Facing Reality

At the beginning of the year, Brett and I started looking into home-buying options on Kaua’i. We had no plans to buy right away, but wanted to be better educated about what’s available and be ready to buy if something suitable came along. We had already decided that a condo would be our best option as houses here are unaffordable: the current median home price on Kaua’i is $985K 😱! We also aren’t interested in all the maintenance, yard work, etc. that comes with owning a home here. A couple of weeks ago there were only four single family-homes on the island in our price range but two were already contingent, all were very small, one needed a lot of work, and three were in a location that doesn’t work for us. There were also issues here with the few available condos in our price range as well (fee simple versus leasehold, for example). We’re definitely not keen on living in a building with tourists coming and going most of the time, but purely residential condos are few and far between and expensive. A condo we considered purchasing five years ago now costs $100K+ more than it did then. The massive elephant in the room with any condo purchase here is always the HOA fee. While there are some that are less, the usual HOA fee on Kaua’i is over $800/month and climbs rapidly from there, and can often double any mortgage payment.

While our current income is more than adequate to allow us to do many things, live comfortably, and save, if Brett dies before me I will lose close to 2/3 of that amount – his military retirement will go away (although I will retain health insurance and all other benefits) as will my Social Security (I would receive his higher amount instead). Unless there’s a miracle, my student loans will continue and I will be paying those until I am 83 years old. A big factor for us in any home purchase therefore is keeping our mortgage payment (including any HOA fees) at an affordable level so I will be OK financially if something should happen to Brett. 

Both Brett and I are veterans and qualify for a VA loan, with no money required for a downpayment, and no mortgage insurance required. However, we can see that our best bet going forward will be to start with as large a down payment as possible to reduce the monthly payment. So, after much thought and number crunching we gave ourselves a deadline of early 2023 and decided that between now and then we would save, save, save as much as possible toward a down payment. We would continue to save for travel, but adjust those plans to fit a smaller amount of savings and tighter budget.

We also know that housing prices on Kaua’i are going to continue to rise – it’s frightening how much they’ve gone up since we left two years ago – and HOA fees are only going to go up as well. What if even with a downpayment we can’t meet our price goal? Can we accept having to rent versus owning with those costs going up as well? We love living here for many reasons, but should we honestly reconsider moving back to the mainland? And if so, where would that be? 

The discussions over this are ongoing. For the past few weeks the pros and cons of staying in Hawaii or possibly moving back to the mainland have dominated our conversations, and there has been no good answers. Our three daughters all live back east now and will be staying there. Meiling is currently in NYC, but wants to eventually move to Boston, to be closer to WenYu who lives in the area. YaYu currently attends college in eastern Pennsylvania, and has said she is planning to stay back east as well if possible (it will depend on where she goes to grad school). When we spoke with Meiling and WenYu last week they both said they would be thrilled if we lived closer to them. They know we are are happy here and love living on Kaua’i, but at the same time now admit that they wish we were closer to them, especially as we age and as they move closer to raising their own families. We miss them terribly – celebrating Christmas from a distance really drove that home – and wish we could get together with our girls more often. We recently looked at pictures of houses back east though, most currently covered with snow, and Brett and I both said, “I don’t think we can do this . . . ” (or want to).

What we know now is only that we will have to make a decision one way or the other one of these days. In the meantime we are going to stick with our deadline of early 2023, and continue to save as much as possible and then see where that takes us in the real world. 

61 thoughts on “Facing Reality

  1. Military retirement doesn’t go to the widow like it does for government civilians? And I use his SS but you need to decide which is better.

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    1. No, military retirement goes with the service member. There is a survivor benefit plan service members can sign up for at retirement, but the monthly cost is high, and the maximum a survivor can receive is 55% of the retiree’s pay. We crunched the numbers when Brett retired and felt it wasn’t worth it considering Brett was in good health. He has now been retired longer than he was in the Navy! We’ve always planned knowing that if something happens to him I would lose his retirement income.

