My little cottage by the sea!

New photo by Kathy Schlitzer / Google Photos

I haven’t posted for over a year but it isn’t because life has been dull. I’ve traveled, sold real estate, created a summer home from a very raw cottage, retired from my career, and become a budding artist!

Here’s the story….

I always thought I would retire at age 70, that was the plan and I was sticking to it, until I wasn’t!

The New England winter of 2015 was truly miserable. It was colder, with more snow than usual, and Spring seemed to never arrive.  

With visions of shovels and extra blankets in my mind I started thinking of perhaps spending winters in Florida,  That fall an opportunity arose for me to buy a small place and I jumped on it. My employer generously agreed to my request to work remotely from Florida three months a year so I spent January, February, and March 2016 in the sun. 

 In the summer of 2016, after a particularly stressful week at work, I realized it was time to start thinking of getting out. Could I retire at 68? Would I be financially able to live comfortably for potentially many more years (my mother is now 96)? Would I be able to maintain a property in Florida and in New England?  Living in Florida year round was not an option, having a presence in the north for the summer was crucial.

I still had a mortgage on my Massachusetts condo, as well as HOA, insurance, utilities, taxes etc – selling the condo was my first priority. The question was, could I find an affordable place close to my children and grandchildren in New England? New England real estate is expensive! My research results were discouraging. Affordable small houses and apartments were dismal, in questionable areas, and needed huge repairs to be livable. Rentals were no better.  

I’m a firm believer in “Trust the Process” and sure enough the answer came to me when I least expected it. I was visiting family in a small seasonal cottage community in southern Rhode Island when I noticed many of the small cottages were for sale. Was this the answer? The community is open mid-May to mid-October (perfect) and the beach is a block away. In October the water is shut off and the houses closed for the winter. There are no winter utility expenses, there are no furnaces, no heating bills. The one drawback is the land is leased so there is a fairly hefty lease to pay annually.   So….I bought a lovely little 500 square foot cottage! Now I really needed to sell the condo!

Matunuck Beach Rhode Island

New photo by Kathy Schlitzer / Google Photos
New photo by Kathy Schlitzer / Google Photos

Finding a realtor was the easy part.  The hard part was getting the condo ready to sell.  The real estate agent gave me a list of small repairs (smoke alarm replacement, rug cleaning and stretching, small woodwork repair, paint touch up etc).  I was able to do the little things myself  (nights and weekends)  but had to find a handy person for the rest.  There aren’t many around!!

Finally it was time for my first open house and I had a buyer the first day! I ended up with three potential buyers over two months – all fell through for various reasons. Finally one came back and bought the condo. Not before lots and lots of picky little negotiations. 

 You accumulate a lot of stuff over the years!  Note to self – don’t do that again! Now I had to get rid of most of my stuff.  I was moving from an 1800 square foot condo to a 500 square foot cottage.   

All my packing and organizing had to be done nights and weekends. I was panicking big time until a good friend offered to keep boxes in her garage until I was ready to go through them the following summer. This meant I didn’t have to make the decisions that paralyze. Every night I packed boxes, every morning I loaded my SUV with boxes to bring to her garage before I went to work. The pile grew larger and larger!

A friend came over one Saturday and helped me pack the kitchen, which was the most time consuming. My sons helped when they could but their lives are busy with jobs and families. Finally just before the closing on December 20 we packed a truck with some furniture I couldn’t fit in my friend’s garage (and didn’t want to move twice!). Turned out it was way too large for the cottage anyway, but that decision could wait until the next summer!

Just in time for the holidays it was over.   I’m not sure how I did it but its done and when I eventually sell both, or either, house, it will be furnished!