The Irony of Life, Part 33:  Relocating Twice During the Pandemic

On February 5, 2020, I listed my triplex in Durango with a realtor I didn’t know.  Several weeks before that, when he came to look at the property, he told me it was worth as much as $700,000.  But when he was filling out the papers, he said to list it for $510K.  I trusted him (huge mistake!) but got him to list it for $550.  A week later I learned about the COVID virus and my gut instinct said “Cancel the deal!” (At that time, I didn’t know a seller could cancel the deal.) 

My realtor came over, flushed face and almost crying, and said he would put a contingency agreement in the contract stating that I could live there as a tenant.  But the buyers broke that agreement and both realtors, my attorney, and the owner of the Coldwell Bank Realtors all said I should get out because it wasn’t safe for me to stay there.

I had logged more than 100 hours online searching for an affordable, acceptable duplex to rent or buy (with two cats) in four states (CO, NM, AZ, TX).  Even though there were listings, no one wanted to talk about it, much less show me the property because of COVID.  If I couldn’t find such a place, I could not do the 1031 Exchange and my capital gains taxes would be super high because I owned the triplex for almost 40 years. 

When Ron, a Facebook friend I never met, said he would find me a place to rent in AR, fly to Durango, and drive my U-Haul trailer back (all expenses paid by me), I accepted, thinking I would find a duplex there.

When I asked if he could suggest a realtor so I could continue my search for a multiple-family dwelling, he sent his sister-in-law.  She showed me single-family dwellings, mostly ones she had listed, and one duplex, saying that I shouldn’t live there because everyone who does is a transit.  Huh?

And so, I missed my opportunity for the 1031 Exchange. Lesson learned:  never let someone’s opinion influence your decision, especially when it’s about your money.  I had lived with “transits” (renters) on the “wrong side of town” for almost 40 years in Durango. Fortunately, I had to pay only $61,492 in taxes, not the $78,000 “guesstimate” of a Durango CPA because Rod’s wife, Carol, introduced me to an excellent CPA here. 

I ended up buying a “For Sale by Owner” house, mostly because it was the only one I knew I could find by myself (more about that later).

Ever since I moved here my life has been challenged by what I call “hassles.”  I had a typed page full of them, prioritized.  I took them on one at a time so I could practice “Ask and it is given” (a.k.a. manifesting).  I spent six months battling bugs in the rented house. Six months of internet hassles (Suddenlink has a monopoly in AR; that will change soon enough thanks to people like me who wrote grievance letters to the Arkansas Governor, filing a complaint). Four months of “my Colorado Anthem/Blue Cross, Blue Shield health insurance doesn’t work here” hassles. And yes, there are more, but I have learned not to talk about something until the resolution I asked for has been created.

On the upside, Rod and Carol have shown me where things are, driven me to Searcy to the Walmart Superstore and Little Rock for the only organic store within a 1.5 hour-drive, given me a tour of trails and the Rec center, shared their family farm produce, let me share their unlimited AT&T cell phone account ($50/month), taken me twice in their pontoon boat on the lake to swim, and taught me how to use the Map App on my new cell phone.  Having a cell phone is required here unless you grew up in this town with few street signs and different streets with the same name.

My Fabulous Four, girlfriends (in three states and Canada), and a boyfriend from 1991 got me through the first year by letting me talk about my experience on the phone. Bless them!

People here are kind and generous.  After mailing a package at the post office, I asked the woman if she knew a place to find a “hair-catcher” for my bathtub drain. She pulled out her cell phone and said “aisle H33 at Walmart.” The boyfriend of the girl living next door has done things like move furniture and repair a cat scratching post, no charge. And the man who built this house showed me how to close foundation vents before winter which can have freezing temperatures, replaced the toilet flaps in two toilets, and he answers all my questions when I text or stop by his shop a few blocks from here. Bless him!

Because I have given Walmart feedback (see the top of your receipt) about their claim made before 2008 to be “the biggest organic food store in the U.S.”, the local store is now carrying lots of organic products, including more organic produce. 