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    2. My understanding, Barb, is that you receive what you do without “selecting” or buying in because (I think) your husband passed while still employed by the federal government. This is a rare circumstance. You then got his “retirement” under the old rules. Now spouses have to buy in to receive the benefits and they are usually half (or less) then the member’s retirement.
      At least I think that is what happened.

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  2. Aloha! A friend of mine just bought a condo at Plantation Hale. I remember you saying that you stayed there once. I think their prices are the most reasonable on the island. She got a good deal. I think there are still 7 that are active. HOA fees have not risen as much as many have. There are quite a few full time residents there.

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    1. Joy! We need to get up to Princeville for a visit! Hope all is well with you and Les.

      We did stay at Plantation Hale for a couple of days when we arrived back in 2014, before we could get into the condo we had rented. We really don’t want to live in Kapaa again though for a variety of reasons, but mainly because of the traffic (which will be awful again once visitors begin returning in droves). Also, the whole area where Plantation Hale is located is in a tsunami zone which is a real deterrent for us. The condos are very small for what you get and their HOA fees are in the $800+/month range as well. And finally, Plantation Hale is not approved by the VA (too many tourist condos) – we really want to go VA if we buy because of the low interest rates and other benefits. At least they are fee simple though! We considered Sun Village, but their HOA fees are climbing and they are leasehold, so another additional fee each month.

      We love it here on the south side of the island, but there’s nothing VA approved down here. Nothing up in Princeville either. Just Kapaa and Lihue. 😦 We’ll just have to see what happens.

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      1. Ah, hadn’t thought of all of that. I know my friend is thrilled with 3 pools, 2 hot tubs and air conditioning! Their HOA fees were $725 in 2011 when I checked. They’re now $815. She liked the 24 hour security and quietness of the place. She wants the hustle and bustle of Kapaa. I could live there! Sun Village was a dump when we looked a few years ago. The whole building was dirty, and tired looking. Maybe it’s improved since then. If Les and I were to need nursing help, we’d rent the studio side and put her in there rent free. Val, our fantastic landlady already told me to say the word when we’d get to that point.

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      2. I think if we didn’t have children back on the mainland, we’d be more amenable to a place like Plantation Hale, but those HOA fees are killer, especially since all of the condos are less than 650 sq. feet.

        You have always had the BEST landlord, and have got yourself in a place that works so well for you and Les (and at such a great price).

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      3. Yes, we lucked out with Val and Bruce as landlords. Since the studio is empty, Les decided to paint it gratis since they refuse to raise our rent. I shouldn’t have told her but here came a $300 amazon gift card. I was also so touched when she immediately agreed to let us rent the studio. Puakea in Lihue wanted $8,000 a month for independent living a few years ago. I told Les we can buy a lot of health care for $8,000 a month! We’ll stay put for a long time.

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  3. Gosh! Great information! I had no idea the HOA’s were so expensive… Always been a dream of mine to own on one of the islands 🙂

    Just love reading about your plans!!!

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    1. They are very high here, but maintenance is constant: “salt never sleeps” and landscaping has to be maintained near daily or it can turn into a jungle.

      We’ll see how it goes. We can accept that we may have to remain renters here.

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  4. Since your daughters would like you to be closer to them and also since you and Brett like to be nomadic, why not rent back east during the time of year when the weather is nice, and then go elsewhere during the winter to avoid the cold and snow? That could be on Kauai or somewhere else. That’s what I’m planning to do if I can continue to work remotely post-COVID. That way, you’ll be near your daughters for most of the year. If you really want to buy something, you could still do that and have your kids watch the house during the winter. Just a thought.

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    1. That’s actually one of the options Brett and I have discussed – living back east and then spending the winters elsewhere, at least for a couple of months. It would be the ideal time to visit warmer areas, like South America or Southern Europe, etc. Or come back to Hawaii. That can get expensive though, but it’s in the mix of things we’ve talked about.

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      1. The two worst months for weather here are Jan and Feb, so you and Brett could escape that and still satisfy your wanderlust! Would it be any more expensive than when you were traveling before the pandemic?

