Ugggh. I am so guilty and feel terrible that I haven’t created a blog post in such a long time! Sorry! It all started back in early June. First my husband was surprised to find out that the Army was promoting him. So planning for a ceremony and party occupied a bit of our free time, then on top of that excitement we decided to make an offer on a house we liked, which ultimately resulted in us having to get our house ready to put on the market, an offer from the military to move to Italy (which we ultimately turned down), and celebrating my son’s graduation from 8th grade, and both my husband and my birthdays within 2 days of each other…. June was a whirlwind and July hasn’t been much better.
Thankfully there was 4 days of respite amongst all of it. My husband surprised me with a trip to Martha’s Vineyard for my 40th birthday! I had never been there but had read several books that are set in the relaxed, upscale, posh island. Besides spending some time lying on a beach I was most looking forward to perusing the streets taking in all the great shingle clad architecture. Martha did not disappoint! Architecture ogling started as soon as our little plane touched down. The airport with its whitewalls natural wood shiplap ceiling, detailed beams complete with turnbuckles offered a worthy welcome to this picturesque little island. Check out those beams!
I really expected to see more grand homes with lots of weathered gray cedar shake siding, and while those did exist I think some of the large compounds were tucked away in the meandering woods of the island so their residents can enjoy privacy. I was so surprised to find lane upon lane of adorable little Victorians dripping in gingerbread details. The first sample of vintage Victorian architecture was our little B&B, the Oak Bluffs Inn. Painted in pretty pastel shades of blue, lavender and pink it was a quintessential Victorian with seashore inspired antiques decorating the inside. Our little cottage was a separate building in the back yard and was simply appointed and perfect for relaxing. Very private and no TV.
A few blocks over the Victorian delight continued with tons of shaded streets lined with adorable doll house like seasonal residences. The area known as the Martha’s Vineyard Camp Meeting Association (MVCMA) is a community ripe with adorable Victorian homes in every color of the rainbow.
And yes, the parks, beaches, and lighthouses were gorgeous and every meal we had was excellent – so many great restaurants to choose from. I’d go back to Martha’s Vineyard in a heartbeat. Alas a return trip will have to wait because, fingers crossed, if everything goes well in the next month or so we’ll be moving! Stay tuned! In the meantime, amidst purging and packing I promise to be better about blogging regularly and will share some highlights and ideas from some of my recent clients and moving tips too!
Camping isn’t for everyone. Sure, there’s purists that think it must be done in a tent, without electricity or any creature comforts, then there’s some that recognize the convenience of an RV or camper. The thing with campers is, they don’t get used all that frequently, so they’ll last for decades but often sit accumulating issues without anyone paying attention to them and their look and décor becomes outdated. I think a small camper redo would be a great mini-flip project, and I recently saw an adorable one in the June issue of Country Living. Mandi Gubler of VintageRevivals.com revamped her 1973 Bell Travel Trailer into some retro-kitsch-cuteness. Can you believe the transformation? It’s adorable. Here’s a few before and afters of her trailer, “The Nugget”:
I found that there are quite a few camper renovations out there that deserve some showing off so I thought I’d share them here. This first one from The Noshery kept some of the unique vintage appliances, polished them up and mixed them with modern decor.
This one from Fancy Farmgirl (whose blog it seems sadly doesn’t exist under that name any longer) is light and bright, making the space seem so much larger.
These camper renovations are makeovers of quintessential Airstream trailers, with their telltale stainless steel accents and domed roofs.
And finally here’s another before and after highlighted by Country Living. The change from old fake wood to bright aqua ceiling and white cabinetry bring this Airstream into the current decade.
This makes me want to embark on finding a camper to flip…. I can hear my husband grumbling now… but no worries honey, for now, you’re in luck, I’ve got nowhere to park it.
I envision this post to be the first in a series to describe our process for making the leap to purchasing a vacation property and ultimately building a beach home from the ground up. It’s no doubt a scary venture, with a lot on the line. I figure reading about our successes and mistakes might help a few people venture into vacation home dreams of their own.
I had been half joking with my husband for several years, whenever he would ask me what I wanted for my Birthday, Christmas, etc. I’d always reply, “A beach house.” Hah, funny, right…. I knew I’d never wake up to a house with a big bow on it like those silly Lexus commercials (don’t you hate those people on those commercials even though you know it’s not real?) Anyway, in saying that I wanted a beach house as a gift, I really meant that I wanted us to save money and forego trivial gifts and really sock away some savings so someday we really could buy that beach house.
On a (sort-of) whim, one winter, I started searching on realtor.com. Initially our plan was NOT to build a brand-new house but find a home that needed a little bit of cosmetic work, which many beach rentals do, and fix it up. Cause, ya know, we fancy ourselves pretty handy. We had been traveling to the Outer Banks of North Carolina for several years and renting homes for a week for summer vacation. Over the course of my childhood I had spent time in other beach locations like Virginia, Maryland and Delaware beaches and the Jersey shore …yes that’s really what it’s called, it’s not the “beach” it’s the “shore” and if you say it with a Jersey accent it’s even more accurate… and if you refer to OBX as the “shore” people look at you like you have three heads. Of all of those places I loved OBX the most and it was a manageable 4 hour drive from our home in VA. So I found a house I liked and I promptly contacted the realtor. This is the house that drove me to start our search in earnest – adorable, right?
