Ocean City – Part 9

img_0788If you’ve read every chapter in this saga, you’ll recall that our original plan was to buy and then flip this house down the road.  The details of the plan were simple….to buy the house and then sell it in a couple of years for substantially more than we’d paid for it, and then do the same thing again.  It sounded good when we bought in 2005,  but several factors intervened and changed that plan.  

First, the collapse of the housing bubble and the subprime mortgage crisis that occurred between 2007 and 2010 severely reduced housing prices across the country, including in Ocean City.  The bottom line was that we’d bought the place near the top of the curve, and our house just wasn’t worth what we’d paid for it.  Unlike many others, we’d made a pretty substantial downpayment, and had no problem paying our mortgage. We were not in risk of losing the property, but the ability for us to be able to sell for more than we’d paid just wasn’t there.

The second reason was that we no longer had any desire to sell the house, and it really didn’t matter to us if the house was worth more or less than we’d paid for it!  We were surrounded by friends who we’d started to think of as family, and between our perfect location, and our life we had in Ocean City, Susie declared that there was no way we were ever going to sell this house!

She was soooo right!

U1%FWAFbRJGRlp2oEKUPZQ_thumb_31a1Living right next door to Pennlyn Place’s Mayor, Doc Anderson, just made it a perfect location.   Everybody on Pennlyn Place knows Doc, so anytime we’ve ever met new people on the street, we just say we live next to Doc, and everybody knew where we were!  I met Doc the morning after we bought the house, and he has been a huge part of our life ever since.  Doc has been the one who has introduced us to neighbors, who has made sure we’re included in events, and who has helped our Ocean City Family grow.  I’m not just using that word, because to our minds, these friends are our family.

For example, let’s talk about when that wonderful hurricane Sandy decided to aim at the Jersey Shore!  The Governor had ordered an evacuation of Cape May County, but several of our full time neighbors decided to stay.  Doc on one side, and Patti and Meade on the other side were here through the storm, and fed us updates on what was happening on Pennlyn Place.  Luckily, Sandy decided to make landfall just a couple of miles to our North, which lessened Ocean City’s damage.  That’s not to say that it wasn’t a devastating storm, and that there wasn’t millions of dollars worth of damage on our island, but it wasn’t as bad as some of the pictures you saw on TV of other Jersey Shore communities!  

So, as the storm approached, Doc would send us pictures and reports from Pennlyn.  Even before the storm hit, the high winds caused us on Long Island to lose electric and cable.  We continued to communicate via our cell phones, finding info on the web that img_0806we shared, and hearing first hand stories from OC.  I remember Doc sending us the first pictures of the Atlantic Ocean rolling down Corinthian towards Pennlyn after it had breached the dunes north of us.  Then there were pictures from Patti and Meade’s of the river Pennlyn had become, and pictures Doc took of what our houses looked like.  Our Ocean City Family had weathered the storm on Pennlyn, but there was a lot of work ahead for all!

On the second day of no electric on Long Island, we went over to our friends Pat and Steve’s for dinner.  Steve had hooked up a generator and had satellite TV, and for the first time in several days, we were actually seeing the damage the storm had caused.  As we were sitting in their den, Fox News cut to a feed from their Fox 29 affiliate of a helicopter flying over the Jersey Shore.  We were shocked when we realized that they were over Ocean City, and even more when we recognized Pennlyn Place!  By this time the water had receded, and everything looked normal, but it really wasn’t.

On the third day, we heard from Doc that electricity was back and that they were going to open the island at noon.  At that point, we were still without electric or cable in Mineola, and laughingly decided to evacuate to the Jersey Shore!  After waiting in line for more than an hour for gas, we started on a roundabout route down to the shore, attempting to avoid any of the bottlenecks we’d heard about.  As we passed our first rest area on the Garden State Parkway, and saw a line for gas that backed up onto the parkway, we realized we’d made a good decision to gas up before we left.  Those conditions also existed at the next rest area we passed, but as we got further south, there were no lines.  As we got off at exit 30, we realized why…electric was on, gas supplies were plentiful, and it was business as usual!

We decided to stop at Acme in Somers Point before heading to the island, and were shocked to see fully stocked shelves, including shelf after shelf of bread and cases of milk.  Both had been long gone from Long Island.  When we got to the house, we found all that the receding waters had left behind, but we had electricity, heat, and even cable TV.  We decided that we were in much better shape than we’d been in Mineola that morning!

Because of the way our house is built, we were fortunate that no living space was damaged.  The ocean water invaded our under-house garage, coming up about 2 and a half cinder blocks from the floor.  Yes, we’d lost some things, but we’d been lucky that the water stopped about half a cinder block from our furnace.  We lost our garage refrigerator, some golf clubs, a lot of booze and soda, but boy did we have a mess to clean up!

For the next couple of days, we were dragging everything out of the garage, power washing and bleaching the floors and walls, shoveling “sludge” in the street, throwing out things that had been ruined, cleaning everything else, and trying our best to erase the effects of Sandy.  It was hard work, but the great thing was we were all out there doing it together!  We laughed with each other, we realized how lucky we’d been, we ate and drank together, and we continued to solidify the relationships that turned friends and neighbors into family!  It was the Silver Lining of the Cloud called Sandy!