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      2. This is the one thing Brett and I have already decided, that if we do end up moving back to the mainland, and back east near the girls, that we will travel in January and February. We’d love to spend time in Argentina again, and it would be summer there. Also, southern Italy, Greece, Mexico, SE Asia, and other warm places beckon as well.

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  5. Such an interesting post. I live alone but am having the same conversations (with myself) about what to do next. Housing costs everywhere have really exploded (although I realize that Hawaii is in a case by itself!). I own a house and a rental property and always thought I could sell both and buy a condo for cash. Well, those days are gone. A friend bought a condo in a city I would like to live in, and the price was affordable; however, the HOA is $1000+ (it helps that it includes a lot of utilities, but I know the cost would escalate over time and I don’t want to take on that much beyond the price of the condo). I live in Pennsylvania and wanted to remind you that with climate change, the East may not be a winter-y as you remember. This year has been very cold and snowy, but it’s the exception. The past few years have been much milder. And while a place like Providence is expensive for me, it might be more reasonable for you coming from Hawaii. It has good sunshine, and access to water which protects it somewhat from big snows. Also good access to Boston and NYC. Just a thought.

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    1. The first thing we looked at back east was the tax situation for retirees, and PA and RI were not good, and property taxes are too high in VT and Ct. Neither Maine, Massachusetts, or New Hampshire tax Social Security or military retired pay, so those would be the best for us if we do end up back there. But those winters! We really are not sure if we can do that any more (I love snow as long as I don’t have to go anywhere in it).

      The HOA fees here are what’s going to kill owning one here for us, we’re afraid. They just keep climbing and climbing. Prices keep climbing here too because people from the mainland have been buying and driving up prices to get away from COVID.

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      1. I live in Vermont and want to let you know that property taxes are income-sensitized (unless you have a high income). So maybe don’t rule out Vermont.

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      2. Vermont taxes ALL of Brett’s military retirement though, which is the biggest portion of our income. Maine, New Hampshire, and MA don’t and they don’t tax Social Security. That being said, I would still love to live in Vermont!

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  6. We found ourselves in a similar position. Once CV hit we returned to Australia where life continues as normal thanks to good management of the situation. We looked at buying and found prices here are out of control. In the original area we looked, houses were selling for $1.1 million for a knockdown with another $700k to be spent to build a new residence. Also age discrimination at the banks is alive and well here, even though we are only late 50s and have substantial assets the bank will not take those into consideration and would not loan us any money. We ended up renting as crunching the numbers we found it was the cheaper option though we do not like the uncertainty. Long term we are not certain what we will do, at some stage we need to sit down and crunch the numbers. Like you, the majority of our retirement income will come from my husband. So going forward any decision we make needs to take that into consideration. All I know it is exhausting thinking about it constantly.

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    1. Those prices are incredible, but pretty normal for here in Hawaii. Thankfully we won’t be discriminated against if we go with a VA loan – if you’re a veteran you qualify, period.

      For now we’re going to hang tight here and save as much as we can. We love it here – it’s a good fit for us – but we know we may have to leave. Everyone is planning to come here this year for Christmas, so future plans will be discussed in full then with the kids and we will weigh our options.

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  7. Maybe take a look at the southern outer banks? A drive north to nyc, but doable in a day….beaches and beautiful….but much more reasonable col. I love Kauai, and nothing mainland compares for me, but we live east coast now and SObx is about the best “close” place we’ve been evaluating for our “post snow” years. Something to consider…once you can travel, there are tons of good Vrbo options to rent to check it out.

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    1. We have visited the Outer Banks several times, but I don’t know. We’d be trading snow and bad weather there for increased hurricane risk (and they’re only going to get worse, we’re afraid). North Carolina comes up a lot, and has both pros and cons. Thanks for the idea though – we will investigate!

