Bugging Out

March 10th, 2017

Make Sure you Pack the Skillets and the AK-47

It has been a hard week. I spent two days in Ocala, looking at houses with my dad and my old friend Mike.

I would have blogged the trip from Ocala, but trip blogging is just an oblique way of begging thieves to rob your empty house, so I kept quiet.

For several weeks, I’ve been digging up properties online and talking to a realtor. I ran into some obstacles. First of all, Florida contains a whole lot of extremely ugly houses. I’m not picky, but there is such a thing as a house too ugly to live in. I found a number of places I could not stomach. Very sad, because sometimes great properties have bad houses.

I had another problem: a surprising number of people put two-bedroom houses or trailers on nice farms. I can’t figure that out. I suppose some of the smaller homes used to be caretaker shacks on larger farms, and once the farms were cut up, the main houses went with other parcels.

Third thing: some of these places were just too remote. I’m all for breathing room, but half an hour is too long for a drive to the nearest drugstore. Also, my dad will be with me, and I don’t think he would be thrilled about living in a place where there are only three or four decent restaurants within a half-hour’s drive. And if he needs medical care, it would be best to be fairly close in.

One place had a shop building that almost made me faint. It was maybe sixty feet long and thirty feet wide. I was told it was an RV barn. Think what I could do with that.

I found a couple of places that stood out. One is a mint-green farmhouse a rich couple used as a vacation home. They fixed it up perfectly, and then they rarely used it. It has a small barn, a beautiful shop with a concrete slab, and the nicest house I have ever been in. They even bought a new tractor and a small four-wheel drive utility vehicle. The machinery still has tags on it. It has never been used.

The mint color is odd, but I can fix that myself for a few hundred bucks.

I’ve never seen construction to equal that house. Everything fits perfectly. The woodwork is finished to perfection. The garage has a brand-new epoxy floor. It’s stunning. It would be impossible to build such a house in Miami, because no one here could do it even if they wanted to. People here have no skill.

I don’t know how they did it.

You could put a dirt berm up behind this place and shoot rifles all day. How sweet would that be?

Unfortunately, it’s pretty far out, and I don’t think the price is realistic. The owners got hammered, paying $100,000 more than what it’s probably worth now.

It’s not in the high-rent area of the county, but they’re asking a high price, and I doubt it will appreciate quickly.

The other place I like is a frame house on 16 acres of woods. I don’t want that many trees, but you can have your land timbered selectively, and because the wood is useful, you make money on the process. I could mark the trees I want gone and open it up without destroying the privacy.

The house has no outbuildings (bad), but it does have a nice 3-car garage with a gun room built into the side of it. The gun room has a heavy steel door. A smart person could open it up in a few minutes with an angle grinder, but most thieves are stupid and in a hurry.

Can’t hurt.

We would have to add a shop building. That would take time. I suppose my stuff would fit in the garage until then.

This house is closer in. No issues with distance.

I think the second house is best, but man, that first house is something. It’s magnificent. It’s like someone knew I was coming and built it for me. “Here’s your unused shop, complete with electricity and concrete slab. Here is your new tractor. Here is your huge garage. Here is your steel gate. Here is your emergency generator. Did we forget anything?”

It was wonderful to not be in Miami. The people in Marion County were great. Everyone was polite, and I only heard one conversation in Spanish.

Mike used to live in Ocala. His parents had a thoroughbred farm there, and after that, he and his wife lived near the city. He was a great resource. He knew where the best soil was. He knew what different areas of the county were like. On top of that, he’s an incredile schmooze, so he got people to open up and tell us about the properties we looked at. One lady operated a soap company out of her home. She made him take free soap and tried to get a date. She said he was cute.

Not to be outdone, I also attracted attention from females. While we were walking around the soap lady’s farm, a white horse noticed me and trotted over to the fence like she couldn’t believe I had finally arrived. She was thrilled to see me. She stuck her head over the fence and tried to get me to come over. When I walked around a barn and reappeared on the other side, she saw me, and she ran over to flirt some more.

I tried to take a dignified photo of her from the side, but she lunged at me, and this is what I got:

Mike was not happy. He has been around horses for most of his life, and she didn’t give him the time of day.

I have to decide what to do. Try to buy one of these places, or wait for something new?

There are worse problems to have. I could be upside-down on a Miami mortgage, forced to rot here until I pay it off.

8 Responses to “Bugging Out”

  1. Cliff Says:

    You can fix anything but location.

    Good luck!


  2. JPatterson Says:

    TAKE THE FIRST ONE. Cities metastasize. In 10 years, you’ll be glad you did.

  3. Steve H. Says:

    I agree with both of you, even though you seem to disagree with each other.

    The wooded place’s location is hard to beat. Whatever happens to the real estate market, I expect it to do better than the green place. On the other hand, I’m afraid if I don’t buy farther out, I’ll be surrounded with cardboard townhouses in five years.

    Of course, if the city moves outward, so can I.

  4. og Says:

    I have a good friend who finally found the house he wanted and moved in. Now he’s struggling with really minor repairs when he should be paying someone else to do them and just enjoy it. He has the money, more money than time, and he will probably finish the place on the day of his funeral.

    If the green place is nice, and you can live there comfortably, and you have to pay way too much for it, you will be able to walk in and start living your life. If you want to do household repairs and etc. as a hobby, more power to you; I’d just as soon never pick up a hammer again. Sometimes it seems selfish to do these things, but you have to do what will allow you to spend your time doing other, better things.

  5. Steve H. Says:

    I love collecting and using tools, but oddly, I am not all that crazy about using them for home repair.

  6. Cliff Says:

    How much appreciation do you really want/need from the house?

    What do you plan to use the money for in, say, 20 years?


    PS – my crack about location wasn’t supporting any one particular house. Just that a bad color or wonky kitchen or even bad floor plan can be fixed. But unless your home’s firstborn name is “mobile” you can change the location.

  7. Nick Says:

    Home repair is fine and dandy so long as you’re fixing/upgrading something you do not need at that exact moment in time. Like electrical stuff or pipes. If that’s not the case, it’s a ton of fun.

    Make the most of your house and have a good time Steve.

  8. Steve H. Says:

    I agree, Nick. When it comes to home repairs, most things break on a Friday night. If you can’t fix it yourself, you have to pay some extortionist whatever he wants to come out and fix it in the dark. It’s much nicer to work on things that aren’t broken yet, at a time of your convenience.