How $1500 saved me 2 million dollars

I recently fell in love with the concept of buying a beach house.

A place right on the coastline with endless ocean views and the sound of crashing waves while I slept. As a woman who grew up in Corona Del Mar, the beach house concept has been firmly ingrained into my DNA makeup as something that will inevitably happen. I thought I had found the spot. Property description read, “Beach house right on cliff that is currently a “very popular” vacation rental”. The investor in me squealed in delight as I could have my beach house and have other people pay my mortgage. Win win!! This would be easy to qualify for and the down payment was sitting in my bank making a laughable interest rate. Thanks for the 1.25% interest lolzzzzz. Perfect!!!!

I had only seen the listing photos but not the actual house as the house itself was ALWAYS booked. It must be because it is sooo amazing! After weeks of fantasizing about my beach house future and waiting to see the house I finally got impatient and booked it for two nights I had already decorated it in my head, selected the furniture online and put together a plan to make it a more 5 star vacation rental. I had selected the Frette linens (on sale at Gilt), Molton Brown bath products, the fluffiest duvets in the world and Restoration Hardware (member discount logged in!) was ready to go. It was going to be amazing!

Yes, I was going to have to pay $1500 to see this house but since it was already my house in my head it made sense because then I could take advantage of “Black Friday” sales and verify the sizing for my furniture. It was time to spend a night in my “dream home.”

My friend, Kristina and her adorable daughter Hattie came along as what is a few beach days without some friends? My son was with me as well and my Dad was driving up as well so we could have a BBQ. Already my family fun time was beginning. Beach life truly is the best life.

Here are the pictures of our arrival. Dreamy right?

See the glow of happiness in my eyes?
My kid is for once not on his iphone.
This is perfection. I am never leaving.

After gazing at the view it was time to really check out the house. It started with the deck out of one of the bedrooms, “this feels slanted right Jack?” Jack’s response was a “ehh whatever”. He is 13, so I am not sure why I expected him to care or take a view but it is always worth a try. I then looked at the chimney that was not working and upon discovery noticed the entire side was cracked. And yes, it was right by the slanted deck. That whole side of the house was…. moving? No, no way, not my dream house! I mentally wrote the purchase offer in my head and agreed with myself to get a structural engineer to come out to just stamp that everything was OK. I was sure that deck was not slanted and it was just me. Look at the view….

As I had calmed myself down and gazed at the view I heard from Kristina’s room “hey Jen….I think this room has mold……” I came up and yes the room smelled very odd but it must been because the windows had not been opened. True, Kristina is one the best realtors I know and can spot a problem better than anyone else but she MUST be wrong. Look at the view… I opened the windows and then rushed downstairs to answer the door as my Dad and Karen had just arrived. I did almost trip as there are three flights of stairs in a labyrinth like pattern to get to the door, but that is just fun beach life exercise. I was going to be ripped after spending more time here! YAY BBQ time! My Dad is an attorney but as he is a man I assumed he would be able to weigh out this potential mold smell. I asked my Dad to come check out that room to see what he thought of the smell. “Smells like something is dead in the walls, maybe a rat….?” Well he is an attorney so…. Karen confirmed she also felt something was dead in the walls. Ugh! Ok, well maybe that room needs some work as well as all the bathrooms that had not been touched since the home was built in 1968. But LOOK at that view.

Wine and dinner here we come. Yeah about that…..The kitchen could not fit more then one person at a time, the stove was an original with no way to read the temperature, so we winged it. Beach life is so fun and unpredictable! Cooking was a big laugh and lots of fun until we realized we had ants in our dinner. Yes, ants in our dinner. The kitchen had ants. OK, new appliances exterminator, bust out this wall, new bathrooms and make a master ensuite, fix the deck and the chimney, tear open the wall in the stinky bedroom….

“Mom? “

“Yeah baby what’s up.”

“uhhh you should look at this…”

My dad seeing I was dealing with the ants went with Jack instead. The floors in the living room were buckled because the windows had been leaking for god knows how long and still were…. But the view………………………………………………………

Ok, new appliances, exterminator, bust out this wall, new bathrooms and make a master ensuite, fix the deck and the chimney, tear open the wall in the stinky bedroom, new flooring, new windows, tear into and replace walls where leaks were….

But the view…………………………………………………….

After my Dad left, Kristina and I sat down and went through the list. Due to the floor plan even after all the work it would still be funky and the house was literally 5 feet from the edge of an cliff with no reinforcement so….

That night we were all scared to sleep. The house got weirder and weirder as the night went on. We would open a closet and see there was an entrance to another place that went nowhere and smells and sounds… and every window I looked at was past its lifespan and busted. I actually tried to convince my son to sleep in my room…because I was scared…. I was scared for my money and I was scared something in the walls would come out.

We left at 6am after the first night.
We never came back and never will come back. The dream is dead. I love a great view and the romance of a beach lifestyle but I love and respect my money far too much to get my family into a money pit.

$1500 to test out the house saved me a 1.2 purchase price and a 800,000+ remodel that would never end and once it did, the house probably would fall of the cliff. There was no way to cash flow the house based off the location and renovations needed. It was a loss.

The lesson here is if you are looking at purchasing a vacation rental, try before you buy.

Let me say that one more time. Try before you buy. I know no one wants to spend money to look at a house but the ability to actually spend a night before you invest is priceless. Also try it before you decorate it in your head. That decorating time is hours you will never get back.

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