Looking for a getaway

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I love the smell of saltwater floating on the air and the way that the ocean breeze cools your sun-drenched skin. It takes me back to places I have loved, the places that I call home.  When I stand at the edge of the ocean, I feel God’s enormity.  I cannot see the end of the ocean and its expanse reminds me of God’s unfailing presence in my life.  On the days when the waves gently kiss the shoreline, I feel my anxiety and stresses washing away with each retreat of the water.  There are days when the ocean has what I call “angry waves”.  They are not always in the presence of an impending storm.  They are just waves that produce an energy that makes me feel as though they are looking to take you to their depths, far out into their center.  On these days I stand near their edge, admiring them with a strange mixture of fear and awe.  I am reminded that God is in control even in my moments of feeling scared or overwhelmed.

It is this love for the ocean that makes me want to return over and over again.  I spend most of my time on land admiring, contemplating, and watching my husband and children enjoy its depths.  My family found surfing in our last hometown and their love for that has only increased. I am content to search for shells and sea glass during the low tide, but I envy their entrancement with the moment as the wave catches and propels them forward.  I have surfed once with them.  I enjoyed the exhilaration as I popped up and sped forward through the wave, its energy and momentum making the board move swiftly.  I felt the freedom that can be found in the surf.  I have not been back on the board because I want “bunny” waves.  Rolling under the wave at the end, being sure to protect my head as the board is swept above me, and trying to put my swimsuit back in its proper place before standing up, left me a little leery.  Even though I am afraid of what lies below me in the water, I will be trying again.  Because that is what this year is about.  Not letting fear stop me.

We had a free weekend and decided to head down the Carolina Beach.  We discovered it last spring when we wanted to get away to the beach, but didn’t want to drive all the way back to Florida.  We ended up spending a week there over the summer.  Since that visit, we have been considering getting a second home there.  It’s still a 5 1/2 hour drive, but much shorter than the 15 back to Florida.  We have never been condo people (we can be a loud bunch….maybe, just me).  We like to be what we call “masters of our own destiny” meaning that we don’t necessarily like a bunch of people being able to change the rules. However, we decided a condo might make sense for us.  We will not be living there so you can just close it up when you leave and some have the option of being able to rent them out.

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We had a realtor that we’d been working with since last summer so we arranged to see some condos that seemed to meet our requirements.  Some things that were in our consideration list were:

  • Size of the HOA -in our experiences, smaller boards magnify any differences of opinion so we were not interested in the ones along that contained 6 or 9 units.
  • Location- while I was infatuated with oceanfront, my husband reminded me that the salt spray would rust any nails, etc. sooner than other locations.  In turn, this would create a need for repairs to the condo more often.  I knew this was true even though I was still enamored with being able to hear the ocean lapping at the shoreline.
  • More on location – even though we weren’t looking at oceanfront, we still wanted it to be walking distance to the beach
  • Cost of HOA fees and what they include – you need to be sure to look at what is being covered so that you are comparing apples to apples when determining whether they seem reasonable.  They seemed to cover: Master Insurance, Flood insurance, exterior maintenance of the buildings and roads, and a fee for the HOA management company.  It also included pools and tennis courts if the complex had them.  A lot of times water was included, and one that we looked at included cable.  These little differences are all important when you are factoring cost.
  • Size of the unit – we have three children, but to be cost effective we were looking at 2/2 condos.  We won’t be living there full time and with a pull out sofa, we would be completely fine in this scenario.
  • Storage- some units have a storage closet that is assigned under the building.  This would be especially helpful with not having to carry everything down each trip we took.
  • Obviously, the cost of the condo was a large consideration, but this range is different for everyone.  We had a tight window that we wanted to stay between since this isn’t a primary residence and we haven’t won the lottery.

I’m sure there are lots of other things, but this covers the main areas we considered.  This is a busy time for real estate there.  People are hoping to buy a place so that they can close on it before the summer.  We wanted to see six condos and a house.  The house went under contract the day before we were heading down.  I was disappointed, but am a major believer in signs.  I spend time in prayer before every major decision (yes, I should before minor ones too.  I don’t always do that and I also don’t always listen when my gut check says no) so when a door closes I try not to dwell on it too much.

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We left early Saturday morning to head down.  That morning, another condo matching our criteria came up so we asked our realtor if we could add it to the list.  We got into town around noon.  We decided to grab some lunch and go down and admire the beach.  The water was too cold for us, but we watched the surfers out there in their wetsuits.  Since it was just an overnight, we had booked a night at the Marriott (disclosure: I am in no way compensated financially or otherwise for this – just adding the link for reference).  In the past, we have rented condos, but the stays required are longer.  With 3 teenagers, hotel rooms can be a challenge.  This was a suite overlooking the ocean and was perfect.  From there we were able to walk around and do a little shopping.  Then it was time to meet our realtor.  Our sons went off skateboarding while our daughter joined us (she didn’t really have a choice).  We looked at six condos.  We couldn’t get into the newly added one until Sunday morning.  After looking at the six, we had narrowed it down to three.

We came back to the hotel to do a little research over wine and dinner.  I always go to the public property records that I can find online.  Sometimes I work up my own comps based on recent sales.  I understand that most of this work can be done by the realtor, but I know they a busy people out trying to earn a living and I hate to use up more of their time than necessary.  We have made plenty of real estate purchases over our 18 years.  Plus, I’m a list maker, number cruncher, and quite possibly have a control freak tendency!  One of the condos had some things that raised red flags for us so we ruled it out. The two that we had left were like night and day.  One was gorgeous, furnished, and overlooking the bay.  The other not so much.  The next day we were seeing one for less money in the same complex as the “not so much” unit so we decided that we would see the new one along with a second visit of the one overlooking the bay.

Sunday morning we had all three children.  They were, as to be expected, in love with the one overlooking the bay.  Now we had some considerations to think about.  We said goodbye to our realtor, bopped around town for a little while, and then began the long drive home.

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Things we had to think about:

  • The cheaper condo needed a complete gutting.  There was no way around replacing the entire kitchen, flooring, paint, and window treatments.  The bathrooms needed to be redone, but could be put off.
  • The cheaper condo would need furnished.
  • The cheaper condo could be rented out weekly and while the condo overlooking the bay didn’t say it couldn’t in the covenants, it was frowned upon (leading me to believe it would be voted as no short term rentals at some point).
  • The condo on the bay had a storage closet.
  • The condo on the bay cost more and had a higher HOA (it did include cable, but still cost more even at the apple to apple basis)
  • The cheaper condo was smaller

Plus, a plethora of other thoughts surrounding them.  We ran our numbers on Monday, were discussing and weighing out our thoughts, leaning toward the condo on the bay when we hear from our realtor that the condo on the bay had an offer.  We could have put in an offer also, but that felt rushed and we didn’t want to be in a bidding war.  A purchase this large should never be entered into without deliberate thoughts and comfort in the process.  So we opted to let it pass.  Now we are left deciding if we are interested in the cheaper remodel (we do all the work ourselves, so it seems a little overwhelming) or if we just want to watch as new things come on the market.

My love for the ocean makes me hopeful that it will all come together, but I am learning to be “content in all circumstances” -Philippians 4:11


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