In the economic downturn, nay, the Great Recession, we almost lost our shirts. We were lucky to have sold our house just as the market was starting its crash but unlucky enough to be in the frickin’ middle of flipping a house (which makes it sound so frivolous, which it wasn’t – the house was fantastic!) when everything came to a screeching halt.

The brick wall we hit.

The brick wall we hit.

That fantastic house we were trying to flip sat on the market for about 6 months before a cash buyer walked in and stole it (aw, that’s not a fair way to describe it but she did get a superb house for the price!). Anyway, we didn’t get much for the house, certainly not the nest egg we were hoping for.

Pic of the house we flipped but didn't make a fortune on.

Pic of the house we flipped but on which no fortune was made.

Back to the crash… It was October and suddenly our clients were pulling their heads into their shells and contractors planning to build houses on spec disappeared. Business fell to about 25% of what it was. We held on as long as possible, tearfully laid off our two wonderful employees, Kim and Bre, and moved into the space above our office. It had a full (yet tiny) kitchen and bathroom, and 3 rooms, which we took as bedrooms and living room.

I’m glossing over the hell we went through during that time and I gained 20 lbs…



Oh, I forgot to mention that in the high point of our economic existence, we also bought a piece of property in the foothills with a marvelous view and were working to develop it. That process took so long – even with our expertise – that we no longer needed nor wanted a 4000sf house on 4 acres of land.   So we put it on the market and sold it.

OK, now we have a little money in the bank and we have been able to stay afloat in the sucky economy by selling everything we could: Goodbye Maserati, goodbye Indian and Harley motorcycles, goodbye 12′ trailer, goodbye Chickering piano, goodbye Victorian-era mantle that we hoped to one day install in our fancy custom home!

I really loved our road trips!

I really loved our road trips!

We stick our heads out of our cave, beginning to wonder if we can buy a house now that the economy is turning (BANG! January was busy!) and hit a wall.  Banks tell us we must have our 2012 taxes in hand before a bank can consider us for a home loan.

We wait until our taxes are done by our superb accountants at Abbott, Stringham and Lynch (great name, eh?)…watching as home prices climb up and up and up. Will we be priced out of the market by all-cash buyers? Flippers are backing away now that the easier pickings are gone (2012 was really their year). They’ve helped to bring the economy back up, so I can’t complain too much. Other cash buyers are people who want to own a home for themselves but have to ‘bid up’ the price in order to get one of the few homes that are for sale. They don’t care about appraisals, either.

I’m looking at homes listed for sale at around $400k and they are actually sold for $80,000 more than that!  Damn, I’m getting depressed.  Our max is around $520k.  Oh, yeah, we could buy in other neighborhoods where the prices are cheaper but then the commute is longer and/or the potential for rise in value is smaller.

And, here’s the thing:  The Great Recession lasted, what, 6 years?

We are looking ahead toward retirement.  Do we have time to flip another house before we retire?  Do we chance flipping now and buying our retirement house later?  Will we have energy for our retirement house later?  Will we even qualify for a loan on a retirement house later?  Why am I talking about a retirement house anyway?

We don’t have a primary residence, we live in an apartment above our office.  We can’t retire here.  Its a beautiful house, but its not senior citizen friendly.  Its a great investment property, for sure, but not a place to spend one’s twilight years.

We want a ‘go-to house’.  You know what I mean?  Our kids are going to be having kids and we want to have a place they want to go to.  Spending time with the grandparents won’t be fun in an apartment above an office with a 5000sf parking lot as a back yard.  So, looking toward the future, what are the best options?

Let's go to Grandma's house!

Let’s go to Grandma’s house!

Its a puzzle we are working on…and I’ll be keeping you in that loop 😉