Thursday, February 23, 2017

Chapter 8 - the search concludes (we hope)

After doing nothing with respect to finding a place to live over a couple of months – with Christmas and New Year’s in there somewhere along with some medical stuff – we resumed our activity in February.  We really liked San Diego the best of the places we had been, but the prices there are really high.  We decided to give it one more try, and if we couldn’t find anything, cross it off the list. 

We booked the trip through American Airlines Vacations, this time choosing a less fancy hotel than the Rancho Bernardo Inn.  We flew out mid-afternoon on a Saturday, on an ancient Airbus A-321 that obviously was inherited from US Airways, as was the crew.  We stayed at a Marriott Courtyard in Rancho Bernardo, where we had stayed a couple of times before. The rooms have a small refrigerator, microwave, and coffee maker. Only one time did they fail to replenish the regular coffee.  Our first night was tough, with noise, but I guess we got used to it.  For dinner we went to Chin’s in Rancho Bernardo.  Chin’s is a local legend, a chain in North San Diego County, with fabulous Szechuan cuisine.  We had to wait 20 minutes for a table, and I really don’t do well with that, but kept my mouth shut for once.  I had my Dad’s favorite spicy honey shrimp, and Jody got vegetarian moo-shi (sometimes called moo-shoo).  We started off the week stuffed, which became, unfortunately, a theme.

We had contacted Nancie, our San Diego realtor, and let her know our plans. She cleared the decks so she could work with us.  On our previous visit, we had stopped by a place called Ocean Hills Country Club, a 55+ development which has a lot of the same amenities that places like Robson Ranch (Denton, TX) and Pelican Preserve (Fort Myers, FL) have – golf, pool, pickle ball, clubs, etc.  Just without the heat and humidity.  On our November visit, we went there but there was nothing available.  Nancie just wanted us to see it so that if something became available we would know something about Ocean Hills.

So, our first stop this trip was at Ocean Hills.  Nancie showed us a 1400 square foot home with a one car garage, but also a space to park another car.  We really don’t want to park a car outside.  Sun ruins cars.  I still remember getting cracks in the dash from not having covered parking at work, at a place where there was covered parking available but the idiot CEO wanted to separate important people from unimportant people.  Nancie had a lot of places with one car garages in our stated price range.  There was one other home for sale in Ocean Hills with a two car garage, but it was higher in price.  We asked to see it.  It wasn’t perfect, but it was pretty close.  It had two bedrooms, two bathrooms, and a den, and it was immaculate.  1800 square feet. Very vacant.  And, rare for San Diego – it had been on the market for a while, meaning we could probably snag it for less than the asking price.

We looked at a few more properties, some single family homes in residential areas, but nothing too impressive. We were leaning toward a 55+ setup.  Where we live now, the neighborhood has turned over, most are young families, and we are a little bit out of place.  We don’t want to replicate that. 

Sunday night we had dinner at the French Market Grille, in Rancho Bernardo, just steps away from Chin’s where we had eaten the night before.  But this time we didn’t make a wrong turn and get lost on our way to the restaurant, even with three GPS in the car.  They had a lamb shank special which was incredible.  That was one well-fed lamb. Sadly, the boss, a Frenchman, was off on Sunday, so no French practice.  We were waited on by a Mexican.  Very competent, and the service is very European in that there are not cadres of people running around.  Just the one guy for the whole (small) restaurant. 

The next day Nancie took us over to see some homes in the Oaks North area of Rancho Bernardo. We saw some condo properties in the area near where my parents lived (they bought new) in the 80’s.  None had a two car garage, though, and all were pretty tight on space. We saw a standalone single family home in Oaks North, but on the other side of Paseo del Verano Norte, closer to the golf course.  This home was an estate sale, and the house was gorgeous, with an incredible patio and view out the back.  The problem was that there was not very much house.  I kept walking around, trying to envision where things would go, and couldn’t really find a place for a television or computer.  The lady who lived there had an old CRT television in a cabinet.  It was light, airy, beautiful, and in a great location, but it was a hair south of $600,000 for 1400 square feet.  It had two bedrooms and two baths, but nothing like a study or a den.

Nancie had a few more for us to look at, but we decided to look on Tuesday at the two favorite places plus any others she might have and try to decide.

Monday night a group of friends from the former Escondido Country Club, where my Dad used to be a member until it was shut down, get together for dinner and drinks.  They go to the Marie Callender’s in Escondido.  The food is crappy, the service is awful, but it’s fun to renew friendships.

We had checked out (drive-by) some of the last few properties Nancie had found for us, and looked at some others on the web. There was one near Lake San Marcos that looked interesting.  We went there and it was really beautiful with a fabulous view, but it had eight steps leading from the garage.  We don’t like stairs.  The house looked like a model home, and the agent said the house was not staged at all, the people live like that.  Another home Nancie found was in Escondido, not far from where my parents used to live.  It was not in good condition, but was priced right.  But it had four steps, very steep, to the attached garage.