And that’s the way it continued to be.  On any given Saturday night, year round, there is always a group from Pennlyn out to dinner in a local restaurant.  It can be 3 or it can be 18, but it’s one of the givens in our life! Winter, Spring, Summer, and Fall, if we are in Ocean City, we feel like we are home!  From the minute we drive over the new 9th Street Bridge, we know we are home and that our friends and family are close.  If we need help, we know where to go.  If were on our front porch, we’re just as likely as not to have someone walk, bike, or drive by, and stop up and join us.  It’s just a place where we have a life that we really never had on Long Island!

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Just part of our OC Family on a recent Saturday Night

We were very fortunate when it came time to retire, because we knew exactly where we were going to go!  We didn’t have to be scared we didn’t know anybody, or were unfamiliar with the lay of the land, or wondered if the decision we made was the right one.  We knew all along!!

As I said earlier, all through our ownership of 854, we would spend at least 2 out of 4 weekends a month here.  As the years went by, we rented less in the summer and kept more weeks for ourselves.  The last full year I worked at WABC, we spent the entire 5 weeks of July here, and much of the shoulder season.  When I retired at the end of January, 2016, one of our biggest thrills was Sunday nights in Ocean City!  Having always had to head home for work on Monday, Sunday nights seemed to be a “forbidden fruit”, if you will.  Now that we both were retired (Susie had retired a couple of years before me), we NEVER traveled anymore on a Friday or a Sunday, and discovered how much easier it was to make trips to and from Ocean City on a Tuesday or Wednesday.  Sunday nights were just Sunday nights, and we loved it!  

In the next 2 sagas of our story, join us as we rent 854 for the last time, empty out a house we lived in for 31 years, and turn a second home into our primary residence!  Next time on Our New Adventures!

 

 

Ocean City – Part 8

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When we bought 854 Pennlyn back in January of 2005, the building was 4 years old, and we were the 3rd owner of the first floor unit.  In the thirteen and a half years we have owned the first floor, the second floor has had 4 different owners.  This part of our story will deal with the relationship we had over the past 13 years with these folks.   Our first owners were the two young couples we spoke of in the last chapter.  They were truly absentee owners, and with the exception of a couple of winter rentals they had during our early years, they were good to interact with.  

I should tell you that when Susie and I bought 854, we found out that the former owners were the ones charged with the insurance needs of the Condo Association, and after buying, we continued with that task.  It involved a Liability and Comprehensive policy and another for Flood Insurance.  We used a local insurance agent, so all that really was involved was collecting the other owner’s share of the premiums, and getting them to the agent.  The Condo Association’s documents specified that because of some differing footprints between the 2 floors, the second floor owned 54% of the building and we owned 46%, so that was the split on expenses too, like the insurance.  Easy, right?

Yes, it was with most of the owners.  We’d get the bills, copy them to their attention, and a check would be returned in short order.  It was like that with our interactions with most of our co-owners, but as with every rule, there are exceptions.  We woke up one day, and discovered that the upstairs unit had been sold to a new owner.  Let’s just call this owner “Bob”, and like on Dragnet, the name has been changed to protect the..well, you get the idea.

img_0791Bob had a wife and three sons.  Bob, I think, was going to go into real estate and make enough money to send those three boys to college.  In addition to our upstairs, Bob also owned a rental property in Brigantene.  Sounds like just the kind of person you want to co-own a building with, right?  Well, we hoped so as our relationship started.  He had a good job with a company car, and provided us with all his contact info.  That was the good part.  The first year when the insurance bill came due at the end of May, I guess he hadn’t yet pocketed any rent money, so the check was a little slow in returning and I believe we carried him for a week or so till he made us whole.  Okay, new owner, new procedures, we were good with that.  Well, we really shouldn’t have been, because it was a pervasive part of our relationship with him.

Turns out that he had bought the two properties on a shoestring, and was stretched really thin on the money side.  That made him do stupid things.  The first of the stupid things was taking a “Senior Week” rental.

Most people in Ocean City, avoid “Senior Week” rentals like the bubonic plague!  The idea img_0789of 4 or 5 drunken high school or college seniors doing God only knows what in your beautiful beach home, is just not something that most owners can stomach.  Factor in that since “Senior Week” is in early June, and you will be getting the least rent of the entire rental season, and its a no win situation for most.  I guess that $1200 was too attractive for Bob to pass up, so he went for a “Senior Week” rental.  

While we were thankfully not there during this rental, our across the street neighbors Georgia and Vinny told us many stories.  Like the piles and piles of black bags that were filled with empty beer cans on trash day.  Or the reveler that they saw sound asleep on said pile of empty beer cans one morning.  Or the people they swear they saw sleeping in the garage, and the loud parties that they had a clear view of from across the street.  

