being house poor. I cannot tell you what to do but I can tell you what we have done that made owning a second house...on a golf course...possible.

  • We began in an RV and traveled for about 6 weeks a year. 
  • Then our "second home" life changed to a life in an RV resort in a motorhome.
  •  With the purchase of a 600 square foot "park model" we began staying for 6 months in our home in Oregon and then 6 months in Arizona.  The park models are very inexpensive. We bought ours for less than  $17,000. A park model is a trailer of sorts with wheels underneath but no tongue in the front. It sits on rented space in a resort with amenities like a pool, pickle ball and bocce ball. Most have a room added on the side that will be called an Arizona room or a Florida room or even a lanai. In truth a tiny house is really all that a person needs. 
  • We then sold that park model and bought a townhouse that needed a lot of love. We painted, updated the master bathroom, restored the back patio and added a front patio seating area and bought furniture at second hand consignment stores. We finished with the restoration and sold the property at a considerable profit. We were in our 4th winter season in the home when we sold. 
  • Then we bought the golf course home.

So where did the money come from?

We managed to own the park model debt free. It was a stretch to begin with but we always live on what we have and purchase very carefully. 

Because we were on the upswing in the real estate market, we were able to refinance the home in Oregon at a lower interest rate and take the money out of it to buy the town house. Our payments on the Oregon home remained essentially the same. We own the town house debt free. 

That gave us a big head start when we came into this market of 2020. The interest rates are the lowest ever and the housing market is in the seller's favor. Hard negotiating and a wonderful real estate agent that worked for us let us do what we wanted. Our home on the golf course is waiting for us.

State # 1...a purchase of a park model. We lived in the RV resort for many years before we need a change. The people surrounding us aged out of the location and we wanted to be around children and neighbors that worked and were younger.

We bought this park model, repainted the exterior and added trim.

We added this porch so we could also dine outside.
Arizona is perfect for that.

I took advantage of exterior space to plant winter blooming flowers.
It had a lot of "curb appeal".
We updated the bedroom with fresh paint and a simple Walmart bedspread.

My husband added this Arizona room.

Stage #2...we sold the park model and moved to a town home near to walking trails, a grocery and Home Depot.

We bought this townhouse and this is how it looked when we purchased. It was ok but needed some big time love. The floors were beautiful and all. of the asbestos ceiling had been removed and it had been repainted.


Kitchen after cabinets were painter and pulls added.

The out door area looked like this when we bought it.
We replaced the fence and my husband updated the brick patio space. 


The cabinets across the living room wall were very worn and dingy looking.

We repainted them and moved the TV. It may have been what sold the town home. Notice the small fireplace in the middle. It is electric and stays when we go.

Stage #3...We purchased this single family dwelling with no HOA costs. It is across from a school, which we love and the city owns the streets and maintains them. The market was right and the negotiating worked out for us. We will be at home here after Jan. 15, 2021. Timing, it turns out, is everything.

Entry of our new home...1800 square feet with 4 bedrooms.

All tile floors carpeting.

Beautiful view of the 5th hole at Rolling Hills Golf Course. 
This is where my husband plays several times a week.

Now, we can finally invite our family to come in bigger groups. We are very happy about that.

It has been a process that we love. We have many friends here in the Tucson area that we have made over the years. And the creative process is fun for both of us. If you have any questions thoughts, please feel free to leave a comment. 


Sunday, December 6, 2020

Snowbird Lifestyle: A Retiree's List for a Successful Retirement

 I have been retired for over 24 years. If I were to tell you that my life is just the same as it was in the beginning, I would not be telling the truth. Change will happen even if you don't like it. Thankfully, I do.

My husband and I retired when I was 55 and he 59. We are very young. It was not until we had been on this journey for 10 years that I began to understand how long we might live. We are now 79 and 83.

That was when I began buying the good paint for the walls and taking care of my body. I had been getting the cheapest paint possible saying, "It will last longer than I will." Then it came time to paint again and all I could think was shoot...I don't want to paint this place again. The solution was at that time...lets move. We don't think that way anymore. We repaint and stay put in Oregon. Arizona has turned out to be a different story.

