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Where oh Where

Location, location, location. That is the classic real estate mantra. The other is buy the worst house in the best neighborhood you can afford. Of course, these things have different meanings for each buyer.

Location means a hot area, that is, popular. Or at least a good area. Obviously you don’t want to buy a house next to a landfill or sewage plant. Or nuclear reactor. And if you can, it’s a good idea to buy in an area with a low crime rate. And good schools. And good weather and nice people. You have to consider the resale potential of anything you buy.

For me, location meant outside of a subdivision. A place with a little bit of land. And a water feature. Lots of storage. Maybe even a separate building for storage. Of course, a run down shack on two acres with a drying up swamp and old shack of a barn qualifies for all of my wishes there. But that’s not what I would buy.

Then there is the geographic location aspect. How close to the city did I want to be. Very rural county? Bedroom community outskirts?

What I was looking for was a relatively updated house on several acres, not too far out in the boonies, with as small a yard as possible, and as much water as possible. Pond, lake, creek, river, oceanfront. Water.

As time went on and I continued to look, I became discouraged. What I was seeing was old shacks with overgrown yards and dried up creeks. The further away from the city I went, the more I could afford. More land, bigger house (though not necessarily a nice house!), more water. But I didn’t want to be too isolated. I’m a loner, but not a hermit.

I started to rethink everything. What about an urban loft? Or at least an in-town condo. There are a number of old cotton mills in this area that have been refurbished into lofts with a nice industrial feel. Old wooden floors, brick interior walls and iron bedecked ceilings. And there are plenty of condos.

Looking at several of those, I realized that living in one would be impossible for me. I needed some space between me and my neighbors. Lots of space. And some storage. So, back to the drawing board in the country.

I began to think about real fixer uppers. If it had four standing walls and an intact roof, I could remodel. Needs a little paint. Or landscaping. But maybe at my age I didn’t want to spend the rest of my life ripping out walls and painting the new ones.

Then it dawned on me. The housing market is like the job market. You can look all day and night at the want ads and job boards and company websites and apply for jobs until you are blue in the face, but it’s the hidden market that holds the gems. The jobs that never get advertised. Jobs that are created for friends of friends.

In the housing market, the best sales are word of mouth and unless you are in the right circle of mouths, all you can do is wake up one day, see that a transaction has occurred and say to yourself, “damn, I wish I had known about that!”

So, with the increased aid of my realtor, I developed a net that covered a wider area. And one day, bam, it was going to have that perfect house in it! And I would leave the whole community saying, “damn, I wish I’d known about that!”

That’s part of my story. What’s yours?



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Change is good. Change is hard. Both old clichés. Both true. Sometimes you plan it, and sometimes you don’t.

You might be thinking that you need a new car. You have your heart set on something. Maybe it’s new, maybe it’s used. Or it could be some classic you’ve always dreamed of. Or you might have walked onto the car lot and found something that suited your needs. Utilitarian. Affordable. Just something different. Whatever your approach to car buying, you decided you wanted a change, you found what you wanted to change to, and you make the change. Simple.

The thing about change is you don’t always have control over it. It just comes along and you have to adapt. You might be just rolling along, thinking everything is going great just as it is. No cares. No worries. Then change jumps up in front of you. Could be any number of things. Someone offers you a job. You lose your job. You meet the girl of your dreams. You lose the girl of your dreams. Whatever. Here is a change for you! Go with it…

You might have made very elaborate plans for a change, precise down to the smallest detail, but then something comes along you hadn’t anticipated, or couldn’t control, and poof, your plans are shot to hell. You are renovating an old, downtrodden house. Classic bones. With your hard work and dedication it’s going to be magnificently returned to its former glory. And modernized too. OOOPS! The whole thing is full of termites. Has to be torn down. Change in plans. Go with it…

Some of my readers know that I run a little antique business in two locations. As the new year dawned I decided to shake up both stores and redo their contents. Get rid of the things that were sitting there collecting dust. Move in new items to see how they did. Move things from one location to another. Two stores. Two markets. Different customer tastes.

I had it all planned. Take this from store A and move it to store B. Move these things around in store B, put in the things from store A, take out a few things and move them to store A. Simple. Couple of hours worth of work.

Delayed by a change, I got a late start.  I decided to take some things from my storage area with me to see where they might fit. I had to clean them. Had to price them. And tag them. And pack them for the trip. Took two hours for that. Going to store A was a breeze. Moved things around, pulled some out, made it look really good. Then, after talking to some people for a little while I was off to store B.

Here I planned to move a china cabinet from one side of the building to the other. But I couldn’t find the thing! It’s huge. Where the heck is it? Did it sell? After a few inquiries I located it, and found that it had been filled with silver and crystal. Looked really good like that so I decided to leave it. Now, what to do with the big hole I had created for it by moving other items? Fill it with something. Not like I don’t have enough stuff to fill a couple of mansions.

By the time I had all of that done it was so late that I didn’t have time to go back to store A. Another day. I had accomplished my overall mission, to change the stores around, but I hadn’t done it according to plan. I was tired and I was frustrated, but I thought to myself that it all looked pretty damn good. I was satisfied. For now. There would be another day for more changes.

And in my life there will be changes. Some I can anticipate, others I can’t. I know my daughter will graduate from college this spring. I don’t know if she will then head to grad school or the work force. Who knows what else might change. My whole world could be turned upside down. Good or bad.

Change is good. Change is hard. Sure. Planned or unplanned. Good or bad. Understood or not. It happens. Go with it. Lots of clichés. But this one is easy to understand: the only thing that is constant is change.

That’s part of my story. What’s yours? www.personalhistorywriter.com

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