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  8. You should carefully consider moving closer to where your daughters are. They are getting on with their lives, and it would be a great upheaval for them if they had to travel back and forth to Hawaii to tend to any health needs that you and Brett may have. Parents of adult children need to consider this. There comes a point when WE need to adjust to THEIR lives. Our four children are grown. We live in Minneapolis and one of our married daughters is here. (We did not move here because she is here, but have lived here for quite some time.) We love this city. Yes, we have snow and cold in the winter, but I also lived in northern California, which has a climate similar to Portland and loathed the 6 months of rain. The seasons are pretty here and the sun shines during all the seasons. Snow just isn’t such a big deal. Living closer to family is a joy as we get older. Also, as mentioned above, you could look somewhere on the east coast where you could easily see the girls but have a more affordable lifestyle.

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    1. I agree with you, that there comes a time when our children’s needs are more important than ours, especially if they will have to make decisions in the future about our care. We of course never thought all three of our daughters would end up back east when we moved here, but here we are.

      There’s lots we still love about Oregon but don’t think we want to go back, and taxes in California make It a poor choice for us even though there are parts of it we love.

      I can handle snow as long as I don’t have to go out in it (work, drive kids to school, etc.). Put me in front of a cozy fire and it’s all good!

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  9. PS And yes, the HOA fees can be a real deal breaker! We left our townhouse a year ago here in Minneapolis and bought a house. What one really has to consider with HOA fees is that you are financially tied to other homeowners. We were in a small association of just 8 units and a very problematic, litigious young man moved in. He ended up suing the association, we had to get a lawyer, and my husband as president had to deal with all this. We decided we did not want to live like this. People who live in condos often have unrealistic views about what HOA fees can actually cover and want the association to cover every blasted thing, even though the contract spells it out differently. Also, my husband and I often looked for ways the association could do things ourselves to save money (like spreading our own mulch), but nobody ever wanted to chip in and help. It’s very peaceful here in our cozy home, and we can now hire out things if needed with the money we used to spend on the HOA fees.

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    1. Back in 2015 we wanted to purchase a condo here but didn’t because it would have affected our daughters’ financial aid for college. The HOA fees then almost doubled the payment, but they were some of the most affordable on the island. These days they are several hundreds of dollars more, so we would be in a real bind now if we had purchased. As you say, we’d be better off buying a house and using what we save on HOA fees for maintenance, yard care, etc.

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      1. Yes, HOA fees often just keep going up in a condo, especially as they age. One of the other problems we saw in our association was that many people simply are not invested. It’s a stepping stone, so they are not interested in improvements, saving for a new roof etc. Our association had a lot of first time home buyers who lived there for a while and then bought a house with the equity. Also, our HOA was on the lower side compared to many, and we could see it would be a disaster when it came to buying a new roof or some other large expense. It was a headache for us living with people who really did not understand what home ownership involved. I always told my husband that they expected that HOA to do everything plus cure cancer!

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      2. What an HOA covers is one of the reasons it’s very difficult to get VA approval to buy one. There are full-time residency percentage requirements, which is one of the reasons there are so few VA approved condos on Kaua’i, but HOAs are a real sticking point as well.

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  10. A few years will help with decisions, in my experience. Empty nest syndrome for sure. Your girls will (most likely) continue to move for a few more years. Counting on them being in the East for the really long run? Maybe.
    Our kiddos ended up in Maryland. We moved “close enough” to see them often. We looked in beach communities of Rehoboth and Lewes, found condo prices to be good BUT fees to be CRAZY. Settled on nice weather Dover (Maryland taxes are horrid)…but COVID hit and we don’t get to see grands anyway.
    Our solution? We (70&63) are moving to my husband’s hometown–freezing Idaho Falls. Single level, good health care, close to all the nature we enjoy. We will travel to see the kiddos—and probably pay for flights to see “the old folks”. Yes, I do believe that flying will happen once again in the near future.
    Once we are “older” we plan on donating to build a single level wing on whatever house my daughter has. At that point, I will not care where it is as long as it is “independent”. We don’t see that happening for at least ten years. Maybe…..
    BTW- We have two sets of friends who “rent on base”. One is in Colorado Springs and the other in Georgia. It is more expensive then normal—but you might check into it.

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    1. That’s what we think Janette, and why we want to save and wait another couple of years before making any sort of decision. Also, we just got back here and it was expensive setting up a household again, and we’d like to enjoy it for a while longer before possibly moving away. We love our little apartment and the location too, and Kaua’i is a good fit for us in every way except for housing prices.