So Bob made his $1200, but in the end, it probably cost him that and more.  There was the hole in the master bedroom wall that he had to fix (somebody put their fist through it).  Also the rugs he had to replace because of the burn holes in them, from the cigarettes that were not allowed to be smoked inside the property.   Let’s just add that after they left, there was a great deal more than the usual after-rental cleaning to erase their stay.  All in all, a mistake from beginning to end!

In addition to his bad decisions, Bob and his wife also had 3 sons who made questionable decisions.  Like the time they managed to lock our garage door, so that when we came img_0793home and hit the garage door opener, instead of opening, the door folded like an empty Budweiser can.  Or the time that they were in the house alone, and decided it would be fun to stand on the second floor front porch, and hurl glass soda bottles at our neighbor Doc’s recycling can.  Unfortunately, their aim sucked, and they left Doc with red stains and a number of shattered bottles to clean up, and never admitted they’d done it!  Oh yeah, they were lovely little boys!

I think Bob owned the place for about 3 summers, and as time went on, it appeared that his financial situation got worse and worse.  Like the summer we had to replace our original air conditioning unit.  Of course, both of our air conditioning units were installed at the same time, but for some reason he thought he wouldn’t have to follow us img_0792and install new AC.  We discovered it was because he couldn’t afford to change it, but alas his AC unit suffered the same fate as ours.  Did he replace it?  Nope, he installed a WINDOW AIR CONDITIONER in one of the living room windows.  I’m sure his renters were dismayed and probably mad when they showed up at the house they had rented that listed it had Central Air, only to find a noisy cheap window air conditioner!  There was no way that one window AC unit was going to cool the house, and in addition, the evaporation drain dripped on and ran across their front porch, and right onto ours!  This was really the beginning of the end for Bob.

I say that because in addition to our having to wait for his part of the insurance money even longer than usual that year, we found out that he’d apparently also stopped paying the mortgage.  It wasn’t long before we heard that his place was up for sale as a “short sale”, because it was on the verge of being foreclosed on by the bank.  While the new owners got the place for a reduced price, they also had a lot of work to do because Bob had been scrimping on everything!  

He’d apparently never had the air conditioning/heat plant serviced, and even was too cheap to install a couple of dollar air filter in the system.  Not only did the new owner have to update the air-conditioning, he also had to have the ducts professionally cleaned since the system was run filterless!  In addition, walls needed to be repaired and painted, carpeting needed to be replaced, and the whole unit updated, as Bob had done nothing that wasn’t absolutely necessary during his years of ownership!

With the exception of Bob, we have been very lucky to have good neighbors and co-owners during our 13 years in the house.  We are fortunate to have had our current co-img_0790owners John and Kim for the last couple of years.  There is never a wait for insurance money, plus they have been great partners as we update and provide upkeep for the building.  From power washing, to new fencing, to landscaping the property, we’ve handled it all as partners. Our home is better for their partnership, and we hope they remain our co-owners for many years to come.

Would we like to own a home that was all ours and not have to share with others?  Yes we would, but the reality of our situation is that there is no way we could live where we do, just 500 feet from the beach without living in a two unit dwelling.  It’s just the way it is, and for the vast majority of the time, it is just fine for us.  However, once that lottery win comes…well, that’s a story for another time!

Next…a House becomes our Home!

Ocean City – Part 7

img_0788So, when we last left you, we’d taken possession of 854 Pennlyn Place, and started our life as a landlord.  Now, was that something we wanted to do?  Ah, no, not at all, but with the help of our summer rentals, we could afford to own this wonderful place, but it was not without it’s issues!

Let’s start at the very beginning, the night of January 28th, 2005!  We’d closed on a Friday afternoon, and that was to be our first night sleeping in our new beach house.  Let’s just say, there were times that night when we wondered what we’d done!  It all had to do with a very interesting upstairs tenant.

Let me back up a bit, and explain a bit about 854 Pennlyn.  In the old days, we’d call this a Duplex, or a Two Family House, with two 3 bedroom 2 bath domiciles in the same building.  Today, it’s called a condo, and when we bought the first floor of 854, we also became members of the 854 Pennlyn Condo Association.  So the “upstairs tenant” was a tenant of our co-owners, who owned the second floor unit.

The reason we wondered what we’d done, was this upstairs tenant had a small dog, that spent the entire night running from the back of the house to the front of the house non-stop!  I haven’t thought about that night in a long time, but just writing that last sentence brought back the feeling of absolute frustration we both felt that first night.  The tenant was a pip, but as they say on TV, wait, there’s more!

Upstairs was owned by two young couples who had bought the property as an investment.  The husbands worked together and they both lived nearby in Egg Harbor Township, that was until one of them got transferred to Chicago.  It was the couple that got transferred that was the point person we were dealing with.

img_0786Turned out that the upstairs tenant was a co-worker of the husbands who was just in as a Winter Rental.   The couple we dealt with was very nice, and when I mentioned the dog, the wife said to me, “Wait…he’s got a dog?”  Turns out that the tenant had asked the landlords if he could get a dog, and they emphatically said, “NO”.  Strike # 1!  Then I discovered that he’d also asked if he could get a satellite TV dish installed on the house, and again the answer was, “NO”.  I’m sure you can guess what was hanging off the back end of the house…wait for it….yep, a satellite dish!  Strike #2. 

We had very little interaction with the tenant, who apparently couldn’t figure out that we were coming down most weekends that first winter, because on a number of occasions, we’d find he or his girlfriend blocking the whole driveway!  That was until one weekend where we came on a Friday night and every light upstairs was on.  Same thing Saturday night and we never heard a sound all weekend.  When we came back the next weekend, we found the lights still glowing brightly, and again no sound upstairs.  I called the woman we dealt with, and told her that it looked like their tenant was gone.  Gone he was!

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We saw his car…as close as we got!

 

As I said he worked with the husbands, and later found out they worked at a nationwide mortgage concern.  Turns out that this “friend” they rented to, who had very obviously done whatever he wanted as a tenant, had done much the same at work.  There were rumors of embezzlement, and one day, he just didn’t show up, and was never seen again!  I never heard what happened at work, but know that he not only skipped out still owing the upstairs folks rent money, but cost them money as he’d trashed their rental.  An expensive lesson they learned….never rent to friends!!  Strike #3!

img_0785Luckily, our rental history was much smoother.  We rented via three real estates in Ocean City, and had a web listing on Summer Shore Rentals that we used to rent directly.  Other than the annoying woman, who bitched daily about the noise from the new house being built down the street (our friends Patti and Meade), until we gave her back some money, we were lucky.  We had great repeat renters, who wrote lovely things in our guest book, and treated our beach house like their beach house.  We loved the location, and so did they.  

IMG_2979Other than the fact that we weren’t here for much of the summers, and we hated preparing the house for others to rent, we appreciated the money we made each summer, and loved using the house the rest of the year.  I’d have to say, that during the first 12 years or so of ownership, we were down in Ocean City on the average of 2 weekends a month.  We loved being down here, and as we spent more and more time, our Ocean City Family grew.  We attended weddings on the beach, parties at neighbors houses, Saturday night dinners out, several Pennlyn Place Block Parties, St. Patty’s Day and New Year’s Eve events, and even went to a couple of local fund raisers.  Let’s not talk about the Kentucky Derby party we went to one year where Susie “claims” I got drunk on Mint Juleps!  

 

 

 

 

Yes, our plan to flip this house was long gone.  Turns out that even if we wanted to, there was no way we could leave Doc and Doie, Patti and Meade, Denise and Chris, Bob and Karen, Dale and Barbara, Rod and Helena, Georgia and Vinny, Jane and John or all the other folks we consider to be our Pennlyn Family!  Yes, we are anchored here in many ways, but the biggest for us by far, are the people that make up our Ocean City life!  That’s why it was an easy decision to make, when we had to decide where to retire.

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Coming up next…owners!

Ocean City – Part 6

 

We first saw the property of 854 Pennlyn on December 28, 2004. Exactly one month later, on the afternoon on January 28, 2005, we were sitting in the office of NJ Title Company on West Avenue in Ocean City signing a ream of legal papers.  By the time we left the office, we were the proud new owners of the first floor of 854 Pennlyn Place!  Our dream of having a house in Ocean City, had turned into a reality!  

 

img_0780 It was a great feeling, knowing that although we would be renting out the house during the summer, we also would be using it as much as possible.  Unlike the Las Vegas house, this was by no means just an investment, it was a real place just 3 hours away from home in Mineola.  Speaking of investments, let me tell you what our plan was when we bought 854.  If you remember, in Part Five of this epic, I spoke about the increases in property values Ocean City had been experiencing.  Fantastic double digit value increases had been the norm for the couple of years before we bought, and although our place was only 4 years old, we were the third owners.  The others had bought it, held it for a couple of years, and then sold at a substantial price increase.  That was also our plan before we spent that first night.  We’d keep it for a year or two, flip it for something bigger and more expensive, continue to do that, and eventually perhaps have a million $ plus house right on the beach.  Then something changed.
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On the morning of January 29th, 2005, I came out the front door of the house and was standing on the front porch surveying my kingdom.  As I was standing there, a gentleman came out of the small bungalow to my left.  He said good morning, and asked if we were renting the place for the week (that’s mainly what had been happening to our place as the former owners rarely used it).  I replied that no, we’d just closed on it yesterday, and were the new owners.  The gentleman walked down his steps, crossed to ours, came up on the porch and shook my hand.  That was the morning I met our next door neighbor, Doc Anderson, and the beginning of our first “flip house” turning into our forever home!  

IMG_2654We call Doc the Mayor of Pennlyn, and with good reason…he knows and talks to everyone on the street!  Doc was also our introduction to so many of our friends, that we feel like we’ve known them forever!  Over the years, our group of friends has increased, be they full time residents, of which there are many on our block, or the summer/weekend friends that get down here as much as possible.  In a very short time, we’d met lots of them, and we found that we were down at the Ocean City house an average of 3 weekends a month!  Oh yes, we had indeed found our special place, our sanctuary, our place populated with friends that feel like family.  Our happy place that just getting to, no matter what our moods, made us feel happy…..854 Pennlyn Place!  

