Rent versus Own

When Duke and I decided to retire and move out of the San Francisco Bay Area we made the decision to rent a house in Reno as a first step. While we were renting we could sell our house and then do some looking around to decide where we might like to settle. We ended renting a house in Del Webb’s Sierra Canyon development in west Reno. Given where we are in our life renting makes a lot of sense both financially and for flexibility. It is interesting to look at the analysis that we have done of the pros and cons of renting versus owning. (All of these numbers are estimates.)


The Alpine model house next to us is for rent for $1449 per month.


The total cost of owning an Alpine model would be $1816 per month.

  • Homeowners dues are $175 month
  • Last time I looked the Alpine model was selling for $358,000. If you invested $358,000 at a 4% interest rate you can make $1,193 per month, so the cost of tying up your money is $1,193 per month.
  • Taxes are about 1% which is $298 per month
  • insurance at about $100 per month
  • maintenance at $50 per month

Other considerations

  • As renters we have no guarantee that the owner won’t go into foreclosure or decide that he wants us to move out of his house.
  • Renting means we can’t do the things we would like to do to make the house more to our liking. That includes things like hardwood floors, different colored walls, and landscaping more to our liking.
  • Renting means we don’t bear the earthquake risk. If the house was destroyed in an earthquake we could just walk away.
  • Renting allows us to try out living in this kind of a community without making a long term commitment.
  • Renting means we will lose out on any future  increase or decrease of the price of the houses in this area.
  • If we decide to move on we don’t need to go through the hassle of selling the house.

What its like to live at Sierra Canyon by Del Webb

A couple of times I have received emails from people who are thinking about moving to Reno. They have read my blog and are wondering what it is like to live in a 55 and over community like Del Webb’s Sierra Canyon. Recently someone asked me the following.

"We also thought about living in a retirement community but felt it may be full of
really old people and lifeless. Can you tell me more of your experiences of
retirement living in Reno and at Del Webb?"

I thought others might find my response to him interesting so here it is.

"Thanks so much for your email and kind comments about my blog.

When I told my girls that we were moving to a Del Webb community they
were horrified that we would move to a place for "old people". Before we moved here we could never see ourselves living in an active adult community. But when we started looking for a place to live in Reno Sierra Canyon seemed like a good place to live since the houses are very nice and the rents are so reasonable.

We moved last July and it has been a great experience. I am sure there
are lots of old sedentary people here but the people we have met have been
just the opposite. If you have  looked at my blog you have probably seen all
the hikes the hiking group takes. We have a lot of fun. The people in the group are really great, interesting, active people that I have enjoyed getting to know. In addition to hiking Sierra Canyon has lots of other activities

The gym always has people in it working out and I really love the yoga
class. There are also Pilates classes, water aerobics classes, dance classes and lots more.

The people in our neighborhood organized a wine walk last week. We each chipped in $10. Thirty of us visited 8 houses (including ours) and
tasted wine. It lasted from 1 until 4. Anyone visiting the neighborhood at 1
on Saturday would have been surprised to see people coming out of houses
all at the same time carrying wine glasses. We met a lot of new people and had
a lot of fun.

I want to join the bridge group
and my husband and I often play pool. There was a tournament last Saturday.
I hear that the photography group is great and the several of the people
we hike with are in the book club.

The very best part about living here has been the people. I have never lived any place where it is so easy to get to know your neighbors. I mentioned this to a friend in the hiking group Monday and she said most people who move here tend to be social outgoing people.  I think that is true.

The down sides of living here are that you do pay homeowners dues
(actually our landlord does) and the homeowners association is pretty strict
about what you can and cannot do with your house. Of course this does protect
home values.

My husband and I chose Reno because we wanted to live some place
cheaper than California and Reno was a convenient place to rent while we waited
for our house to sell. We haven’t decided whether we will settle here permanently but we are seriously considering it. Reno has been a very pleasant surprise. It is a beautiful setting and there is sure a lot to
do. Some of the people we hike with volunteer at the art museum. The museum sounds wonderful and working there sounds like fun so I want to check
it out.

If you have any other questions please let me know."




Duke and I are going out to dinner to celebrate tonight. Our house in Union City is sold! The sale of our house is a classic example of how prices in the San Francisco Bay Area have gone down. It was on the market for four months. This was our first offer and the house sold for $165,000 less than what a house like ours in our development sold for back in November of 2005….. Oh well, that is history and we have our money. We are happy.