So we went back to Ocean Hills and to the place in Oaks North.  We decided on Ocean Hills and asked Nancie to start the ball rolling. 

That day was Valentine’s Day.  We had not had lunch, so we went early to one of my Dad’s favorite places, Joe’s Italian Dinners on Grand Avenue in Escondido.  It was the right move.  The food there is all made from scratch, so it takes a while. They don’t take reservations, but we beat the rush. People were waiting 45 minutes for a table.  We ate as fast as we could to try to help out.  (Not really.)

Wednesday we went to meet with some mortgage people.  We had started out thinking we would pay cash for whatever we bought, and that would have worked in Florida, or Texas, or Idaho, but it would not work in San Diego.  The prices are so high that we would have been living on franks and beans (tofu pups for Jody) after buying with no mortgage, especially because our Texas house was not yet for sale.  So we met with some guys from Pure Mortgage, who have an office off I-8 in San Diego.  It was strange sitting in a conference room. I don’t recall specifically, but I think the last time I was in a conference room would have been in 2015 in Houston.  The Dallas office where I worked towards the end was equipped with wireless headsets, and nobody used conference rooms. 

They gathered up our financial information, and then raised the question of a reverse mortgage.  I had not heard of that being used as a tool for a purchase – I thought it was a way for a senior to extract some value out of a home while living in it.  The idea is you put down a substantial down payment, and then you stop.  The interest is added on the loan, and some government insurance guarantees the mortgage.  There is even a provision where you can withdraw money from the asset as a line of credit, with no income tax impact.  Since we have no heirs, it seemed worth looking into.  But the bureaucracy involved in it is formidable.  We decided to give it a shot.

Wednesday night we tried a place we had not been before, Urge Gastropub, which is in the shopping center across from our hotel.  It was surprisingly good.  I ordered a burger called the Fahrenheit.  It was well named – very spicy, leaving my lips tingling.  The waiter said there was some habanero in the topping, although the menu didn’t say that.  Jody had a Beet and Goat Cheese salad.  Looked pretty good.  They have one of these over in Oceanside as well.

On Thursday we really had nothing to do but wait for some phone calls, so we ventured down to La Jolla.  We got very lucky and found parking right away, and walked the length of the cove. It was cool and beautiful, nearly high tide, with some pretty good surf.  We had lunch at a place called Brockton’sVilla, in an old building high on the hillside.  This had been a favorite of my parents years ago, but with the desperate parking situation at La Jolla we hadn’t tried to go there in a long time.  The meal I ordered was just OK, but the view was fabulous.

That evening we met up with Maryann Haller, an old friend from the Escondido days, at a place called Le Bistro de Louisa, a French (and Italian) place in Rancho Bernardo.  It was really nice, with a decent but not extensive selection of offerings.  I had lamb chops, a little overcooked but it was my fault for not following the recommendations.  We got to speak a little French to the lady of the house. We had dessert, so it ended up being a little over $100 with the tip. I would go back.

On Friday Jody wanted to go idea shopping at a furniture store, which turned out to be harder than you would think. Siri said there was a furniture store near us, but it turned out to be an office building in Rancho Bernardo with a tiny outlet for seconds, and wasn’t appropriate.  We did find a Jerome’s eventually and drooled on their stuff. It looks like if you pick something they have in stock they will get it to you quickly.  File that away.  For lunch we stopped at Rubio’s and I had the Coastal Trio, about 800 calories of delicious.  It was wise to postpone that until Friday! 

That afternoon a long-predicted Pacific storm hit San Diego.  It is amazingly green there right now, and you can see why when you see these storms.  The winds were very strong and it rained pretty hard.  People freak out when it rains there, so you have to be careful driving. We decided to go to the shopping center across from the Marriott for dinner, ending up in a place called The Barrel Room.  It was pretty busy, and we sat outside, but under cover and near a heater.  Later arrivals got some rain with their dinner. My TBR burger was a lot less dramatic than the Fahrenheit I had consumed at the place next door. 

We returned home Saturday, on another Airbus 321, but a newer model. The ride was very bumpy on account of the weather surrounding the west coast.  We arrived a bit early at DFW, and American had nobody to operate the jet bridge, and when they showed up, it was clear that they had not worked with this aircraft type before.  They hit the plane pretty hard with the jet bridge, but I hope it didn’t put the plane out of service.

When we came home we were, or at least I was, sort of numb.  We are not going to be living here any more – we’ll move out in a month or two (or three) depending how it all goes.  We have a variety of steps we have to take, including making sure we have enough cash in the proper account to pay the down payment.  We are working hard to fix what we can in this house, and get rid of what we can’t move. It’s going to be a lot of work.  But we don’t have much else to do, and we have help from Smilo and Trillie.  (smh)