Friday, May 9, 2008

Preparing to Leave - The House

One of our biggest hurdles to cruising centers around tying up all the land-based loose ends, while trying to get the boat prepared for the cruise. It seems most people we read about in the cruising rags leave with the intention of not returning to their land based existence in the foreseeable future. They sell their house, cars and all their material possessions and go sailing. Having invested both financial and sweat equity into our San Diego house and given its' proximity to both the bay and ocean, we're reluctant to give it up. Our plan is to lease it out for a year, while we try out the cruising lifestyle.

Leasing out the house entails a plethora of details to consider. Given the shaky real estate market of 2008 and our inexperience with rentals, we have much to consider and even more to learn. There is the issue of market value coupled with the expenses associated with servicing the mortgage, insurance and property taxes. Should we try to lease it furnished and, if not, what furniture should we keep and how much will it cost for storage. There is the question of property management and addressing unforeseen maintenance issues that may arise during our absence. There is also the detail regarding bill payment, income management, taxes and critical mail that might require our attention. All the while, boat preparation and outfitting remains to be completed. The advantages and freedom of selling one's house is becoming clear.

Given our modest (by today's standards) mortgage payment, figuring the market value versus the cost of leasing becomes one of the least difficult tasks. Looking at comparable properties in the community and factoring in all the costs (mortgage, insurance, taxes, and gardening), leasing the house for in the mid-two thousand a month should provide a small cushion for any emergency repairs that may be required in our absence.

Bill payment and income management will be handled automatically with on-line communications with our brokerage and banking contacts. We'll likely have to open a post-office box to receive tax and other critical snail-mail information. Any small income streams will be also be dealt with electronically and managed between our financial institutions.

Our neighbor has agreed to be the responsible contact for the monthly management of our home and to be the contact for any emergency work that may arise. We will also discuss having another good friend or one of our daughters to be co-holder of the post-office box and have them screen mail received for any items that may require immediate attention.

Leasing the house with or without the furnishings is another dilemma. The easiest approach would be to lease the house furnished and accept the wear and tear on our already lived in furniture. Leasing the house unfurnished raises the problem of furniture storage and the associated costs. This is an issue that will be addressed as we identify the family who is interested in assuming the lease.

House preparations have included installation of upscale wooden closet organizers in both of the smaller bedrooms, as well as a more deluxe version with storage drawers in the master bedroom walk-in closet. Much of the interior and all of the exterior of the house will be repainted prior to leasing. All those small improvement projects that have been put off will be complete prior to our departure.

One of the biggest headaches will be the disposition of the 1974 Series III Land Rover occupying valuable space in the garage. While it's has a nearly pristine body, new brakes and drums, it does require new tires; bleeding the clutch slave cylinder; new window weather stripping along the left side; and, having the engine smog tested before it can be sold. Otherwise, donating it is the other option. In either case, it's one more project to be completed prior to leasing out the house. Time will determine our success in handling all the house projects prior to our departure. Ideally, all will be completed before summers end. The more pressing list will be the boat work that still requires to be finished to insure a safe and seaworth craft ready for our cruise. More on that in another post...

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