June 28, 2022 — Back in 2018 Pamela shared her ideas on looking for an amenity-lite active community. That article, When Amenity Rich Is Not the Answer, was clearly relevant to many of our Members and sparked 60 Member Comments (which were turned into another article: “When Amenity Lite Is the Answer“). Recently we heard back from Pamela on a related topic. She recounted her experience in selling her home in 2020, along with its aftermath and sellers remorse. We are grateful for her sharing her story; it is always fascinating to hear about actual experiences in the retirement world. We wish her and anyone else in this tough market who has faced challenges well. Note: This article makes an excellent counterpoint and addition to last week’s “Time to Sell Your Home and Rent” post.
Here is her story (with minor edits):
Pamela: I am still dealing with the absolute worst mistake of my life – selling my home that I owned for 28 years and lived in since it was new. Since you’re always looking for new topics to write about, I wanted to update you on my situation, hopefully generating some helpful insights and advice from your great subscribers.
Even though I loved my paid-off house in an upscale community in the suburbs of Central Florida, I wanted to sell it for years because I had a pool that I never used and a big yard that was a lot of work. They both regularly stressed me out. I searched for years for new construction communities in a small beach town in SW Florida because it was close enough but far enough from where I grew up. Because I’m single in my early 60’s with no kids, I thought it would be nice to be closer to some of my childhood friends so I can see them occasionally, and hopefully meet new friends in this area. Neither have come to fruition.
After searching this town and other areas of Florida for years without success to try and find a community without a ridiculous amount of amenities, I finally decided to sell my house in 2020 and move here before finding my next home. I thought it would be easier to find something if I was here, and I figured that I’d rent for probably six to nine months maximum and then I’d be living in my new home. In the past, they alway said to rent before you buy. Unfortunately, this has been a total disaster for me.
As it turns out, the timing couldn’t have been worse! I closed on my home in Q4 of 2020, and for the first six weeks after arriving in this new town, I was frantically trying to find a short-term rental. It was a very stressful situation because I found rentals in general were few and far between since it’s considered “in season” that time of year. It was like having a full-time job just trying to find a short-term place to live, and this prevented me from being able to initially search for my new home.
My original plan was that I’d trade in my home with a beautiful pool/waterfall/spa and large, private yard for a new construction home with all the new code regulations and modern updates for not that much more money. In Q1 of 2021, I was finally able to start looking around to determine where I wanted to purchase my new home. However, that’s when the housing market started to go completely insane – prices were skyrocketing and have continued to increase dramatically ever since! It’s been overwhelming. I was able to find only one new home community in this area that I liked, although it does have some lite amenities. The problem is the builder was constantly increasing the prices but not releasing the lots for purchase. The base price of the model that I wanted was $306,990 the day after I arrived in this town, and it’s $545,990 today! This is just the base price of the model that I wanted and doesn’t include the lot or upgraded options, which have gone through the roof, too. What would have been under a $400k house will probably be at least $650k total today for just under a 1800 SF house. It’s ridiculous and not worth it.
Unfortunately, my property taxes will now be significantly higher because of how much the values have increased since I sold my house. Property taxes in Florida are also based on when you purchase the home, and there’s a cap of 3% every year. My taxes were low compared to most of my previous neighbors because I bought my house in the early 1990’s. I can port my approximately $90k Save Our Homes credit, but I have to be living in my new home by 12/31/22 in order to do so. This deadline is rapidly approaching, and I’ll lose my 28 years of credit if that doesn’t happen, which will be yet another tragedy of selling my house.
While recently the market has been calming down a little due to rising mortgage rates, inventory is still at historic lows and prices still unbelievably high. I’m also worried that prices will decrease after I buy, putting me in an even more terrible position, or that I’ll buy a house that I really don’t love. It’s also been extremely frustrating and difficult trying to find where I want to purchase my new home. I always compare every single thing to the gorgeous and highly-sought after community and area that I lived in, and everything else looks run-down and dingy to me.
The house wasn’t the only problem
Yet another costly mistake is that I didn’t move the majority of my stuff. I basically have very little left of my life, and I had expensive furniture and things. What I didn’t know at that time is that inflation would start to soar, and I’ll have to repurchase everything at a much higher cost, so my expenses will be drastically higher than they would have been. I purchased a lot of my high-end furniture and things early on when I bought my house, but everything still looked brand new because I keep care of things.
The challenges of renting
Renting has been beyond challenging, and I’ve been forced to rent for much longer than I ever could have anticipated. I’ve always had an exceptionally strong aversion to renting. I only rented for a short time when I first started living on my own because I was determined way back then that I was going to be a homeowner. Renting for me has been like torture and what I assume prison feels like. I don’t have any control of my environment, I hate not having a garage, there’s a shared laundry outside that has caused significant stress for many reasons, there’s no privacy, I feel like I live with the person below me because she is super loud, and I almost can’t take another day of not being my normally organized self, as well as countless other reasons. The worst part is that I’m living in a building of several apartments that’s owned by a private landlord, and I’ve been suffering from second-hand smoke, even though the landlord assured me before I moved in that it’s a non-smoking building. It’s been a terrible situation for someone like me who is and has always been very health-conscious, and I’ve found it’s impossible to try and talk to the landlord about it because he’s a large part of the problem.
To make matters much worse, if that’s even possible, I found out that I hate this area for a very, very, very long list of reasons. In fact, there’s nothing that I like about it, and it’s not at all what I expected. I know there are people who like it, but I can only guess that they’re sun worshipers who love the beautiful beaches here. I like the beach, but I never go because I’ve had skin cancer. I’m miserable living here and don’t plan on staying, but I now have to figure out where I belong and where to go. Most people my age move for the weather or to be closer to their kids and grandkids. None of that applies to me.
I’m a personal finance geek, and normally make wise financial decisions, but moving has been nothing less than an enormous blunder in so many ways. It’s been life shattering in numerous ways, and my world has been turned upside down. It’s caused me a lot of emotional distress, stress, anxiety and several health problems that I never had before. It’s been very hard to move on with my life because I’m afraid of making another colossal mistake.
I’m still surprised just how much this has affected me, especially since I wanted to move for many years. I thought my grief would decrease over time, but it hasn’t. I especially loved my home and the location/area where I lived. I’m worried it will be too hard for me to go back to even that area because it might cause me even more heartache considering I gave up almost everything or things were taken from me, and I’m essentially starting over at the wrong time of my life. I’m a prime example that life isn’t always greener on the other side.
I apologize that this is so depressing and long. I just thought that you might have readers who have dealt with some of these situations before and can give me words of wisdom on how to cope and move forward with my life. I hope someday I’ll look back and be happy that I made the decision to move, but at this point I only feel incredible remorse and regret. The entire situation has been devastating because I worked hard my entire adult life in order to retire happy at a younger age so that I could enjoy life, but I had to go screw it all up. Thanks again.
Comments? Does anyone have any suggestions for Pamela. Obviously this has been very hard for her,and surely for many others in the same situation? Please post your suggestions in the Comments section below.
For further reading: