It’s The Most Wonderful Time of the Year!

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I’m sure we’ve all heard the 1963 song, made popular by Andy Williams, “It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year.”  Indeed, during this holiday period, it’s hard to go through a day without hearing it on the radio, in a store while shopping, or around your house.  You know the song…..

It’s the most wonderful time of the year

With the kids jingle belling

And everyone telling you be of good cheer

It’s the most wonderful time of the year.

It’s the hap-happiest season of all

With those holiday greetings and gay happy meetings

When friends come to call,

It’s the hap-happiest season of all….”

 

But is it?

img_1062-1Yesterday, Susie and I spent some time at the Shoprite in Somers Point, and as we were walking out, I commented to her, “Wow…there are some really, crabby unhappy people in this place”.  Sourpuss faces, grumpy dispositions…a generally cranky population!  

As we went back into the parking lot and unloaded the wagon into our Honda, the general theme continued.  Folks were honking horns at each other, attempting to beat fellow shoppers to parking places, demanding that others move faster, and generally acting like they were the most important person on earth!  Wow…”the hap-happiest season of all”?

Then we ventured out of the parking lot and onto Route 9, and believe me, it didn’t improve there!  We saw no “kids jingle belling” and certainly never heard anyone telling us to be “of good cheer”.  What we did see was the usual crappy driving you see this time of the year.  People cutting others off, turning the wrong way down streets, driving while on their phones, and not signaling so you have an idea what their intentions are.  Generally living up to my theory that the state issues thousands of licenses that are only valid from Thanksgiving through New Years, and you best pay double attention to your fellow drivers on the road this time of year, if you want to find out what you are “Doing on New Year’s Eve!” 

How sad is it, that so many at this “Most Wonderful Time of the Year” act like it is anything but!  Are there crowds in the stores and traffic on the roads?  Yes, but it’s Christmas, what do you expect?!  I’m reminded of a woman I met standing in line a long time ago at the Fortunoff Department Store back on Long Island.  We were waiting to pick up some merchandise we’d just purchased, and frankly it was a rather long line, as we all were there for the same purpose.  After a few minutes the lady, who was in front of me, turned to me and said, “Why are the lines so long this time of the year?”  Huh?  I wanted to tell her that if she perhaps did her Christmas or Hanukkah shopping in say July, she might find less crowds, but I didn’t.  

I think too many people lose sight of what this holiday is all about.  It’s about family and friends, its about “parties for hosting, marshmallows for toasting, and caroling out in the snow”.  It’s about, “hearts will be glowing when love ones are near, and tales of the glories of Christmases long, long ago.”  Like the birth of a little baby in a stable in Bethlehem over 2000 years ago.  Yes, we all have a lot to do, and sometimes the doing becomes stressful, and dealing with people becomes a chore, but please think of the lyrics of this song, and the real reason we celebrate.  Christmas wasn’t created by Macys or Walmart, Target, Costco,  Coca-Cola, or even the Hallmark Channel! 

It’s about that little baby, it’s about family, and friends that are like family, it’s about spending time with the ones you love, and spreading the joy of the season as much as you can, even if it’s just smiling at a stranger in the store, or holding a door for someone, or thinking of those around you.  Yes indeed, it is the “Most Wonderful Time of the Year,” and my wish is that we all remember that everyday, and try and make it true.  I know Andy Williams will appreciate it!

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Ocean City – Part 11

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As you read in the last stanza of this epic story, we’d gotten rid of just about everything we could in the Mineola house, and now the next big task was selling the house!

We’d lived and raised 3 kids in a house that was built in 1928.  It was old, and needed some work, and we assumed it would go the way of other old houses on our street…demolition or gutting!  I was really concerned about the how and why of selling the house, but once people heard that we were moving,  we kept getting “keep me in mind” messages about the house.  By late summer of 2017, Susie had a list of 4 people that were interested in buying our house!  Who knew!!   When the first person dropped out because of financial reasons, Susie called the second person who’d messaged her.  This was a teacher that Susie used to call in when she arranged the substitutes at  Hampton Street School, and she was still very interested in the house.  She knew the house and the location because her cousin lived right across the street from us.