As for my body, I have only recently began an exercise program. I am diabetic and have high cholesterol. Honestly, there are rules about taking care of stuff...especially when it comes to our health. Grow Young Fitness is my go to program.

Then there are retirement financial issues. Back in the day financial people wanted to write on my blog and tell old people about money/investments and long term nursing home care. It seems that there were lots of rules. Actually, it is not rocket science and we do follow rules. (see below)

Arizona Sunset

The fact is, when you retire young, you may struggle figuring out money matters. But when you turn 62 and get Social Security and 65 and get Medicare, you find that you have more money than ever. On top of that, if you are retired for a while, you will begin to grow up. You won't feel the need to squander all that you have saved or earned. It is a rule because it is simply the truth.

We have gone from a 1) motor home for travel 2) to a park model in a RV resort 3) to a townhouse and 4) now a single family dwelling on a golf course...all as our second home. Each one was sold as we bought the next place to spend our winters. We have never given up our home in Oregon even though we are living 6 month a year in Arizona. 

But in order to do that we have actually followed some rules:

  1. Before we retired, we did not spend more than we had and saved in our retirement system and in a mutual fund account. If we had lived on the company's dime, (free travel, a company car or even housing allowance) we would have known that we would have to downgrade. Living that lifestyle may not be possible.
  2. We still do not spend more than we have.
  3. We pay off any credit cards we have monthly. We charge anything we can because...
  4. We use the benefit of the pay back on credit cards to buy airline tickets.
  5. A life of hard work and dedication to outside activities (golf, walking, etc) as well as exercise is paying off.
  6. The climate in Arizona gives us a better balanced/healthier lifestyle that just staying in Oregon would have.
  7. We socialize and have many friends. That is so important to mental health. Isolation is a killer.
  8. We both challenge ourselves by reading good books and doing puzzles.
  9. Television is a life saver in retirement.
  10. We carry sufficient supplemental insurance to cover dental, health care and even hearing aids. This may be a sacrifice for some but it is a necessary part of a retiree's life. It is hard to pay for golf when you need teeth replaced/filled/bridged! KEEP YOUR PRIORITIES IN ORDER.
Tomorrow: How we bought a second home. Tune in.

If you have any thoughts about Retiring in Style Too, let me know!


Friday, December 4, 2020

Has Anyone Died in that House?

When I read the news and see something that seems just wonky, I always wonder, "Can they really do that...can that be true?" Don't you do the same?

But when it comes to our real life, the thought very seldom enters my mind that I might not be allowed...I think I can do what I want as long as it is legal.

See, I do know that many people of our age have their lives taken over by their children. Maybe not legally but emotionally. Control over us is very possible. In many cases, it is not a choice for the children.

So here is where my husband and ages 79 and almost 83... does not seem questionable. What I love about our family is that they will be calling us for help on the day we die...Mom would you watch the kids? Mom I need help cleaning...can you come? and the list goes on. They are excited for us and the extra bedrooms they can have when they visit. They are what keeps my husband and I healthy and, best of all, happy.

As for the move, it has been about 9 years since we have dealt with a mortgage company or negotiated the price on a house. And we have never done that thing in Arizona. Arizona is a different world. Not in a bad way...just different. 

Town House Living room.

We have e-signed documents, listened to real estate agent's disclaimers and visited a mortgage banker. I don't know that I would say it has been fun but it has been a learning curve. We have read a 40 something inspection report on our "new" house and filled out the disclosure form for the townhouse we are selling:

  • Does the roof leak or has it leaked in the last 5ish years? 
  • Have your had a fire (not in the fireplace) lately? 
  • And best of all, "Has anyone died in the house?"

Has anyone died in this house! Now they have me wondering. Are the buyers scared off by old people dying or is it all about murder and mayhem? I don't know. I wish I had been in the room when someone decided to add that to a real estate contract. The conversation must have been interesting don't you think?