So now that we were owners, we really took a good hard look at the place, and what we saw really didn’t thrill us.  The house was decorated with a real tropical theme, with lots of wicker furniture, but the closer we looked at some of the furniture, the more issues we saw.  It turned out that some of wicker furniture was held together with tape, that was keeping the wicker from unraveling.  Of particular concern to us were the chairs of the dining room set, that sagged every time you sat in them.  We could just imagine that a renter would sit in one, end up on the floor, and a lawsuit would arrive in our mailbox.  Also, it only provided seating for 4, so a new table was in order.  Looks like a trip to Platts was in our near future!

 

              Old to New

Platts is a wonderful beach furniture store that you pass in Somers Point on the way into Ocean City.  We’d wandered in there several times, fawning over the incredible beach furniture, and now we were going to get to buy something!!!  In short order we found the perfect table and ordered it…the first of many, many orders we’d place at Platts over the next couple of years!  Before long, we’d bought a new coffee table, new snack tables, a couple of chairs, lamps, and even a bed.  Then there were other chairs (including one that went home to Mineola), more lamps, and assorted other items that upgraded the house.  As I said, the more we looked at things, the more issues we saw.  We honestly wondered if the former owners had furnished the place with garage sale finds or even things picked up at the curb on trash day!  Boy, had we learned our lesson about beauty being skin deep!  But the good news was that the house itself was in good condition, so as long as we were just dealing with decorative items, we were happy!

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When we bought

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After our Platts visits

Our first year, we listed the house with 3 local real estate brokers, and in pretty short order, we’d rented most of the summer.  That first Spring, we took a week off from work to make sure the house was ready for our guests.  We’d loved the houses that we’d rented that seemed like homes, not just investments,  and that was what we wanted our renters to feel. That was one of the things we loved about renting Denise’s house on Asbury.  A funny story…when we told Denise (who’d become more a friend than a landlord) that we wouldn’t be back the summer of 2005 and why, she told us that she and a friend were starting a Saturday House Cleaning business.  We ended up being her first customer!  She was an important part of our team during those first years of rental, and treated our house like her own.  Every week after she cleaned our house, she’d call and tell us everything was ready for the new tenants and rated the tenants who’d just moved out!  Perfect!

Of course, we’d kept 2 weeks mid July for us, but as the first renters moved in, we were already anxiously counting the time till we’d be back!  For us, the two worst parts of renting were those last moments when we left before the first rental, and the day we returned.  The first was hard because we knew there’d be somebody else living in our home, and the second because we knew there would be work getting the house back in shape!  It may seem like a little thing if you’ve never rented out your house, but trying to find where pots and pans had gone, and bringing some semblance of order to the kitchen cabinets and drawers left us wondering so many times, “why would you put that there????”  We quickly learned it was just part of the summer house rental game.  

We had some great rental experiences and some not so great.  One of the not so greats was the Saturday Denise called us to report that our last renters had left the house a mess, and she’d found mustard in the bathroom tub and hair in the refrigerator.  Interesting, to say the least!  Then there was the renter that kept calling and complaining because they were building a house down the street (our good friends Patti and Meade’s new place), and she couldn’t enjoy her vacation.  We sent her back some money, and she surprisingly had no problems!

Then there were the great ones.  Like the family that battened down our house, put away our porch furniture, and treated it like it was their house, when a hurricane approached Ocean City late in the summer.  They were with us for a number of years!  There was also a lovely lady who came from Arizona every summer to return to her South Philly routes and vacation in Ocean City.  She loved Ocean City and loved our house and sharing it with her family.  We were very sad after she was with us for 4 years, to get an email from one of her friends that she’d died of cancer.  She said one of her best memories was the time she’d spent with her good friend at our house by the sea.  There are some good times when you rent to people who love your house as much as you do!

Coming next…the joy of being a landlord, and the thrill of stopping!

 

September 11th – Where Were You?

Anyone who was just about anywhere in the New York Metropolitan area on the morning of September 11, 2001 will always remember that day, and where they were. I know in our family that’s the case. My wife Sue was at work at Hampton Street School in Mineola. Our oldest son Billy was in his second year at Ithaca College, and his brother and sister, Krissi and Kenny, were sophomores at Mineola High School. I was at work at WABC Radio, 17 floors above Penn Station.

I remember it was a great looking, if uneventful, September morning. There was just a touch of fall in the air – it was one of those special kinds of days we get after the humidity of summer leaves. I was, as usual, on the 7:24 LIRR train from Mineola to Penn Station. As I said, a totally uneventful September morning in all respects….but that was soon to change.

Shortly after the first plane hit at 8:46 AM, word started to come into the newsroom that a plane had hit the World Trade Center’s North Tower. It was primary day in New York, and there were reporters around the city for the various TV morning shows. Almost immediately, Dick Oliver of channel 5 went on the air from Park Row, just outside of City Hall. They weren’t the best shots, but you definitely could see the fire and damage to the tower. Everyone assumed that it was a small plane that had hit and no one could understand how someone could have missed seeing a structure as big as the World Trade Center on a beautiful, clear morning. There was speculation of a student pilot, or someone who had a heart attack – just about anything, but what had really happened, which up until that point was unthinkable to most of us.