      We would rent on Barking Sands in a heartbeat if housing was open to retirees. There are a few housing areas on Oahu that do rent to retirees, but we don’t want to live there – we prefer the quiet of Kaua’i.

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      1. I was actually thinking of a mainland place for you. You could rent on a base for a year to try the area out. Just a thought.

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      2. I’m not sure we could stand living on base again! We have looked at areas that do allow retirees to live in base housing – we could go back to Key West! Actually, retirees are at the bottom of the list for housing if it is available – we would probably have to wait months for an assignment.

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  11. I hate and love the “where should we live” talks. Having just moved my mother, I say go east near the girls. Yes, they may eventually move but you’re not talking about now.

    OK, I’ve never lived in snow or driven on icy roads, but I say go to the snowy place. I’ve always wanted to have a long white winter. And then a definite spring.

    Keep the saving for travel. And if you ever come to Sydney, you can save by staying with us.

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    1. Decisions, decisions. Thankfully there’s no urgency to move and we have time to carefully think things over and weigh our options to make the best choice for us and our children.

      We are still planning to go back to Australia some day, and counting on riding The Ghan with you and Mr. S. Would love to spend more time in Sydney again as well.

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  12. Such a difficult decision. We’ve been happy having a “home base “near my parents (our vacation house is a couple of hours drive), but no plans to live there permanently due to the weather. We also have looked at buying a vacation house/rental on Maui, but the HOA fees are what have stopped us every time.

    We currently think we’ll do some sort of nomad like setup where we spend time between northern California (although, not where we are now – too $$) & Hawaii. With, vacations on the Oregon coast & trips back & forth to see family. We have ~5 years left until the kids graduate, so will stay put for now.

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    1. This will be a big decision, but for the next couple of years we’re staying put here. We like where we live, it will give us a chance to save as much as possible, and make the best decision for all of us.

      I think of where you live now as a great “investment” spot that will give you a lot of options when you do decide to move on. Hard to believe both your boys will be out of school in less than five years! Time is flying by . . . .

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  13. I so enjoy your posts because your circumstances are so similar to ours which makes your posts so relevant – so many blogs bear no relation to reality. I too will loose over 50% of income if my husband goes first. We did sign up for the minimum SBP which will give me about $400 (it was hard to make a lifelong decision when you were in your early forties and you are now 72 and 67!! Too bad there isn’t a second look to change your decision after about 20 years! We just went through what you are facing now. We want to travel more and as we are getting older looked seriously at our home of over 20 years. Located in a small coastal town, we were convenient to everything and had a beautiful backyard on a coastal marsh. But that beautiful backyard view had a price in flood insurance and hurricane threat. As we aged, we could not even pickup sand bags or put up the plywood any more. Our oldest grandson had graduated high school and our daughter had moved about 42 miles inland. So we put the house up for sale during the pandemic, sold it in 4 weeks (our area had become trendy and people are willing to pay the price and risks to live in our former town), put everything in storage, and moved inland 33 miles to a little trailer of 567 square that we had as a weekend place while we decide what to do. We are now 21 miles from our daughter and 31 miles from our grandsons. Such relief! No more hurricane evacuations unless it is like a Cat 5, no more required flood insurance, no more being on vacation and finding out a hurricane is coming, it has been great. We did not have to change doctors or dentists. We are now being very deliberate as to what we will do next. You and Brent are in a great place now, but your daughters are so far away. I remember after coming home from Guam (hubby stationed at Marine Barracks) where our daughter was born and going to visit my parents. Being so far away was very hard on them and they actually had kept some details of my Dad’s health from us knowing it was so hard and expensive to get to Florida. Although your daughters are still in school and going to graduate school, there might be a chance of grandchildren and as you know from your son in Japan how much you love to be around them and not so far away. Good luck as you make this decision – life is always changing for sure.