So...the world keeps on turning. Our whole family is spread to the winds for this Christmas but we are all fine. We are relatively happy I think and everyone is too busy to tend to each other's business. That is a good thing.

Thanksgiving Tabel.

There was Thanksgiving dinner on our deck with traditions observed. Our friends came and joined us. I prayed that God would bless Kenny's new shirt and that the food would not make anyone ill. We don't need much and never have. 

But change is good...and we continue to seek new adventures. What have you been doing?

Oh, and to our knowledge, no one has died IN THIS HOUSE! Not yet.


Merry Christmas 
from our house to yours!

Tuesday, November 17, 2020

What do you recommend? Books, Exercise Programs and Opinions

First of all, I need to tell you that I am in "password" hell. ( I debated if I should put that word is the only one that fits) I am very good at making new ones up and then immediately forgetting them. I need help to simplify my life.

Any ideas?

A very young me...I had opinions even back then.

Since I love to read and had surgery on my eyelids so I could actually do that, I go through books at the speed of light. 

Any suggestions?

Last spring a friends insisted that I begin exercising. I began and have continued through out the summer using Grow Young Fitness. It is wonderful and I will probably keep it up. But it costs me $30 a month. 

What do you suggest for someone that does not want to or can't afford that much?

My family often says out-loud that I have a lot of opinions. For example, I am not in favor of "abortions of convenience". I do, however, think that every woman should have birth control available to them at very little or no cost.

Do you have an opinion that you would like to share?

Let me know...!


Sunday, November 15, 2020

Hiding Your Light Under a Basket...Good Trouble is Good

Hiding Your Light Under a Basket...I wrote this post earlier this summer. It was all about standing for something and giving up the notion that we need to be invisible in order to live in our neighborhood or in our circle of friends. I had decided that enough was enough. If those round me could not accept what I believed, that was a problem they would have to deal with. 

So...I bought a sign! One of my neighbors had one that I admired. She ordered it for me and I paid $10. The sign was printed on both sides so if I put it in my front yard, people could see it both coming and going. It was intentionally designed.

When our's arrived, we put it up on the wall in the entry part of the outside of our house. You could not see it from the street because, well, I may not be as brave as I want to be. My husband and I agreed that we just wanted people that came into our home to understand what we were all about. We did not want to influence or offend other people.

Can you guess what happened next? If you are part of a HOA you will know exactly. We were one of three couples that embraced the idea. As a result all three of us were asked to removed the sign that said: 

As you can imagine we were not a happy neighborhood for a few days. The camps divided up into for or against. THEN a meeting was called for everyone in the neighbor and we gathered in our gazebo area. There was a very large crowd and those of us that were sent the letter spoke to the group. It was not a matter of changing any thing. It was just a matter of having our say. Nothing much changed and we all agreed that no signs would go up.

Here's the thing that is really sad...we have always had signs up. When Easter came around, those that were church attenders put signs up given them by their church. Season's greetings were posted on almost every house. It appears that now that is not going to happen because of that sign that we posted. I am still confused and sad. Had I just continued to hide my light under a basket everything would be just fine.

It is the power of words that are the most fearsome. All of the statements in the sign could be interpreted in several ways. For example, I do believe that we have to stop systemic racism if we are ever to live in, brown, eye shape, belief systems matter. Women's rights do not necessarily lead straight to abortion nor is love is love totally about lesbian/gay choices. But, the idea is there and people in a 55+ neighborhood are not ready to embrace the concepts let alone let people like me express them. 

So, we took down our sign and in a letter to the board we expressed a desire to be treated with respect even though we do no stay in step with the rest. We all learned that a sign is not a sign and nothing more. It carries a message. We just won't do that anymore...none of us.

As for my basket and my light...we are doing fine. A new day is coming tomorrow and the day after. Hopefully, during 2020 we have all learned that freedom is very fragile and even though we may get in trouble, the good trouble John Lewis wrote about, we are right to stand up. As he said, freedom is an act not a state of mind. I am glad we did what we did.

Has anyone else put up one of these signs?



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