This story was written 358 days before Retirement.
It happened on Christmas Eve.
There was excitement and joy, as well as wonder about what the future would hold. There was no turning back from the decision to retire. And we had absolutely no regrets.
The process that got us here started years before.
Our Vacation Strategy
For five years – maybe even ten – whenever we went on vacation we’d take one day and dedicate it to researching the area. The question we always asked ourselves – “Would we want to retire here?”
This is not an easy yes-or-no answer. In fact, we had a lot of “yes’s.” Whenever we answered “yes,” we dug deeper.
During those vacations we visited open houses and talked with agents – being honest about the length of our retirement timeline, and serious with our questions. I’m not sure we met a single agent who wasn’t willing to share their time and knowledge. Many followed up after our visit to see if we had additional questions. Each of them helped us reach our retirement destination, and we have tremendous gratitude for that help.
After talking with agents and locals, we asked the question again at the end of our trip, ‘Would we want to retire here?”
Doing this for years gave us a good list of possibilities. We narrowed that down to two specific regions of the country and three or four communities in each region.
One day, our neighbors Jeff and Cathie told us they were moving, retiring to a 55+ community in one of the regions we’d identified. The phrase “Adult Disneyland” was tossed about. We had to see this for ourselves!
We booked a week-long ‘stay and play’ visit with the community developer. This came with a villa and our own golf cart! From the first day we were hooked.
Our real estate agent Kathy, took us on a tour of the community and showed us both existing and model homes. She answered dozens of questions from features to fees. We met our friends, went to a Christmas tree lighting and got lost in our golf cart after dark.
All that happened in the first two days.
We had spent years doing our ‘vacation research.’ That gave us the confidence to know that this was where we wanted to start our retirement. Now, we would be laser focused on finding the perfect location among the hundreds of neighborhoods in the community.
Creating our Timeline
Back home, we started planning. We would retire in two years. We would take that time to make multiple visits and find just the right spot.
Six months later, we sold our home and downsized to an apartment. This served a number of purposes. It eliminated the stress of trying to sell when we were in our final year of retirement. It forced us to downsize for the smaller home that we would have in the future. And it gave us cash on hand to make our retirement purchase whenever the time was right.
That time came sooner than we’d anticipated.
A Holiday to Remember
After selling our home, we were on visit number three of the four that we had scheduled before we planned to buy our home. This was a long Christmas vacation. It was as much to look around, as to celebrate entering the final year before retirement.
Kathy had since retired. But with the help of our new agent Chrystie, we now settled on the specific community. It was a large area still under development. We determined we wanted some type of view, but the homes we’d toured were not quite right. We made a checklist to keep on track.
‘Twas the Day Before Christmas…
On a bright sunny morning while our agent was holding an open house we did what we’d done so many times before, we went out exploring on our own. Armed with coffee and a couple of development maps, we jumped in our rental car and went for a ride.
It was Christmas Eve.
We discovered an area with a pretty little lake and a sandy beach. Homes were being built there even though it wasn’t marked on our maps – that’s how quickly real estate in the community was being developed. A spot with empty lots attracted our attention, so we got out of our car and took a walk.
The first lot was nice with a view of the lake but also of a large drainage pipe. Yes, we are picky!
The next lot had a sign. It was already sold. We walked to the lot after that.
The lot after that…
My wife and I looked at each other. We looked at the view. We looked at each other. We looked at the view.
OH MY GOD !!!
THIS IS IT !!!
In those moments a decade of searching was over. Our retirement home would be here. It would be a home we would build with our own look and feel.
ON THIS SPOT!!
If we didn’t lose it.
The Fastest Hour
There was high demand here and it was common for prospective home buyers to lose out if they didn’t act quickly. One couple who had settled on a lot had a picnic dinner on it to celebrate. The next morning when they went to put down their deposit, they discovered the lot had already been claimed by somebody else!
Earlier, our agent had mentioned the trick we would now use that would save time. While my wife called her, I spotted the utility boxes that had just been installed and found the lot number scrawled on the side. We waited for what seemed an eternity while she checked on it. I think it was two minutes.
The lot was not claimed! It was now reserved in our name. For three hours.
I did mention it was Christmas Eve, right? 11 am to be exact.
The builder’s office closed at Noon. If we didn’t act fast, the hold would expire over the holiday, and someone in the throngs of people now descending on the area could put in their own claim. For OUR LOT!
We were not going to let that happen.
Chrystie was at her open house until 1pm. So her husband – also an agent – met us at the office. What followed was a flurry of paperwork, a handy credit card and then – handshakes and hugs. We’d write a bigger check on the day after Christmas to start the clock on our build. But the hardest part was done.
The lot was ours.
The search was over.
Our retirement journey was set to begin.
P.S. Our thanks to our agents Chrystie and Kathy; and our friends Cathie and Jeff for helping find our home for retirement! And also to Kristine for selling our pre-retirement home in just 100 hours!