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    1. We are trying to be very, very deliberate about what we do next, which is why we are giving ourselves a good two years before making a decision. We’ll have a better idea then of what the girls will be doing and where, have some more saved, and who knows? We may decide we don’t want to leave Hawaii and are fine with renting. I am grateful that we will have choices.

      The SBP amount when Brett retired was just too much for the return – we had good life insurance and eventually decided not to sign up. It has turned out to be the right choice for us, but know that for others the SBP has been a lifesaver. Funny (well sad, actually) to think though that I could get the same if we got a divorce because I spent so many years as a military spouse and am entitled to a portion of his retirement.

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    1. We are now going to investigate the Carolinas . . . it might be a good choice. Brett’s family is from the state (in the west) so he’s more familiar with it than I am, but I have some family living in the research triangle.

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      1. I read but rarely comment – just thought I’d throw out that we spent 11 years in SC (not even coastal) and finally decided to make the move after having to evacuate or deal with hurricanes in the last five years. Prior to that, we had an occasional storm but nothing – people look at me funny when I say this but after Super Storm Sandy, the weather trajectory shifted in SC. Our normal pattern is to use the house we’ve lived in as a rental – we sold that sucker as soon as we were out because I didn’t want to deal with a tenant having to board up/not. Definitely the right choice as everyone in the neighborhood needed new roofs 2 months after we left when the storm wasn’t even considered a “category “. We thought we had another 10 years that my parents would live independently but my dad fell in November which seems to have shifted their thinking, especially after the Covid year. I’m an only child and am so glad they’re considering this earlier, they don’t need to live “with” us but when they make the choice, we’ll buy a property here with acreage and put either a single level or one of the modular room by room cabins up for them. I’d so much rather move them before they NEED to as it will be easier physically since they’re on the West coast and we’re East right now.

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      2. We would like to live close enough to our kids back east that they could get to us in a reasonable amount of time if needed, but we have no desire to live too close to them. That could change quickly though, as your experience with your parents illustrates. I’m glad we have time to discuss all of this with them, including our son in Japan, to eventually make a good decision. That may mean staying here, which we would love, but that may not be possible if things keep going the way they are now.

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      3. FWIW, New England here, in my area (inland CT)… after Isais people in our town (we got lucky) were out of power for 10+ days!! and it’s not the first time even with smaller storms. If you do decide to go anywhere east coast, make sure their infrastructure is better than ours. Who knew 60 miles from NYC was this out of date!! Between the crazy cost of living and the lack of upgraded services, it’s been quite a learning experience for us! We’ve looked at RTP as well and love Cary, but we’ve got 4.5 years. It’s fun to hear how others think of it!

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      4. Connecticut would be a great location to be closer to our daughters but the taxes (income and property) are outrageous so doubt we will be looking there. A big factor for us is whether Brett’s military retirement gets taxed or not – some states do, others don’t (like Hawaii). Same for Social Security.

        We really had not thought of North Carolina, but are going to give it a look after the comments here.

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      5. It’s amazing how much this Year of Pandemic affected and changed landscape for so many. I certainly don’t look at much in the same light whether it be grocery shopping, travel or even a waiting room. Of course, Washington had closed to inbound travel the day my dad fell so even if our state would have allowed exit, I couldn’t easily get into theirs let alone not wanting to take the chance of bringing them any germs. I took for granted that I’d just hop on a plane if anything like this ever happened and instead we tried to navigate by phone and a 3 hour time difference. I don’t recommend, lol!

        I hope you find somewhere you enjoy settling!

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      6. Same here Shannon. It’s really opened our eyes to a lot of things that we really hadn’t thought about much before. Biggest for us is only getting to see our kids one a year or less – we never imagined that nor how hard it would hit us. I’m glad we have the time to figure out the best solution for all of us as to where we should live going forward. I know the two years is going to fly by.

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  14. What about central N. Carolina, the Raleigh/Cary area? It was be a quick flight, or doable drive to your daughters, tolerable in winter, fairly short drive to beach, or mountains, cheaper than Hawaii, away from major hurricane risk, lots of things to do. etc.

