Horray for everyone who has found home bargains in the United States. Two of our friends just bought a condo in Palm Springs, Calif., on a total whim. They thought they were just visiting, but now they’re the owners of a ranch with vistas of distant rolling hills. Somebody must have made them an offer they couldn’t refuse.
Other friends of ours, who are from California, ended up in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., in a beautiful condo overlooking the water. They never thought they’d be anywhere else but Los Angeles or maybe Orange County when they retired. Something clicked in that luxury high rise, and now they’re on the East Coast looking at both the Atlantic and the intercoastal waterway. It was a steal.
Lots of other people are finding a great buyers’ market in places like Henderson, Nev., a Vegas suburb where you can live in bland comfort, with a pool and a big Barcalounger facing a huge flatscreen TV. Yes, this option has been tempting at times.
These anecdotes point to how mobile many retirees are, especially if they bought their last home before the bubble. Meanwhile, Mérida isn’t nearly the bargain-hunters’ paradise it used to be.
A reality show isn’t such a reliable barometer, but I’ll cite it anyway because I think they’re right in this case. On House Hunters International, their most recent Mérida episode was uncharacteristically discouraging. The episode follows a couple from Canada with a $225,000 budget. Here’s the narrator:
“… they might be too late. A colonial-style real estate boom in Merida has properties flying off the market.”
“They thought they could get in cheap, but they’re discovering that the properties left over from the booming market don’t meet all their wishes.”
“… They’re buying at the end of a recent housing boom and finding the leftovers aren’t up to snuff.”
Is there a silver lining here? Maybe.
I don’t want Mérida to be filled with expats who came here simply because it’s cheap, like a south-of-the-border Henderson. The city deserves better. It should remain a magnet for anyone who’s game for adventure, ready to take a risk, willing to learn something new, or even completely change their world view, at mid-life. To make it paradise, you need ample cash, smarts and perseverance. Then you discover it’s not really paradise, and you realize it’s OK, because you love it here. It remains to be seen if we qualify under this criteria. I’m still mucking about in Connecticut.
You can go to the Top Retirements website, do a cost-of-living calculation, and buy a lakeside parcel in Tennessee. There’s a guy commenting on that site right now who published a well-known book on his disastrous attempt to settle in Lake Chapala, and now he’s happily ensconced in a gated community in Florida. For me, that’s a place where I’d go and wait for death. For him, it’s a comfortable and carefree existence. For the first time, I think there’s a book in me, too. I’ve been trying to get the tone right, and I’ve already designed the cover. It won’t be finished until we’ve settled in at Casa Nana. Here’s hoping the final chapter isn’t set in a gated community outside Orlando.