And the road goes on forever...

Wednesday, March 24, 2021

Contemplating Change: Over Wisconsin?

 It took about three weeks after my fall for my worst achy parts to mitigate their painful moves. I now understand better how falls are so devastating to older  people. 

I love Wisconsin; actually, we both do. We enjoy the laid-back lifestyle, the people, the ruralness of almost the entire state, the quirkiness of the culture, the low cost of living. I do enjoy the change of seasons and I don’t mind the depth of the cold, but something that is bothering me more and more is the length of the winters. It’s still tolerable now, but what about as we age? Being shut in due to the pandemic has only magnified the feeling. 

Marc complains that I just like to move every so often, and he likely has me there! My grass is always greener somewhere else. I have learned there is no perfect place though; there is probably going to be a season which will be uncomfortable—too hot or too cold. The question now becomes is there a shorter uncomfortable season somewhere? 

When one is doing research on places to retire to, it seems like with so many states there should be numerous ones that could jump out as “potentials”. That’s what it was like for me when I started delving in to real estate cost, sales taxes, income taxes, property taxes, DMV fees, utility costs and all the other costs associated with maintaining life in an area. That only covers the practical considerations and doesn’t address the more esoteric things like lifestyle, climate, ambiance of the scenery, recreational activities, proximity of good health care, and lastly, decent people we may have something in common with. 

So, as I go through the process with several states that seem to be popular with the Boomer retirement crowd, I find I am whittling the list down rapidly. One driving factor for us is preferring to be by major water bodies or an ocean yet still finding affordable property. The two don’t seem to go hand in hand in very many locales. And no, Florida is not in contention! Actually, anything too southern is not in the running for us; it’s just too hot and humid for our tastes. The southwest is too arid and hot and I suspect may experience severe draught and water shortages in the near-term future, which won’t bode well for its millions of residents. Not someplace we want to have our worldly wealth tied to either, in the event of catastrophic water problems. The recent political problems and the astronomical real estate prices in the PNW and west, definitely rule out that swath of the country. Actually, real estate pricing is just a runaway train right now in any location it seems. 

We thought about Maine for a long time but then wondered, other than the ocean, why exchange one wintery location for another just the same? One consideration is that our daughter and son-in-law just moved near Greenville, SC and I figure being somewhat close to them in future years as we age could be of benefit. But after looking at SC and NC, neither one really appealed to me and were much more expensive than I had suspected. 

A place I keep bouncing back to is the area near Williamsburg, VA where we spent about a five-week stint in back in ’12. Across to the middle peninsula via toll bridge from York is the very historic Gloucester County, first settled in the early 1600’s. The area is rural; farming and fishing based, yet has excellent proximity to water recreation, good shopping and medical care. Bare land parcels are fairly reasonable in price considering they can be so close to the ocean. We’ve decided it deserves a closer look again so we made reservations for two weeks at a shoreside campground in April. Maybe that will answer some questions. 

The one major hurdle to VA is the personal property tax there, which is punitive to newer vehicles since it goes as a percentage of value. It is somewhat offset however, by extremely low real estate property taxes (as compared to WI). I just have to keep reminding myself that there is no free lunch; you pay one way or another. VA is also much more densely populated but in this corner of the world outside of the hustle of big cities I don’t think it would be noticed too much. Where we would notice it would be in comparing outdoor recreation—it would take long driving days to get to any remote wilderness camping like we can experience in the Upper Peninsula living here. On the other hand, it would allow Marc to do his favorite activities of harvesting seafood, kayaking, and fishing only minutes away. And there could be new types of recreation in visiting and touring all the historical attractions, including visiting all of DC’s offerings. 

Looming as the biggest concern of all, is do we have it in us to build another place from scratch? Even the thought at our age is extremely daunting. We have the rough outline of what we want. Marc wants a large pole barn type shop where all his stuff and the vehicles can be safely tucked away out of sight. I want a very small cottage style home ranging 700 to no more than 1000 square feet. This will work best for that final home which should allow us to age in place for as long as possible, require minimal maintenance and upkeep, and be low on utilities and taxes. As a last resort if we are not capable of an entire build, we could always place a manufactured home and have someone build Marc a pole barn shell which he could finish out as he desired. 

I’ll update the blog on vacation if we have internet or sometime after arrival back home to keep you apprised of our thoughts! Here’s our new better built screen room we’ll be taking along…