By 9 o’clock, better pictures of the damage were available on TV, including long shots of the buildings from further uptown. Just before 9:03 AM, I was standing in studio 17E next to Chief Engineer Kevin Plumb, when we noticed a plane flying into the frame of the shot. Assuming we were looking at a small plane trying to get a better view of what was happening, one of us commented, “what the heck is that plane trying to do?” At 9:03 we were shocked when we saw that plane (which we later found out was a Boeing 767) crash into the South Tower and explode in a ball of flames. In that moment, everyone who saw that happen live, knew that life as we had known it up until that moment was over, and that there was a brand new reality.

I remember all hell breaking loose at the station as we all went into high gear. There was an incredible amount of misinformation flying around, and frankly, open fear from some. Everyone tried to act professionally, but since no one knew exactly what was going on, and since we were all working 17 floors above Penn Station and a couple of blocks west of the Empire State Building, many wondered if we might be in the target zone too. The next hour was a blur of news reports, discussion and speculation. Shortly after the first plane hit, our morning anchor George Weber took off downtown armed with a cell phone and a recorder. He phoned in a couple of reports about what he was seeing, but as the cell phone system overloaded, we stopped hearing from him. Then at 9:59 AM, the South Tower collapsed. Faces stared at the TV pictures, and as a group, were almost unable to fathom what we’d seen. Less than 30 minutes later the North Tower collapsed, and these twin buildings, which were so identified with the skyline of New York City, were incredibly gone, along with close to 3,000 of our fellow New Yorkers.

So many questions hit us all at once…who would do this, how did it happen, how could these two huge buildings collapse, and one that was on all our minds at WABC, where was George Weber? The news reports continued, but with all the confusion it was hard to tell what was true and what wasn’t. Were there more hijacked planes out there, and had other attacks taken place in Washington and elsewhere around the country? Getting a landline phone call was very hard; cell service was pretty non-existent, communications among families and friends was almost impossible. It was over an hour later when we heard from George. He’d walked for blocks from the WTC site and had waited on a line at a pay phone before he was finally able to check in with the station. Okay, we knew one of our friends and coworkers was alive…but what about everyone else.

WABC’s 2001 9/11 Montage

The day dragged on, and we watched TV as they tried to figure out what had happened, and what was happening. One of the hardest tasks of the day was getting in touch with friends and family, finding out if they were okay, and assuring them that I was fine. The first response of the city was to shut down, and a lot of us wondered how we’d get home. Being above Penn Station, we kept looking down at the crowds milling around a closed Penn Station. We also kept looking a couple of blocks to the east at the Empire State Building and realizing it was once again the tallest building in New York!

Later that day, the Long Island Rail Road started running and those of us from Long Island headed downstairs, and like every other commuter that day, got on any train as long are it was leaving New York City! As we came out of the tunnel into Queens, everyone looked to the south where the twin towers of the World Trade Center had been on the way in that morning, but now were replaced by smoke. It was very quiet in the train as everyone realized that those two buildings we’d seen every day on our commute into Manhattan were gone, along with all the folks who were working in them.

The days after September 11th were very strange to say the least. The fact that there were absolutely no planes in the sky made for a very eerie quiet that was very unlike the norm. I know that for weeks after the planes started flying again, every time one flew over I would find myself stopping and looking at it. Taking the LIRR into the city in the days after September 11th was also different. There was an uneasy quiet on the trains, that I guess came from a lot of folks who would rather be somewhere else, but who had responsibilities and had to do what they were doing. I remember not seeing people that had been regulars on our trains, and wondering if they were in the towers when they came down, or were they perhaps too scared to venture into Manhattan again. Questions I’d never have the answers to….

One thing that made the post 9/11 strangeness livable was the feeling that we were all in it together. There were American flags on houses, cars, businesses…virtually everywhere! Groups were banding together collecting items for families that were affected, or to help rescue workers at Ground Zero. People were friendlier to each other and more respectful…even politicians! From New York City to Washington, the political discourse had a united front. We weren’t Republicans or Democrats, Liberals or Conservatives, we were Americans. There was no finger pointing, just everyone shouldering the load and helping to move forward. If every cloud has to have a silver lining, that was September 11th’s.

Too bad that 17 years later, so many seem to have forgotten. There’s no way that anyone who lived through that day will not be thinking today about their experiences, about all the New Yorkers who are no longer with us and about how the rest of us pulled together as a team. I’ll also be thinking about my friends who were involved after the towers came down. People like NYPD ESU Officer Scott Strauss who pulled the last survivor out of the rubble, or PAPD Detective Don McMahon who spent the next 6 months at the on site morgue, or the many Fire Men I know, both NYFD and others who spent so many hours on the pile digging. Thank God there are so many people among us who run towards trouble as the rest of us run away!  Thank you for your service and for your friendship and for setting an example for the rest of us.