There are a couple of other interesting parts of the experience.

  • People always tell you how important it is to have fresh paint, new carpet and staging, all of which we did. It turns out that none of that mattered. The buyers were in escrow for a house like ours. They were offering less than the loan on that house and the bank was dragging out the closing process. Our buyers were in a hurry and decided not to buy the other house. They are from Los Angeles and bought our house without ever looking at it! We closed in less than 2 weeks. Can you believe it.
  • You might think that once you move your personal possessions out of your house the cost of the homeowners insurance might go down. You would be wrong. As soon as we changed our mailing address our insurance company canceled our insurance. We had a terrible time finding someone who would sell us insurance on a house that no one was living in. We had been paying $1,800 for 12 months of homeowners insurance. The new insurance cost us $4,800 for six months!

My first year of retirement

I just passed the one year anniversary of my retirement so I thought it would be worth looking at what I said I would be doing when I retired and comparing it to what has happened. It has been a quite a year with lots of ups and downs. Back when I decided to retire I wrote a blog entry about the things I wanted to do. I’m including exerts from it here with comments about how things have turned out.

from  the bog about my plans….. "My career has certainly been a big part of how I define myself. In
fact during hard times in my life my success at work greatly helped my
self esteem. But at this point in my life I have lots of joys and
interests outside of work and I really don’t think I’ll have too much
trouble adjusting. And retiring now doesn’t necessarily mean I’ll never
work again. It just means I’m quitting for now."

I haven’t missed work at all. I love working for me. I love having my life to myself. I’ll never say never, but I really can’t see myself ever working for someone else again. I’m having too much fun.

Here is the list of things I said I wanted to do with my retirement. I’ve put comments after each one with my observations about what has really happened.

" 1. Spend more time with my Husband, my Daughters, my new Grandson,
my family and my friends. There never seems to be enough time and now
I’m hoping there will be."

I have certainly done some of this especially when I was still living in the Bay Area but one of the down sides of moving to Reno has been that I don’t see enough of the family and friend we left behind and I really do miss them. Moving out of expensive California was part of the financial strategy that allowed me to retire at age 54. I love Reno and the new friends I am making  here but the down side is definitely missing my family and friends in California.

"2. Exercise more regularly – weight lifting and  walking. "

It is certainly easier to find the time to exercise without work getting in the way. I haven’t been lifting weights but I have started yoga (I really love it!) and I have been swimming and of course doing a lot of hiking. The hiking has been awesome. The Sierra canyon Hiking Group  and the wonderful hiking opportunities around Reno have made hiking one of the very best things about retirement and moving.

" 3. Sell our house and move. We don’t know where but exploring the
possibilities will be a big part of the agenda for the next few years.

We put our house on the market but unfortunately we did it in about the worst market for selling a house that I can remember. I don’t want to jinx things but there may be light at the end of the tunnel on this front. The move we did. Since July we have lived in Reno. I love it here. Reno is much better then I ever expected. It is so nice to live in a smaller town with lots of amenities but less traffic and lots of fun places to explore and things to do. I wasn’t sure about living in a Del Webb over 55 community but that has also exceeded expectations. We have met so many wonderful people and are having so much fun!

" 4. Improve my piano playing skills. I’ve taken lessons for the last
several years and I am looking forward to having more time to practice.

I did this until we moved. Then I gave away the piano with the idea that I would get a new one once we settled some place. So far it hasn’t happened. I haven’t touched a piano since mid June. I do miss it but I’m still debating whether I want to start playing again. I have very little talent and after all these years am still not a good piano player. But I do enjoy it. I play only for me and I probably will again some day but for now I am focusing on other things.

" 5. Blogging – I want to get to the point where I blog about
interesting things every day. I want to improve my writing and blogging
skills and I think the best way to do that is to just do it regularly.
I also want to redesign my blog and explore some of the technology I’ve
gotten behind on since I started my current job.

I guess it goes without saying I am still blogging. I really do love it. I’m still figuring out how to be interesting, how to improve my writing skills and how to improve my blog.  I still need to get better about blogging regularly and I still want to do some redesign and focus. My blogging like my life is a work in progress.

" 6. Travel – I’m looking forward to taking some long trips both within
the US and abroad. Duke and I have talked about spending several months
in Spain or Portugal or Australia or any of a whole list of other
places. The idea is that if we rented a place and really explored an
area then friends and family could come visit while we were there."