There is beauty all around me.  Heber Springs is quite different from any place I’ve lived, including Colorado, Texas, California, and Canada.  The light is different.  The climate is different.  Trees are tall and forests are thick, including the one across the street from me.  There are many walking, hiking, biking trails.  My favorite is the Sulphur Creek Trail that is especially beautiful in the spring and fall.  I took my sister and her husband there and to the Josh Trail in the woods. 

Heber Springs is in the foothills of the Ozark Mountains.  The streets are winding and go up and down these hills so there is a “wheee!” factor that reminds me of coming home to Durango from the ski resort north of town. Relatively speaking, Durango streets are flat!

Speaking of “flat”—there are no level floors in Heber Springs.  I find that ironic because one of the reasons I sold my triplex was slanted floors in my apartment; the house was settling. When I asked Greg, owner of the furniture store about it, he laughed and said something like “blame it on the mountains.”

There is an enormous, man-made lake here, 42 miles long.  When my sister and her husband visited me, Rod took us on a boat ride and was an excellent guide giving us information about the lake and who lived in the houses next to it—like the artist who paints 4’ x 6’ portraits.

Besides the man who built the house I bought, I know some couples who own businesses I’ve frequented (auto repair shop, furniture, and consignment store); they chat with me when I show up. I have met people at the Rec Center when I played Pickleball and in Walmart when I go shopping for groceries.  I’ve learned to keep a small tablet and pen in my purse so we can swap phone numbers.  “Someday,” I’ll make some calling cards.

I have friends who work in Walmart because I have done research for them, printed what I found, and hand-delivered it.  I shared recipes, like the one for pumpkin brownies. It feels good to have so many people smile at me when I go shopping.

I am friends now with the woman who brought my mail that had been delivered to her house.  We went to the Humane Society Shelter to see what they need. When we first met, we had a lot in common; I knew we’d be girlfriends.

Even at the Ace Hardware store, I have new friends. One gal’s mom is an organic gardener; she said I could come to visit and learn from her when she gets ready to do next year’s garden.  The other woman and her partner bought a closed business property in Eden Isle.  She said I could come to see her inside plants.  Having lived in the “bug-house” where the cat grass I planted for my cats attracted some kind of gnat, I am eager to see how people do gardens here inside and out with so many bugs. (No one told me renters were expected to hire a pest control company for bugs.)

The CPA who did my incredibly complicated taxes for 2020 said that if I waited to sell it “two years and a day” since I bought it, then I would not have to pay taxes for the profit, assuming that it cost more at that time. That is highly likely.  In February-March 2020 there were 350 houses listed for sale online in Heber Springs; now, you’d be likely to find three.  Prices have gone up just as they did in Durango when a magazine article included Durango as “one of the ten best places to live” after I sold “Mom’s House” (a reference to my book, 2 Years, 1 paycheck, 0 plans).

Bella and Kali have accepted being indoor-only cats. They love this big house with window sills low enough to jump to and wide enough to sit on. They “follow the sun” from the east side to the west side.

Will I stay here?  Who knows?  I am monitoring what’s been happening in Durango via “Next Door”, an email club that might have arrived with the Californians who moved there after I left.  And I am staying in touch with cousins and friends who live in other states.  It will be easy to sell this house, but I will not make the same mistake I did last time.  If I do decide to sell it, it will be FSBO and I will have moved most of my belongings to the rental I found!

I would love to hear from you.  What has your experience been like since COVID?

Happy Holidays!

Till next time (if there is one),

“Please be kind to everyone you meet, for we all have our hidden sorrows.” ~Pam Young

3 responses to “The Irony of Life, Part 33:  Relocating Twice During the Pandemic

  1. John Stockwell

    An excellent post!!


  2. John Stockwell,
    Thank you! Selling the triplex was a huge learning experience for me. I’ve learned a lot.


  3. Correction: I could not have done a 1031 Exchange after selling the house. To do the 1031 Exchange, it must be orchestrated by a third-party expert and happen before selling. Lessons learned, thanks to my new CPA.


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