Land, lotsa land
By penniless Emmet
It seemed like such a good idea at the time.
I make an annual pilgrimage to Florida both to worship the mighty Red Sox and to bake the cold out of these old bones. It must have been five years ago when I succumbed. At every gas station, restaurant, Hooters and the ball park, everyone (I do mean everyone) talked about the land boom and how they doubled their money every year. It could not fail.
The headline in the Tampa newspaper said “Buy a condo. Buy a house. Buy land, but buy something!” Being penniless all my life, I saw a chance to make some money, pay off Cobb Manor and live like a king for the few years I have left. I went to the bank. They took a look at the equity in Cobb Manor (purchased for $38,000) and said “How much do you need?”
It wasn’t easy, after racing to a number of offerings around the Tampa area, only to find that they were sold even before the listings hit the newspapers. The market was red hot. Finally, we found half- acre lots for sale in the Royal Highlands area. There was such a boom expected that they built a new school and a new supermarket to cater to the new people.
I am too embarrassed to admit how much I paid for a lousy half-acre in the Scottish Highlands. Let’s just say I could have bought a new Porsche and had money left over.
My Cousin Jerry a man wise beyond his years (He is older than I am), said “You are Irish, idiot. Do you really think you are going to make money on real estate? Be serious.” Attorney Paul Gibbons, one of the wisest men I have ever met (and a fine windsurfer) said “Buying land unseen in Florida? Have you lost your mind?”
If there is one thing I have accomplished in this long and dreary life, it has been to avoid good advice, whenever it is offered. I pulled the real estate trigger. I figured I would hang on for a year or two, then sell and pay off Cobb Manor.
There was a close call a few years ago. The power company had plans for a new atomic power plant, just a few miles north of the Great Catastrophe. They sent a letter indicating that they would need my land to close the deal. Naturally they would pay me 2.5 times the land value. Then they checked again and found that I was something like 25 feet away from their desired power line path. Cousin Jerry was right again, unfortunately.
Luck of the Irish.
Once they built the supermarket and the huge high school, we sat back and waited for the land boom. We are still waiting. Now, we have paid five or six years of property taxes on top of the bank finance charges. The land is now worth 10 percent of what we paid for it. It is going nowhere.
Oh, there has been some interest. One guy offered to buy the land by paying a year’s property tax. No thanks. Not yet.
This week, I got some mail from Florida, just in time for Christmas. This is never a good thing. It wasn’t a Christmas card. It seems that the few settlers in the Royal Highlands area are sick of all the dust from their limestone roads. They have petitioned the country to pave the entire area. Naturally, that will raise the value of the Great Catastrophe. But paving is expensive. They are only guessing so far, but they figure every lot will be assessed around $5,500 for the paving job.
$5,500. I would be happy to sell the Great Catastrophe for $5,500.
Anybody was to buy some Florida land, sight unseen? It will have a new paved road.
I should have bought a Porsche. I hate it when Cousin Jerry is right.