Susie set up an appointment late one afternoon for her family to come look at the place.  She came with her husband, two kids and her father.  They wandered from the attic to the basement, all around the property, and through the garage.  About a month earlier, we’d worked out a price with our Lawyer Glenn, when he told us our original asking price was way too low.  Susie had shared our price with the prospective buyer, and after the tour, we told them to go home and talk it over, and if they were really interested, make us an offer.  They called us that night, made a slightly lower counter offer, we agreed, and like that, we’d sold our house!

We felt good about the fact that a house that had been good to us, was going to go on and be part of another family’s life.  We probably could have asked more, and had the house on the market for months, but in the end we decided on a price that was good for us, and still left some money on the table so the new buyers could start to make our home their home.  The house sold quickly, we didn’t have to pay a real estate agent a commission because we used none, we got the price we wanted, and after all our expenses, we were able to replace the money we’d taken from my 401K.  We figured it was a win win for all!

So now, it was real. The house had a buyer, we had a closing date, and now we really needed to empty out the house.  We gave whatever we could of our furniture to friends and family, took what little we could to Ocean City, and called the guy we’d had recommended to us to clean out the house.  He showed up one morning, we handed over $3000 in cash, and before we we left for Ocean City, he told us he’d found needy families for our furniture.  That made Susie feel better!

 

The next time we saw the house was early on the afternoon of November 9, 2017.  That day, we drove back to Mineola, and after stopping at McDonald’s in Carle Place, had our

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Our Last Meal after 31 years

last meal in our old house.  It was very strange to walk around a now totally empty house, that in just a few hours wouldn’t be ours anymore.  After eating, we cleaned up, threw our camp chairs in the car, and drove to the lawyer’s office on Mineola Blvd.  Within an hour, we no longer owned 40 Fairfield Avenue, and walked out with a handful of checks, which we quickly deposited in the TD Bank in Garden City, before returning to Ocean City and our one and only home!

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A couple of days later, we went to the New Jersey Motor Vehicle Commission office in Egg img_0820Harbor Township.  We turned in our NY Driver’s Licenses and got NJ Driver’s Licenses, we got NJ License Plates for the Sonata (the Mustang already had them), and even registered to vote!   In every way we could think of, we were now New Jersey Residents, and 854 Pennlyn Place was our one and only home!

We’ve been back to Long Island a number of times, since that November day when we sold the house, and of course, there’s no way we can go without driving down Fairfield Avenue.  We’re happy to report that the new owners are well on their way to turning our old house, into their new house.  We are excited to see what they are doing, and looking forward to the tour we’ve been promised when the work is completed.  

 

Early work to the latest progress..so happy to see it live on!

Since that fateful day in November, Susie and I have survived our first winter at the shore.  Sure, we’d been here before, but for just brief glimpses of what winter in Ocean City is like.  What we’ve discovered is that we love the small town Ocean City turns into in the winter.  We love the ability to go across town on any street you like, rather than UNADJUSTEDNONRAW_thumb_2d2aour summer MO of only crossing town on streets with traffic lights.  We love going to places like Ready’s or the Varsity for breakfast, and having staff know the customers.  We love the quiet of our street, but also seeing the many folks who call Pennlyn Place their full time home.  We did discover that it did snow a lot more this winter than it seemed to in the past, and that even though we gave away our gas snow blower, we might need something here, so we got a battery powered snow blower to supplement our shovels.

We celebrated our first Thanksgiving at the house, and had Susie’s sister and her family join us.  Although we’d always done Christmas decorating at the house, we did an extensive D’Elia Family Christmas this year, with our family tree and ornaments, and white lights all around the outside of the house, as we’d done in Mineola.  We were joined by Krissi and Mike and even Kenny and Chris came from the West Coast!  All the D’Elia Family traditions were in force, from the kids putting their special ornaments on the tree while decorating, to Lobsters,  Italian sandwiches and Cold Duck on Christmas Eve, to stockings Christmas morning!   It was a very successful transition of the holidays from Long Island to Ocean City!