We have done some traveling. Our month long driving trip through Mexico last January was awesome. it verified for me how much I love traveling. Since then life has precluded any more travel for fun. I think once we sell the house this may change. I hope so.

" 7. Gardening – This is one of those things I’ve always thought I would like to do more of. We shall see. "

Other than helping Duke work on our yard in Union City this hasn’t happened. It is one of the things that will be difficult to do in Reno’s desert climate so this may be off the list. Time will tell.

" 8. Hiking – My goal is to do at least one long hike a week. "

Since moving to Reno and joining the Sierra Canyon hiking group I have been hiking twice a week and loving it. It certainly takes time and I didn’t hike very much when I worked. Now that I have the time it is awesome to explore all the beautiful places to hike especially in the Sierras west of Reno.

" 9. Financial Planning – I’m hoping to do what it takes to complete the practical experience for my Certified Financial Planning certification.
I’m still exploring how I will do this and then there is the question
of how I will use the CFP once I get it. I’ve got lots of ideas to

It seems like a real pity to waste the time and effort I put into taking all the classes and studying for and passing the CFP certification exam but the time allowed to get the necessary practical experience has almost passed and this is something I just don’t think I want to do any more. It is too much like work. I learned a lot and I enjoyed the process but I think this is off my list.

" 10. Guitar – I keep thinking I’d like to start taking guitar lessons again."

I’ve done nothing about this. It is still on the maybe someday list.

" 11. Read – I love to read. "

I have done a lot of reading but I always want to do more. One cool side benefit is that I have received review copies of a DK book about Lincoln and a DK book of world history and have written reviews. I’ve also decided to read a book about each of the U.S. presidents.

"12. Programming – I haven’t done it in many years but my degree is in
Computer Science and for a long time I’ve been intrigued with the idea
of working on an open source project."

I haven’t touch this goal but this is something I am still determined to do. I think I need to determine what my first step should be.

New things I am adding to my list to possibly explore now that I am a year into my retirement include the following.

  • Perhaps start volunteering at the Nevada Museum of art
  • Learn to speak Spanish
  • Become an amateur historian
  • Knitting
  • Geneology

My Mother’s death was the one terribly low point for this year. I miss her. But other than her death it has been a good year and I am looking forward to my second year of retirement and to continuing to explore my goals and interests.

A Great House in Union City – For Sale in a Buyer’s Market

We picked a really bad time to try to sell our house. Sales of existing homes fell 4.3% nationwide in August and
San Francisco Bay Area house and condominium sales fell 25% to the lowest for an August in 15 years. I think our house is a great examples of the slump. We have priced it very competitively at more than 10% less than what similar houses were selling for a year ago but our agent says that nobody is even looking right now. It sure seems like a great time for someone to get a great deal. I am not worried because I know that in the long run it will sell and even at these lower prices we will still make a nice profit but still…..

You can see pictures of the house on our listing. We were down in the bay area Tuesday to see family
and do some yard work at the house.

I planted some more flowers. It was a picture perfect bay area day to be working in the garden.


Health Insurance and Living in a Small Town

A good friend of mine is fighting a battle with throat cancer. HD (I’m used to calling him Dieter) and his wife Una moved to a small Oregon town in 2002 after they retired. The other day Dieter sent me an email telling me the bad news about his health. He also gave me some really useful information about their experiences with medical insurance. HD and Una have been roll models for what I want to do in retirement. I regularly follow their web site.  I really value and appreciate their advice. I asked and he said I could include a portion of his email here.

"Hello Marion,

I just read you latest blog, and I had to write to you with, what I
think is, a very important issue in your retirement.  And that is
health care.

Unfortunately right now I am battling throat cancer,  am in chemo and
radiation treatment. It was diagnosed early February, had surgery in
Portland at OHSU (the university hospital there) and now they are
mopping up after it with the other stuff.  Something I have to go
through. Wish me luck!

But the reason I write to you is the fact that health care in a small
town is a *BIG* issue (at least for us it is).  Depending on your
insurance type and willingness to pay a lot, it may be very difficult
to find doctors and facilities that work with your insurance company.
Una is fighting a brave and big battle with our insurance (their name
is xxxxx and they work through a Dr. network called xxxxxx).
They have strange ideas as to what is reasonable for a patient (i.e.,
going almost 2 hours one way to receive daily radiation, luckily we
talked them out of that nonsense and are having it in town).  Also
finding doctors in a small town may a problem, i.e., there is no ENT
doctor taking our insurance list. – Also, when we moved from California
to Oregon, we learned that the company we had then, did NOT operate in
Oregon, so insurance is not necessarily transferable to another state.
Just a few things to let you know. 