Even in our new world, I know we live in a better world because people like Scott and Donnie are a part of it.  As we remember those who died 17 years ago, I hope we will all also remember the heroes of September 11th.  Friends, neighbors, family members, and people whose names we will never know, who stepped up on that horrible day.  Ordinary folks who did extrodinary things, and renewed our faith in our fellow human beings.  That’s the lesson I try to take from that horrible day 17 years ago

WABC’s 2002 9/11 Montage put together for the first anniversary

Ocean City – Part Five

Just for continuity, understand that much of part five takes place at the same time as the developments in Part Four. 

img_0769-1So, having made our decision, things were a little different when we came down to spend our 3 weeks at Denise’s house during the Summer of 2004.  We had something else to do besides go to the beach, eat out, and do some gambling in AC during our vacation.  We had to now add house hunting to our list!

Our local realtor Ray Elias had sent us listings all through the spring, and by the time we got to Ocean City in July of 2004, we were primed to start looking at properties. We met img_0773with Ray 3 or 4 times a week, traveled the island, as he showed us various houses at different price points and different parts of the island.  Although we had always rented in the South End of town (first the 3200 block of Asbury when I was a kid, then the 3900 block of Central, and now the 4900 block of Asbury), there was something we liked about the newly found area of the island called the North End.  I say “Newly Found”, because to be honest with you, in close to 50 years of coming to Ocean City, I had no recollection of ever traveling to the North End.  I know that Susie and I had never gone beyond 9th Street with our family, so this was all new to us.

I don’t know what the legal definition is, but to our mind, the North End starts just beyond 9th Street, and runs till you get to the much more residential (not as beachy in img_0772-1other words) Gardens section of Ocean City.  Ray had showed us several interesting houses, on the shorter East/West streets in that part of town, and we found them very attractive.  First of all, having rented on Central and Asbury, where you have traffic traveling the length of the island, a house on a quiet street running just a couple of blocks was an interesting prospect.  Then, those streets were also on the boardwalk…not the commercial part of the boardwalk, but an area just a couple of blocks north of Gillian’s Wonderland.  That meant a trip to the boardwalk was a walking event, not a driving and finding parking event.   That sounded good too!

The interesting thing was that during our summer hunt, we’d even looked at a couple of properties on Pennlyn Place, including the upstairs of our now good friends Jane and John!  Yes, we continued to look at other places, in other areas of town, but we kept coming back to the North End.

Kind of like Las Vegas, Ocean City had been experiencing it’s own growth in property values.  The yearly jump was quite substantial, and we even had a first hand brush with that growth.  One of the properties Ray had to show us was an empty lot and plans of a house to be built on St. James Place in the North End.  He’d showed us some of the builder’s other work, and wanted to show us the plans and the lot, but we had friends coming to town, and rather than go on Friday, we put it off to the following Tuesday.  Well, over that weekend, the calendar changed from July to August.  On Tuesday morning he came to our rental house, laid out the plans for a second floor and owner’s cottage 4 bedroom 3 bath condo, on the dining room table, and we liked what we saw. The price was at the top end of our range, but doable for such a nice property.  Before we headed to look at the lot, he called the real estate that was the broker, wanting to make sure it was still available.  Yes it was, but when he checked the price, it was $50,000 more than he quoted us, just because it was now August and not July!  Needless to say, we didn’t see that lot!

Our vacation ended and we had still not identified a house we were interested in, but we had time because the Vegas house hadn’t been sold yet.  We planned to come back to Ocean City between Christmas and New Years as we’d done for the last couple of years. 0F1B810F-3729-43BD-A467-E57096BAC502Houses were much cheaper to rent at that time of the year, and we loved the empty city that morphed into a much fuller town as New Year, and First Night approached.  Well, when looking for a rental that year, where did we find one, but right on Pennlyn Place!  It was about mid block, and a perfect place for us to house hunt from.  By now the Vegas house had been sold, so the clock was ticking.

Ray came over the day after we arrived with several houses to show us.  We loaded into the car, and traveled to a brand new property on West Avenue.  We were impressed by the newness, but had doubts about the layout of the property, and the fact that it was on West Avenue in the teens.  First of all, it was a long walk from the beach, second, it was a very commercial area of West.  It was nice, but we had our doubts.  

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThen Ray took us to the second property of the day, and that was just down Pennlyn Place from our rental.  This property was a first floor, 3 bedroom, 2 bath, in a house that had been built just 3 years earlier.  We loved the street, loved the way the property was decorated, loved the fact that it was just down the street from the beach.  In short, we loved everything we’d seen.  It was a little more expensive than the West Ave property, and to help us,  Ray did a workup for us of what the mortgage costs of the two properties would end by being.  It turned out that there was just dollars difference per month between the two properties.  I think the kicker was that Susie and I agreed that if we bought the West Avenue property, we wouldn’t even consider vacationing there, so if we bought that, we’d continue to pay Denise to rent her home, rather than stay at ours.  The West property would just be an investment.  Those two week’s of rent would more than make up for a year’s worth of mortgage difference.  The decision was getting easier.