Okay, here’s recommendation #1, don’t do what I did, and call the realtor who lists the house you may want to buy, because if you make this person your agent, they are then working for both sides. We were lucky because in our case it worked out because the seller wasn’t willing to negotiate as much as we’d have liked and I was hell bent on getting a good deal (that was a high priority of ours) but we did find a good agent in the process and he showed us a number of places in a whirlwind rainy weekend). Finding someone who is willing to roll up their sleeves and dedicate a whole weekend to you is a pretty big deal because if you’re looking for a vacation property that is several hours from your home you want to be efficient with your time and not do multiple trips back and forth. Working with a realtor that is local to where you want to buy is really important. They know the area, and will know what areas work best for rentals as well as what home elements will help return on investment potential. And although your realtor will hopefully have lots of info for you don’t forget to do research on your own. We did and it came in really handy when it came time to negotiate (more on that in a later installment). In fact, when we started our vacation home search I was dead set on buying in the quaint town of Duck, pictured below.
Did I buy a home in Duck? Nope. Based on our priorities, our agent turned us on to a neighboring town called Southern Shores, which was a much better fit for what we wanted in a property. I still find new and interesting things about Southern Shores, NC and I just love, love, love it! Every time I visit I say that I don’t want to go home to Virginia and just want to stay there forever. Here’s the gorgeous dunes at Southern Shores.
A few other things I learned and I recommend as you start looking for that vacation rental property: know what your priorities are. Do you want maximum ROI in rentals? Proximity to the beach and amenities? Peace and serenity? A place for boating? Low maintenance? (Hint, you may want to scratch this last one off your list if you’re going to rent your beach home out, but we’ll talk about that more later). We knew (or thought we knew) our primary priorities going in. Here’s our list:
Within a 5-minute walk to the beach
In an “X” flood zone (see more on this below)
A good deal (and preferably below our budget of 550K)
Have consistent summer rental history (or potential)
Not along a main road with a lot of audible traffic
At least 4 bedrooms and 2 bathrooms or one that could sleep about 10 or more people
A pool or room to add pool
Not in a commercialized area (no views of stores, restaurants)
A water view
I’ll let you know which of these we actually accomplished at the end. But these all sorta make sense except, why wouldn’t you want a house RIGHT smack dab on the beach if you’re buying a beach house? Ok, well admittedly, that would be lovely and would probably help a ton with rental potential, right? Only I’m at least somewhat risk adverse and wasn’t willing to push those limits on our first foray into rental properties. Houses on the beach are exponentially more expensive in terms of sale price. But consequently, you could rent it for more, which is true, but there are other expenses you incur with a house ON the beach. Maintenance is one; you will have higher overall maintenance costs for things like painting, rusting metal that needs to be replaced, and storm damage, which brings me to our #2 priority, an “X” flood zone. FEMA has mapped all coastal areas and assigned different letter codes to designate potential risk for flood based on historical events and geography and probably all other sorts of scientific stuff. More info on all of this is available at FEMA’s flood risk website. Here’s a pictorial simplification of FEMA’s flood risk lettering.
What is important to know if you are buying a coastal property is that these letter codes affect how much or how little flood insurance you have to carry and ultimately, how much you’ll pay. Being in an X zone doesn’t mean that our home is invulnerable to weather, not at all, but it is at a lower risk for flood devastation. For us, it wasn’t just about the money but not having to worry about having to board up our little vacation abode every time a hurricane threatened the east coast or worse worry about having to rebuild it or worse yet, worry about being so severely impacted that our entire property was rendered unusable….. and it happens…. These homes are along the beach in South Nags Head, NC, just a few miles south of ours that had been condemned after a storm.
Are you considering buying a vacation rental property? What are your thoughts or dilemnas? We’d love to hear them! Share in the comments.
Next installment coming in a week or so – continuing the house hunt and expanding it to a “land hunt”…
I took a break from the blog last week in order to travel to Colombia! I had never seriously considered vacationing in South America short of some day heading to iconic areas like Rio de Janerio or Machu Pichu, but we were presented with the opportunity to travel to Colombia so my son could take part in a soccer tournament as a member of the AC Milan Junior Camp International Team. With such a unique athletic and cultural experience confronting us, who could say no? So while this post is a bit astray from the normal design focused material, I wanted to share some of the sights and experiences from my week in Colombia.
While the kids were practicing with their soccer teams, the parents took a sightseeing tour of the historic, picturesque town of Salento and its fantastic mountain and coffee farm views.
The Willys Jeep is a revered icon in Colombia where it has been used as a workhorse utility vehicle for carrying coffee, fruits, vegetables and even furniture from one place to another through the rugged terrain of Colombia. I personally would like to have this one with the built in coffee bar parked in my driveway every morning.
We spent most of our time in the city of Pereira, where the tournament was hosted. Pereira, also a coffee town, had a number of scenic town squares and churches.
Accommodations for both players at Hotel Sonesta and the parents at Hotel Movich, both in Pereira, were fantastic.
The tournament was a great cultural experience and we had a fantastic time and met a number of wonderful people, I am looking forward to exploring other parts of this beautiful country. Hasta Luego, Colombia!