 

As we had done the two years before, late January found us heading south to Florida, for 78FD7BA1-8112-43FE-9CD3-5E46701611C9what is fast becoming a Susie and Frank in retirement tradition! We love car trips and we traveled down the west coast, came across the Tamiami Trail, went down to Key West, spent 5 great days with my cousins Jeanne and Walt, and ended our stay at DisneyWorld.   It was wonderful to have a 3 plus week visit to summer, but when it was over, it was also great to get back to our home!  

As spring came to the Mid Atlantic States, we enjoyed the longer days and the increasing temperatures.  There was work to be done in and around the house, but knowing that we’d be the only ones to enjoy it, and not renters, made it fun to do!  Summer came, and so did friends and family, and the activity level in Ocean City ramped up.  While we do enjoy the quiet of the off season, there is a lot more energy in the town during the summer, and although we could do without a few of the summer renters, it is wonderful to see all the happy families that love our now hometown! 

So that’s our tale. We now call a place that I first went to when I was 5 in 1955, took Susie to in 1980, a place we both loved, and a house in a location we dearly love, our home. It’s a story about family and friends that are like family, about making choices for your future, and about making decisions that pay off in the end.  It’s also the story of a house that we’d lived in for 31 years, that was a great place to raise our three kids, go on to another life.  It wasn’t demolished, but rather a new family is making it their own, and it’s life, and memories of happy times will continue!  Yes, we could have sold it a lot sooner, could have spent less money carrying it for a year plus, could have realized our grand Tag Sale plan wasn’t going to fly, but in the end, we got what we needed, left a little on the table for the new owners, and started life in our “new” home that we loved. 

Our dream was to have a house in Ocean City, and to not only have that dream come true, but to have it come true as successfully as we now have, well, we figure we must have done something right along the way!  It’s a story with a very happy ending about living out your life, living your dream!  What could be better!

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Ocean City – Part 10

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 A young Billy and the Mineola house the day we first saw it

After I retired on January 29, 2016, we spent as much time as we possibly could down in Ocean City!  As I mentioned in Part 9, we no longer traveled on the weekends, and if we had to go back to Mineola, we did so during the week.  We’d spend a day or two at a time in Mineola, and then run back to Ocean City.  Unfortunately, my salary stopped about mid March, and carrying two houses without a paycheck became a bit of a juggling act.  To be successful, that juggling act necessitated taking funds from one of my 401K accounts on a pretty regular basis.  That would be our MO for the next year plus.

Back in Ocean City, we spent the most time we had at the house since we’d bought it back in 2005.  We saw winter turn into spring, and spring turn into summer.  We enjoyed warm temps and empty streets, and as the calendar moved on, even warmer temps and crowded streets.  We sat on our front porch and saw Ocean City go from a town of 15,000 to a town of 250,000!  We loved every minute of it, and resented when we had to return to Long Island!

As I mentioned, the Summer of 2016 was the last time we rented out the house, and that was because starting in late August, we were going on our Bucket List trip in the United States.  We knew we’d be gone for several months, and figured why not get a last bit of income from the house, before we moved on to our next chapter.  Early in August of that year, we packed up our “stuff” in the Ocean City house for the last time, and prepared for a 5 week rental we’d secured.  We’d been very lucky during our 11+ years of renting, to have some very nice folks join the 854 Pennlyn Family, but packing up our “stuff” before rental season,  was not something we loved doing.  This year, perhaps because we’d been living in the house since the preceding fall, it seemed even worse than ever!  Knowing, however, that this would be the last time we’d do it, we got the job done.  When the check for the 5 week rental went into our bank account, it was worth it!