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854 Pennlyn before it was OURS!

It was December 28, 2004, and that was the day we saw our future home at 854 Pennlyn Place!  After looking at the place again, we had Ray make an offer, and before we left from our week’s stay on Pennlyn Place, we got the word…if everything else worked out, we would shortly own a house in Ocean City.  Our dream was that much closer to being reality!

 

To Be Continued…..

FYI….

Ray Elias…https://www.longandfoster.com/AgentSearch/AgentInfo.aspx?PersonID=10451215

 

 

 

Ocean City – Part 4

 

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So, when we last left you, Susie and I had a house built in Las Vegas, had been the first ones to sleep in the house, and had then rented it out on a yearly lease.  We had a local property manager who collected the rent, took a percentage, and sent the balance to us monthly.  The money we got, covered the majority of the expenses of the house, we got a pretty nice tax benefit from owning and renting the house, and we had an excuse to travel to Las Vegas, which we did several times. The only thing missing was that we never got to use the house.

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Sometime in the Spring of 2004, Susie and I went for a weekend trip to Atlantic City.  Since it’s only 12 miles away from Ocean City, on Sunday, after checking out of the hotel, we took a drive to Ocean City.  I don’t remember if we hit the boardwalk or not, but we did drive around town, and when we drove by an Open House on Asbury Avenue, we decided to stop in and take a look.  The town was empty, and the realtor had been alone for most of the day, so he was more than happy to spend some time talking to us after we viewed the house.

His name was Ray, and that day was the beginning of a relationship that changed our lives!  We got down to the nitty gritty, started talking costs, hearing about how much property values in Ocean City had been increasing, talking about what we could rent out a house for during the summer season, and really had our eyes opened that day!  In the car, on the way home, we talked a lot about our future and about our real estate portfolio.  The more we thought about it, although we’d enjoyed Las Vegas a lot, we both knew that we’d miss the ocean if we retired to the South West, plus having a house 3 hours away by car rather than a 6 hour plane ride seemed to make a lot of sense!  It appeared we’d made a decision!

img_0768-1The next call was to our friend and realtor Sharon Malloy in Las Vegas.  We laid out what we were thinking of doing, and she agreed it made sense.  We loved what she told us about the Vegas real estate market, and were ecstatic when she told us what we could probably get for the Vegas house!  We gave her the okay to put the house on the market, and to have the Property Manager let the tenant (who was now renting month to month since the 1 year lease had expired) know that we were putting the house on the market.  Everything sounded like it was on track!

Well, not quite!  First wrinkle in our plan was that for some reason, the Property Manager had sent the tenant a signed lease for a 6 month extension of her rental.  Although she’d had the lease for several months, and had never signed it and returned it to the Property Manager, she was right that she had a signed 6 month extension.  Okay, that pushed the potential return of the house to us back by a couple of months.  We thought we could deal with that.  Then, the second wrinkle hit…..as we were about to put the house on the market, the bottom fell out of the Las Vegas market!

90204822-C099-4C04-B9A9-926D82D5900CRemember the US Housing Bubble in the late part of the first decade of the 21st Century?  Well, Las Vegas had it’s own housing bubble burst, but a bit earlier.   Turns out that they had overbuilt the housing stock in response to a population increase that leveled off.  Because many folks had bought multiple properties without enough capital to carry them if they didn’t have renters, they were in trouble, because the rental market was over saturated.   In reaction to what was happening, housing prices were dropping as landlords attempted to unload their unrented houses, rather than lose them to the bank.  It appeared we’d missed the house price peak.  Trust me, this only increased how pissed off we were at the Property Manager for screwing up the lease extension with our tenant!

We were very lucky, because our real estate agent Sharon was well versed in what was happening in the market, and had great advice for us.  She knew what was going on regarding sales in the development our house was located in, and came up with the perfect asking price and marketing plan for the house.  Although there were a couple of weeks of nail biting on our part, in the end it worked out.  Even though we’d missed the market peak because we couldn’t get rid of the tenant when we wanted, thanks to Sharon’s good guidance, we were able to sell our house for a very good price. We’d owned the house a bit more than a year and a half, and we’d sold it for about $140,000 more than we paid for it!  A pretty good profit in our minds for a 19 month investment!

img_0767Doing some research, I discovered that there was a tax legal way to transfer the profit gained on an investment property to another investment property, and not pay any Capital Gains tax.  Called a 1031 Like Kind Exchange, in essence it allowed us to “trade” one house for another, and if we met certain requirements, not to have a taxable event.  We found a company in Nevada that acted as the intermediary for this, and they handled all the paperwork and banked the funds until we bought the next property. One of the requirements, however, was that we had 45 days to identify that next investment property and then had 180 days to complete the purchase.

The clock was ticking!

Next time…finding that property, which turned into a home!

FYI…..

Sharon Malloy…https://www.realtyonegroup.com/realestateagent/sharon-molloy-5870774