View from the Porch

View from the Porch

Thursday, September 06, 2012

Movin' on out

I'm moving.   Out of Marin.  Where I've lived all but 7 years of my life.   And building my very first modular home (well, not by myself, but...).

I'm kinda scared and excited at the same time.  This blog is going to chronicle the journey.

I officially retired from my last job 5/4/2012.  I've qualified for my pension  and social security.  But I've been a renter for the last 13 years, and being on a fixed income, with very expensive rents in Marin, I figured it was time to move on.  I want to be able to live within my means.

There are several 55+ communities around, but, they too, are pricey, and to be honest, I don't like the idea of a condo.  They're great when everything is new, but when things start getting old, falling apart and all the units aren't fully occupied, the price tag for repairs can get high.  And no way could I afford a single family home, anywhere in, or near, Marin.

So my alternative seemed to be a mobile home park.  Some are good, some not.  Almost had a place, in a Marin park, but a deceitful realtor put an end to that.

I didn't want to go further east than Sonoma or north of Petaluma.  When I began looking at parks, I had no idea how many there are out there.  There are four in Marin, 2 of which are for residents over the age of 55.  Both in Novato, and both owned by city.  The other two are all-age parks; the one in Larkspur is a hot mess, and the one on Terra Linda has  been embroiled in a legal battle with the owner since he bought it in the mid-90s.

The park where I almost had a space in is called Marin Valley Mobile Country Club.  It's a great location, hidden in a little valley between Hamilton and St. Vincents.  The other one is Los Robles and it it is behind Nave Lanes right off the Bel Marin Keys exit and, frankly, too close to the freeway for my liking.

One of the drawbacks of a Mobile Home park is that the spaces are small, and it seems that your space is right on top of your neighbor's space.  Views usually consist of a street view, and looking into your neighbor's outdoor living space, of which, for all residents is pretty limited.  Outdoor living space in important to me; I may not always use it, but it's great to have. Parks have very thorough and extensive Rules and Regulations, but, in some parks, the on-site management doesn't seem to care about those rules as long as nobody is making waves.  And some times rules about unsightly upkeep, and other factors are ignored, because they don't want to upset the residents.

So, yeah, I have some nit-picky things I want, but hey, I'm going to be living wherever I choose for the next 20 years so I'd better like it, right?

One of the issues I see in Marin (and Sonoma, as well) is that the folks who own places in the park, regardless of the age of the home being sold (which is the only thing they legally can sell), is that they treat the pad (which is owned by the park, and rented to the resident) as if it was, in fact, theirs to sell.  So for a pad in a Marin County park, the seller is asking a whole heck of a lot more than the home on the pad is worth; you are paying for the privilege (or so I think the realtors tell the sellers) buying a tear down in good spot.  Most of the homes for sale are 30-40 years old and while they may have been updated, over time, they're still not nearly as energy efficient as newer modular homes are.

I used both Trulia and Zillow to monitor what was on sale, checking every day to see what was new on the market  After the experience with a less-than-honorable realtor, I contacted a friend in the business, who has been great!  As the amount of commission my friend would be earning is small, I'm trying to do as much of the grunt work, and running around as I can, so as not to burden her with too much stuff.  Also, I've been doing a lot of reading and asking questions.

I started looking in earnest (and made my first offer) the end of May.  That's the one that went south.

I made offers on several other places both in Marin and Sonoma, for what I think are fair, for a tear-down, but sellers want what they want.  Out of the three places I put offers in on, as of this date, they are all still on the market, at overly inflated prices, and have been that way for over 4 months.   I've come to the conclusion that senior mobile home park residents, for the most part, when they put their place on the market (if they don't have to move out), have a number in mind that may, or may not, reflect the actual value of the home, and if they don't get it, they don't care. 

Yes, I know it's a buyer's market, but my funds are limited, and if I'm going to be tearing down a mobile home that is in poor condition, I don't want to overspend.

I did look at several of the parks in and around the lovely town of Sonoma; the heart of the wine country.  One park, Seven Flags of Sonoma, not only is  well-run, well-maintained, and has a very helpful and friendly staff, but also had the most reasonable space rents.  It's about 2 miles SW of the town and just about half an hour's drive from San Rafael.  After we got back from Yosemite I saw this 40 year old mobile home on a great site at that park, newly listed.  Immediately called my agent, we wrote up an offer for full price, and submitted it.   Alas, we were two hours late, and another, lesser offer had been accepted.  I put a backup offer hoping that the first one would fall through, but couldn't imagine it would  But, surprise surprise, there were a number of issues with the first one and I  found out yesterday that my offer was accepted.  And will probably be signing papers, and paying for it, tomorrow.  Now this was fairly priced, and there were others, after me, that were interested as well.

There are these two sixty-foot pine trees in front of the house, and while I know the park loves trees, I'm not sure what I want to build there will fit, with the trees;   I want them gone.

And when I finally get finished, this will be the view from my living room, dining room and den.

And so the journey begins.....

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