Best Wishes to your upcoming move and the prep work for it.
Take care,

HD (aka Dieter) and Una"

HD asked me to xxx out the insurance company name since they have to keep working with them. His email really struck a chord with me. I have read advice like this before but I usually skip right over it because I figure we are too young to have to worry about this kind of thing. But of course that is ridiculous. Anyone can need medical care at any age and when you need it it is too late to move somewhere else.

Duke and I currently have Kaiser HMO  for our insurance. We buy it through Intuit Cobra.We have been happy with Kaiser but It looks like it is not available available in Nevada. Since we will be right over the border form California we were thinking we would keep it at least until the Cobra runs out. But given Dieter’s email I am going to do some more research. When the Cobra runs out we will probably get a high deductible insurance with a Health Savings Account.  I’ll keep you posted.

Travels and Getting the House Ready to Sell

On April 17 Duke finished his first tax season working for H&R Block. Since then we shifted into high gear in our drive to get our house ready to sell so that we can move. We have lots of other stuff going on too.

One of my daughters was moving so last Saturday morning we helped her transfer a load of furniture to her new place and then we headed towards LA. Duke’s girls’ choir had a recital and one of the girls had a solo. The recital was great and the solo (her first time singing in public) was very impressive.

After the recital on Sunday night we drove to Escondido to my parent’s house. Monday morning we took Mom to have an MRI and an EEG. Mom goes back to her doctor this coming Friday. My sister Barbara and her husband will be with her for that. We are hoping to get a better diagnosis for the cause of her Parkinsonsisms.

On Wednesday we drove from Escondido to Reno. It always seems odd to me that Reno is essentially due north of San Diego. The road goes east of LA and then straight for many mile right past Edward’s Air Force base and up the East side of the Sierras. The mountains are beautiful. I climbed Mt Whitney 9 years ago so It was fun to go through Whitney Portal again.

On Thursday in Reno we had lunch with my Mom’s brother and his wife. Then we looked at a few apartments. Our plan is to get our house up for sale and then rent a place in Reno to use as a home base while we decide where we want to move for the next stage of our lives.

We looked at several places and think we will rent a house in a Del Webb Active Adult community, for people 55 or better. (Duke just turned 55 and I will turn 55 this summer). For less rent than they were asking for the apartments that we liked we can have a new house with a two car garage and use of the club house with indoor pool and walking track. I don’t think it is the kind of place we want to live in eventually but it should be perfect for the next year. It will be right around 240 miles from the old house to the new house.

The list of things we want to do before we sell the house is long. Before we left last week we painted our bonus room and now we are laying solid oak hardwood on th floor. Next we will lay porcelain tile in our laundry room and in the one bathroom that still doesn’t have it. Next we will get scaffolding and paint the walls and ceiling of the living room with the 24 foot ceiling. Those are just the first 3 big items on the list. In the next month we will also be helping Duke’s girls move and helping my parents move from the assisted living place back to their house.

June 10 is our target to have the house on the market so May is going to be a very busy month!


Selling Books

I love books and reading!  I always have. When I was young I wanted to grow up and be a librarian. Bookcases_2
When I look at a book I often remember when I read it, what was going on in my life and how the book made me feel. For the books I haven’t read yet I like to remember how I acquired them. I enjoy savoring the anticipation of reading them someday.

Since we’ve decided to sell our house and move, it makes sense to get rid of some of my books. When I made this decision I had 8 big bookcases overflowing with books and several boxes of books in the garage. I’m selling a bunch but of course I’m keeping all my favorites.

Over the past year I have been culling out the books I don’t want to keep. On April 17 of last year I started selling books on Amazon. So far I’ve sold 167 books. After fees and postage I’ve cleared $384. Listing the books, packaging them and taking them to the post office takes time and It certainly is not going to make me rich but I am enjoying it. Plus, trying to sell the books makes the process of parting with them easier. Currently I have about  260 books for sale on Amazon.