The following are some of the lovely comments from folks who rented from us over the years.

After being on Long Island for a couple of weeks preparing, on August 22, 2016, Susie and I embarked on a trip that we’d talked about forever, been planning for years, and now was reality!  In the next 2 months, we drove just under 10,000 miles and saw things as divergent as the Spam Museum and Mount Rushmore.  From the Grand Canyon to a two week cruise in the Caribbean with son Kenny, we loved each and every minute of it.  You can find our exploits on this website starting in August, 2016 in the archives.  (https://rnewadventures.com/2016/08/22/our-big-adventure-day-one/)

When we got home from this epic trip, we needed a couple of days to regroup, but we were anxious to see how the Ocean City house had faired, and to claim it as our own forever!  We traveled down to OC and got the house back to normal and settled in.  It was always a pain after a rental to put everything back in its proper place and to switch out the rental items for the ones we used.  This time we were happier, knowing we’d never have to do the job again, however, the job was even bigger because now we were going to make two houses one!  After 11 years of having something in Mineola and a similar thing in Ocean City, now our task was to decide which was better and what was disposable. 

Back when my Mom died, we’d had a company come in and run a Tag Sale at her house in Bayside.  That was the plan we had in our mind for our home in Mineola, so our first task we decided was to get stuff from Mineola and exchange it with stuff in Ocean City.  For months, every time we traveled down to Ocean City, we did so with a trunk full of boxes of items we wanted in Ocean City.  Every return trip, the trunk was again loaded with boxes of stuff from Ocean City that we were bringing back to Mineola for the tag sale.  This continued through the winter and into the spring, until we’d gotten rid of all the stuff we had for renters to use in Ocean City, and had all the items that we deemed belonged in Ocean City either at the house or in our storage unit.  This included more than one trip of Christmas items, once we were done with our last Christmas in Mineola (December, 2016).  The back and forth took up most of the winter and spring of 2017, including a trip in the late spring when we rented a commercial van and transported several pieces of furniture.

 

By early June, we were ready to contact the Tag Sale lady, and make arrangements.  In the years since she’d done the sale at my Mom’s house, her business had grown and the times had changed.  She came over one day, looked at everything we had, and said that it was too small for her to take on.  She continued to burst our bubble when she said that we were just two of millions of Baby Boomers who were downsizing, and NOBODY wanted our furniture, dishes, silverware, or many of the other possessions we thought were salable!  Yikes!!  She did however refer us to a smaller concern, that she felt sure could help us. 

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Susie contacted the other lady and arranged for her to come to the house, and check out what we had for a sale.  We were hopeful that she would be the answer to our problem, but alas, she too said we didn’t have enough stuff for a tag sale, and repeated much of what the first woman had told us, regarding our furniture, dishes, silverware, and being part of the Baby Boomer generation.  She did however gives us the name of a guy that she used to empty out houses, so we did now have a last resort.  Susie then tried calling charities about our furniture, only to verify what we’d been told….too many Baby Boomers were getting rid of things, and even the charities couldn’t use them!  

At this point, we had a real “If we’d only known then what we know now moment”, as we thought back to all those trips from Ocean City to Mineola with the boxes that were now filling our back porch!  We had spent so much time packing boxes with items we no longer needed in Ocean City, and transporting them back to Mineola for a Tag Sale that was never going to happen.  If we’d known this months earlier, we would have disposed of them in Ocean City and saved a lot of effort!  Oh well, live and learn!

But all was not lost!  I was able to call Vietnam Veterans and get rid of a lot of those boxes we’d transported from Ocean City.  Much of it was kitchen items, which was something on their list of needed items.  We loaded the front porch of the house one day, and the next day a truck came and collected at least 20 boxes.  We realized we probably could have done the exact same thing in Ocean City, but at least some of it was going to folks who could use it!  As I said, live and learn!

Next time…we sell the Mineola house, and officially make Ocean City our permanent Residence!

  

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!

 

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