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    1. That’s three now recommending N. Carolina! Sounds like a great location in all honesty. When I think of NC, I immediately thing of the west, where Brett’s family is (Ashville) or the Outer Banks. Raleigh is pretty close to where some of my family lives.

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      1. My cousin, who worked for years for IBM, flew a lot to Asia, and he lived there. I am thinking it would be easy to connect to flights going to Atlanta to West coast and to get to your son in Japan maybe?????

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      2. We thought when we moved here that flights to Japan would cost less and take less time. Nope. Because we have to fly directly to Japan over the ocean versus flying the loop over the north, it takes just as long to get from here to Japan as it did flying from Portland or Seattle. Same for flying from back east – flying the loop over the north shortens the trip. And, we’ve often found better fares on direct flights from Los Angeles, Boston, Atlanta, New York, etc. to Tokyo than from here. Go figure. So, there are lots of places we could relocate and still be able to get somewhat easily to Japan – go figure. As long as weI can get premium economy seats for the long flight we’re good.

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  15. It’s great that you have time to research. Such a weighty decision. When we moved back from California to be near family and in our home state, I really hated the first winter. But since it’s where I grew up, it was easy to reacclimate (as much as I ever will to Jan & Feb – ha!). In non-Covid years, we travel to find the sun about this time and I’m missing that. But I do love the seasons, especially spring and fall. Michigan often looks crazy in the news right now, but there is so much natural beauty here. And more good people than the news would have you believe. 😆 Of course, it’s been great to be within driving distance of our parents as they age and need help.

    As for housing, we had long discussions before we built our detached condo. We lived in a condo before and DH was on the board. He was NOT a fan. But the upkeep of our home – both costs and labor – were getting to us and we both wanted to spend our time differently. While in our previous condo, we learned what we didn’t want, so we hope we’ve avoided most of our biggest complaints. HOA fees are pretty low because the development is new and we don’t anticipate any big bumps in the time we’ll probably live here. Like you, my income will drop if DH dies first, but I will still be OK. And TBH, who knows if I would want to stay here at that point? So much seems to change year to year as we age.

    I agree with others that NC is a beautiful state with a fairly moderate climate. I worked for a company in the western mountains there for quite a while and absolutely loved the countryside as well as Asheville. Of course, with the way the weather if going, who knows what to expect anywhere? While we complain about the “gray season” near the Great Lakes, we don’t have major earthquakes or hurricanes, and we know how to handle snow and ice. And we have water. 🤷‍♀️ Clearly, I’m just a Midwesterner at heart. (Note to Isabella: Minneapolis is a wonderful city! Lucky you!)

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    1. It will be a HUGE decision for us, so we want to get it right no matter what we decide. I am very grateful we have a long time to think about everything that goes into a decision about whether to stay or move, and weigh all the pros and cons before making our decision. We had to relocate here this time very quickly, and I don’t want to do that again.

      No place is ever going to be perfect. We knew about the high cost of living here before we ever came, and have learned how to live comfortably in spite of it, but housing costs here have flat out gotten outrageous. Everyone was expecting a drop in prices because of the pandemic but instead they’ve only gotten worse as people try to escape it back on the mainland, and buy property here.

      Wherever we choose to live, whether that’s here are back on the mainland, it will probably have to be somewhere somewhat near the ocean which of course takes the Midwest out of the equation. I am fine with snow as long as I don’t have to go anywhere like we did in the past (school, work, etc.) but I know we still won’t like it after living here.

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  16. This is such a lovely, supportive community! So many good points in the comments! One thing is certain, island life is not the most economical. But there are other parts that are alluring to regular mortals like us:))