For books that are too old to sell on Amazon I am selling them on EBay. Currently I have several books about books for sale on Ebay. I’m selling other stuff on EBay too. I’m always surprised what sells and what doesn’t and for how much.

I’m selling stuff on craigslist too. I don’t sell books there, usually only bigger stuff.

Often books don’t sell. When that happens I give them to charity. By then I’ve broken my attachment to them and I’m able to let them go.

Update 5/1/2007 – The sales on Bay have ended. I am still selling stuff on EBay sometimes. My user name is ruthie730 if you want to see if I have anything currently. Here is a list of the books I sold and the selling prices:

$6.60 – Books and Collectors by Maurice Dunbar
$.99 – Dans Ces Bras

$.99 – French Little Women

$5.76 – A box of 13 Nora Roberts Paperbacks

$71.00 – Complete 21 volume set – The Annals of America
** note: I may have to refund this one because the post office seems to have lost one of the boxes I shipped.

$1.80 -The Book of the Month – Sixty Years of Books in American Life edited by Al Silverman
$5.00 – Prince of Forgers
by Emile Mabille, Henri Leonard Bordier, Joseph Rosenblum
$3.37 – Prince of Librarians, Life & Times of Antonio Panizzi by Edward Miller
$2.60 – Slightly Chipped
by Lawrence and Nancy Goldstone
$1.80 – The Joy of Books
by Eric Burns
$11.98 – 18 different back issues of Biblio Magazine
$1.00 – The Bookman’s London by Frank Swinnerton
$6.23 – Penny Wise and Book Foolish by Vincent Starrett
$17.50 – Two A E Newton books about book collecting

$3.25 – Dukedom Large Enough – Reminiscences of a Rare Book Dealer  1929-1956 by David A.
$11.51 – Hooked on Books
by Maurice Dunbar
$12.55 – Infinite Riches – The Adventures of a Rare Book Dealer by David Magee
$11.44 – Sunwise Turn – a Human Comedy of Bookselling by Madge Jenison
$4.24 – Great Books and Book Collectors by Alan G. Thomas

One of the good things about retirement

One of the lovely things about being retired is that for the first time in my life my daily schedule and agenda are under my control. My days were externally driven in childhood, in school, at  work, and then parenthood. Now I decide what I am going to do every day. I decide what is important and what isn’t. It is up to me! I absolutely cherish this freedom.

So, for example, last Tuesday I drove to Sunnyvale and had breakfast with a friend before taking her to the San Jose airport for her flight. Then back to Sunnyvale where I caught Cal Train to San Francisco for lunch with Allison.  The train service on the the San Francisco peninsula is wonderful and the scenery is great too. I walked to Allison’s office. It was a beautiful warm sunny day (rare for San Francisco). After we ate our sandwiches we sat in Yerba Buena park and talked before she had to go back to work. Then I walked back to the train and took it back to Sunnyvale.

My friend Linda’s house is near the train station. She I went out for dinner before our book club meeting. The book club book was Any Bitter Thing by Monica Wood. It was a wonderful very enjoyable book. I liked that it was well developed. The characters were very believable and it had a thought provoking and satisfying ending.

Tuesday was a perfect day partly at least because I was doing things I wanted to do.

The Subject of My Blog – Retiring, moving, and downsizing

You should pick a subject for your blog, is something you usually find included in advice about how to start a blog. I’ve always resisted having a subject for this blog because I
want to talk here about all the varied things that I find interesting.  I think not having a specific subject tends to limit my readership to a smaller
group of people. I always say that I’m blogging because I like blogging, not to build a big readership but I have to admit I do look at readership statistics. 

For the next several months a big focus of this blog will be all the life changes that we are making. As you know Duke and I each retired last year. Our plan is to sell the house, move into temporary quarters (probably in the Reno area), and then spend the next several months traveling around looking for a place to settle down for the next phase of our life. I’m very excited about the adventure and will be sharing a lot about it here.

We won’t be selling the house until early summer but I’m starting to get ready now. The trim around many of the windows needs replacing and we’ve hired a guy to do that. I’ve been selling some of my books on and donating the ones that don’t sell. I’ve also been selling some odds and ends on Craigslist. The goal is to trim down our possessions and get organized.

Even though I will continue to talk about lots of different things on this blog, a reoccurring theme for the next several months will be downsizing, searching for a new place to live and finally moving and settling in. Of course I’ll be sure to keep you up to date on all the adventures along the way.