Friends, don’t let me do this again! I haven’t even been in Grand Lake for a full two weeks and was close to buying a home here. I knew this would happen.
Late Friday morning I was working away at my computer when I glanced out the window. I saw a For Sale sign out front with an arrow pointing in my direction. Last week I met the guy who rents out the unit directly adjacent to mine and he mentioned the owner was probably going to sell.
“I’m not going to look. I’m not going to look!” Well, that thought lasted a whole 30 seconds. I found the listing online and it went on the market only a few hours ago. An open house was starting in 15 minutes.
“Focus on work! Don’t walk over there!” Silly brain, of course I’m going there. When I got here on May 2 it was less than 24 hours before I already decided I could spend the rest of my life here. Maybe this is it!
I slipped on my shoes and walked 10 paces to the open house. The realtor was getting things prepped but welcomed me in. I quickly told her what I’m up to—sold my Minnesota house, love the idea of moving to Colorado but am not 100% sold, so I’m traveling the country for a year to see where else I might want to call home. And I happen to be renting the place next door.
It was strange being in a place with the same layout as mine but all different stuff. I quickly toured the place, noting the small differences. Their view is of the fishing pond out back, stocked by the association and where moose are often seen. (Though, besides the two that crossed the road in front of me the other day, I haven’t seen any yet.)
We reviewed the listing and all the financial details. I couldn’t believe the listing price. It was almost too good to be true. And the taxes are only $400 per year?! How is that even possible? I know the place is only about 500 square feet, but that seems cheap for Colorado. What’s the catch?
The renters who are there now would love to stay until their lease ends on September 30 and would be happy to sign another lease. Do I buy this as an investment property and place to stay when I want to be in Colorado? I’d be happy to let them stay until their lease ends and then perhaps I’ll turn it into an Airbnb while I’m still traveling the country! I must have said some of these thoughts out loud to the realtor. I mentioned that I’m a freelance web designer and she said she could possibly use some help with her website, so we exchanged business cards.
Getting lost in my thoughts again
I thanked her for letting me crash the open house a little early and went back to my computer. Of course, my brain was already going 100 MPH. So much for getting any more work done. I immediately had 10 tabs open—mortgage calculators, Colorado income tax and property tax rates, and recent listings in the development to see how much they sold for.
The parking lot for my building is right in front of my place, so I could see all the people who showed up for the open house. Ok, I’ve gotta act fast here. I know it’s a sellers’ market nationwide and this place—like pretty much everywhere—is going to sell quickly.
When I figured no one else was there, I headed back to talk to the realtor. “Eric, come in! Sit down on the couch. What’s on your mind?” She could read me like a book.
“This association allows long-term stays. What does that mean? Do you know how much the current renters pay?” She answered all my questions and mentioned the other two units for sale in this development. She called the selling agents to see if we could get in to see them after she wrapped up the open house. Yes, that would be fine.
It probably goes without saying, but each time I was back at my computer and phone I was texting family and friends with this wild idea. “Are you sure? It’s only been a couple of weeks on your ‘year-long adventure’ and you’re settling down already?!” was basically the universal response.
The realtor and I looked at the other units—again, same layouts but different flooring, cupboards, counters, etc.—yet at massively different prices. One of them was $75,000 more than the unit I was considering. Again, what’s the catch? They all had great views, though facing at different angles.
The realtor and I had a few minutes between viewings, and I asked about the area’s restaurants and attractions. I mentioned it was a bit difficult finding current information on people’s websites. “Oh yeah, everyone’s websites around here suck.” Interesting.
I said goodbye to the realtor and said I’d be in touch. “Based on recent sales, this place will be gone in a few days.” Ok, got it.
Dreaming about being a Grand Lake local
What do I do?! I hopped in my car to get some fresh air and drive around town, thinking how it would be if I was a resident. My thoughts were all over the place. “It’s a no-brainer. The finances make sense. I’ll let the renters stay a bit, make money, and then this will be my home when I’m not traveling. When I’m traveling or back home in Minnesota visiting family and friends, I’ll make money!” I was already daydreaming about becoming the local web designer, helping the restaurants and tourist attractions with their sites and marketing.
I parked on the main street in town. (Grand Avenue in Grand Lake, which is on Grand Lake and in Grand County. Ain’t it grand?) “I’ll distract myself with some gift shops. What is happening to me? I’m not even a gift shop person.”
The first place I stopped in was a lovely little shop that sold authentic Indian jewelry and fine gifts. It smelled of a rustic cabin with a fire going. I met the owners and told them my story. (Who am I?! I’ve been blabbing my story to strangers almost every day.) The woman was from Texas and spends six months a year in Grand Lake running the shop during the busy season. She told me this is not the place to live. “There’s nothing to do! The winters are terrible! Do not buy a place here!” Her business partner, a local for decades, told me of course this is the perfect place to live, and I’ll love everything about it.
He said I should immediately get in my car and go to Adam’s Falls, part of the Rocky Mountain National Park, with the trailhead on the edge of town. It’s only a short 0.3-mile hike to the falls. Late in the afternoon, after all the morning snow melts from the mountaintops, the falls are really rushing.
He was right. Climbing up into the mountains to check out Adam’s Falls was just what my brain needed. It was so gorgeous. I took a lot of photos and will post them soon. I’m definitely going back to get more photos when there’s even more blue sky.
At the falls I had the perfect view of Grand Lake from above. That’s it, I need to move here! I was texting my aunt the whole time and we agreed this all makes sense. I was so giddy.
A much-needed reality check
I got back to my place and decided I’d try to accidentally run into the couple who rents the place to get their insight. As they both arrived home from work, I confronted them on my front deck.
Thankfully, they brought me back down to Earth. The unit faces northwest. It gets very little sun. The walls are paper-thin. The insulation is terrible, and the place is freezing all winter long. The roof design is stupid and all the snow melts into a giant ice dam on the deck for months each year. Because these units have radiant heat, the electrical bills are enormous. All their issues with the place were like my townhome in Minnesota.
They kept apologizing because they could see my hopes and dreams being crushed. I kept assuring them this is exactly why I wanted to talk to them—the people who are currently living in the place I was considering buying.
I thanked them for their time and wrote back to the family and friends I reached out to that this wasn’t the right opportunity. Plus, what was I thinking? Eric Gets Lost for two weeks only? I gotta stick with this adventure plan!
So, friends. The bottom line is I know this is going to happen again. I immediately fall in love with pretty much everywhere I travel. That means I need to travel more, not consider moving to every single place I visit.
Next time this happens, talk me out of it! I know deep down I’m not ready to settle in a new place yet. The freedom of not having a house payment is exhilarating. This travel adventure, with so much intentionally unknown, is still intriguing.
But maybe I should buy this place in Grand Lake? 🤪