    My husband and I went through a similar process a couple of years ago and we have learned a lot in the process. We thought of moving out of California because of the high cost of living and taxation. I did a lot of research online first and in the summer of 2019, we took a 6 weeks road trip through 4 southern states to investigate in person the selected places ( like you, we wanted to stay out of the snow as much as possible). We found some quaint, lovely places that were affordable: Athens GA, Lake Norman NC, Spartanburg NC, Wilmington NC, Fredericksburg VA to name a few. I still have the spreadsheets of places I selected with state taxes, local taxes, cost of living ( food, utilities, gas, etc) if you’re interested.
    In the process we have learned few things:
    1. Understanding that we couldn’t get everything we wanted forced us to discover what was truly, really important to us.
    2. The best way to understand if a place is a good fit is to try it out for at least 3 months. it is not only about the cost of living but also the local culture that can be a good fit or not.
    3. Willingness to compromise was critical. For instance, rather than paying HOA, I’d rather pay $100/mo for yard service. Or having easy access to an international airport was more important to us than dealing with an inch of snow in the wintertime.
    We eventually chose to stay in California because as we were getting ready to go and try out our final selected place, the news of a new granddaughter broke, which completely change our plans. Sometimes life has a way to show us the right path. So instead of moving out of California, we moved closer to the new parents( my son’s family) and that was the best move for us. Now we get to spend time with her and keep her safe from Covid, which gives us so much joy and peace of mind. I can’t even imagine what would have happened to her/her parents in daycare during this pandemic. Even after the pandemic, we will still be around for when she’ll start school, so we’re looking forward to many years of family closeness if we manage to stay alive. The other two grandkids are almost graduating high school and they’ll move to the Netherlands this summer for an indefinite period of time. So yes, there is always a chance that your girls may move away after you already have moved closer to them, although I think at least one will stay put.

    You have a couple of years to weigh in your options and with your experience with moving and researching, I am sure you’ll find a good place for you that although it may not be right on the East Coast, will be closer to the girls and their future families. And as long as Redfin will still be around, you’ve got a great place to do your research.

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    1. This was wonderful Niculina – thank you. The three points you highlighted are the main ones we are focusing on: what is important to us and what we are willing to compromise. One of the reasons we ended up in Hawaii was that it had everything we were looking for except cost of living, but we figured if that was the only thing (and it was a big one), we could figure out how to deal with it and we did, although now the cost of housing has become a huge issue. I hope we get the opportunity to try out a place if we do decide to go back to the mainland – we know from our travels how being able to stay longer in a place made a difference in how we felt about it – we got to experience more of both the good and the bad.

      I have always been a “house voyeur” and am looking forward to having to (LOL) research real estate in different areas we end up considering.

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  17. Heavens, I knew housing prices on any of the islands are beyond crazy, but an $800 a month HOA, with no cap on top of housing prices that sound more like the Bay area? You don’t have to sell me on the beauty of Kauai, but my humble two cents is to move closer to your kids in a place where you won’t be spending such a big chunk of your income on a house, that requires constant maintenance in that climate and is always at risk of a hurricane or some major natural disaster.

    For the kind of money to buy a piece of property, you could probably spend a few months every year at a resort for the rest of your days and never even approach the down payment for a permanent home.

    One thing you will probably not be able to replicate on the mainland is the Ohana feeling that is such an important part of Hawaiian culture. But, if you are closer to some of your kids, you can create your own family-centric feel.

    This is a tough decision for anyone. It is good you have agreed to take plenty of time to decide what is best for you two.

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    1. Housing prices are absolutely nuts here right now. Everyone though that with COVID and the loss to the local economy that housing prices would drop as people left and more housing became available. What happened though is that people from the mainland wanted the houses because Kaua’i is a safe place so prices climbed as the number of available houses for sale dropped. We have new neighbors next door – they looked at over 100 houses here over a period of time but anything nice was too expensive. They got the house next door because when they saw it three minutes after it appear on the MLS they made a full-price offer. They said they are still pinching themselves that they got it – and the house needs work as well. It’s crazy. We saw one affordable and nice condo where the HOA fee was half again what our mortgage payment would be! Non-stop exterior maintenance, pools, etc. are the big reason for the extremely high HOAs.

      We think if we do end up moving back east we’ll arrange to travel every year January through March!

      Hawaii is a very good fit for us, with the aloha and Ohana feeling a big part of it, but this long period of not being able to see our kids has made us realize it might not be the best place for us long term. We’re thankful to have a plenty of time to figures things out and get it right.

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