For the past ten years we have ridden a merry go round of Vermont seasons. We have planted blueberries and hostas, daylillies and apple trees, raked mountains of leaves from the lawn and mounds of snow off the roof. We built a barn (with help from neighbors), and nursed the aging neglected bones of our 1760s house back to health. It has been a good life. Vermont is Currier and Ives vistas in real time. But as I near my own retirement (My husband has been retired since we moved here), the price Vermont exacts for its bucolic offerings have begun to nag at the back of our minds. Taxes here are high and plentiful. Long, cold winters add costs of their own. Vermont places regularly in the top 5 of most expensive states for retirees.
Added to that is my mother’s advancing dementia, our yearning for flowers in March, and accessible ocean. But over the past several years we’ve watched Oregon property values rise and rise and rise. In contrast, the worth of our home here has inched…not nearly keeping pace with barn building, land clearing, and repairs. The options of what we would be swapping it for to live in the same city as my family, became more and more unappealing: One iconic Vermont farmhouse house with 12 over 12 windows and old growth pine plank floors …for a tiny, characterless, 80s ranch box. We couldn’t do it. So we planted more trees.
Then came last winter. Herb’s back issues blew up. After two spinal surgeries before mud season, came a realization. Our home was now too much to keep up with. Regular maintenance, much less keeping the relentless tangle of Vermont wilderness at bay, was something that kept TWO of us, working strong. Getting behind would quickly undo years of work.
With resignation, we began to search Zillow. Maybe there would be a needle in a haystack…a reasonable house close to family……with a decent yard and at least some nods to character. We crunched numbers and made spreadsheets. Current expenses. Projected expenses. Likely income with both of us in retirement. A range of affordablity emerged. For current Oregon housing costs…it wasn’t much. We didn’t want to do yet another fixer..or take on a foreclosure. 2 bathrooms, 3 bedrooms…a fenced yard, room to garden, and a fireplace would be nice. But numbers are numbers. Such a house, in our price point, was simply was not to be had in Eugene.
I widened the circle…then a bit more..and a bit more.
An hour south in Roseburg, Eureka! An affordable house with charm in spades. Affordable. Charming. Zero yard. For a family with four dogs and two gardeners, this would be a tricky scenario at best. Was this house a unicorn? Could there be another? And importantly, if we did find another prospect, what would living in this historically hardscrabble former logging town be like?
Enter serendipity. I knew someone who who could answer these questions-my former in-laws! A difficult divorce- decades ago, had put our relationship on hiatus for a long time. But kindred souls, a shared profession, and Facebook, had reconnected us.
On a whim that evening, after being intrigued by a few more not quite, but close sort of listings, after googling the town, and checking the mileage between Roseburg and Eugene (where my family lives) I texted my former sister in law. I shared with her our litany of hopes, of market despair, and asked her about living in Roseburg.
She texted back. We love our neighborhood, and as for houses, maybe you want to buy ours!
I had seen pictures on facebook. It was cute. In fact, it’s 1940s steeply gabled lines reminded me much of the house my where my grandmother once lived. Susan began to list the attributes. One by one, I ticked off our list. A. Perfect. Match.
“How much are you asking?” I texted back. (Dare I hope?) She proceeded to type back the amount smack dab in our sweet spot.
Today we closed the purchase.
A rekindled friendship, a spur of the moment late night text, a perfect little house filled with the energy of people I love….a deal sealed at the local McMenamins.
Mark and Susan…wishing you both the very best in your new adventures across the globe. We will leave the light on for you. (You might have to step over a sleeping dog.)