Category Archives: Travel

Good-bye to the Big D

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Hey Detroit,

We’ve been seeing each other about a week now, right?

Probably not long enough to know for sure whether we’d make a successful go of things. But I’m leaving tomorrow and I’ve made my decision.

I won’t lie to you and say something obnoxious like, “It’s not you, it’s me.”

Because it’s definitely both of us.

You’re a very special lady, D. Your history and architecture alone would be enough to keep some folks happy for years.

But let’s be real. You need a LOT of work.

In fact, you need an army of well-funded investors to come in here and save your at-one-time-gorgeous ass.

I wish that I could be one of that army. But that’s not really my thing.

I’m a lover, not a fighter.

And this is pretty much a war zone here.

Sure, I could show one of your beautiful homes a little TLC.

But you and I both know it would just be a drop in the bucket.

You’ve got over 35,000 buildings that need saving, for cryin’ out loud.

Clearly, I’m underfunded and ill-prepared for this kind of fight.

Besides, at some point winter will blow into town. And I watch enough Game of Thrones to understand that living through winter without a proper furnace, thick insulation and a water-tight roof is just asking for trouble. Big, BIG trouble.

I won’t lie. That house on Grand Blvd tempted me something fierce. And maybe if it needed just one of those things, I could give it a go.

But honestly, if I have to put that much money into a home to make it livable — even if it does have the most gorgeous floors and trim I’ve seen — then I have to consider other options.

Mr. Perfect was willing to join me in the adventure, so don’t blame him. But he did point out that we could also put $50K into a house that was already livable.

And I looked for a home like that. Truly, I did.

The problem is that they’re aren’t many houses like that available in the right neighborhoods.

I found two. And let’s just say, I learned a long time ago to buy the worst house on the block — not the best.

So, I’m sorry, D. It’s just not a good fit for us right now.

You need to know that you’ve left an indelible mark on me and I’ll never forget you.

Or your people. Seriously. They are your best asset.

They’re friendly and creative and full of grit. Plus, they stuck around when most others left.

They’re a strong lot, your people. Take care of each other, won’t you?

Your friend,
Tea

photo credit: Jose Chavarry via photopin cc

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Big D Day 5: A House Revealed

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Stony Creek Metropark – one of many awesome spots in the 1500ish-acre park.

If you’ve been following this saga, you already know I was scheduled yesterday to tour the inside of a few homes.

And I did (which you’ll see in a minute).

But before we get to that, I want to just give a huge shout out to Michigan’s Metroparks system. When I’d finished my property tours and checked into my hotel (stayed in Troy, MI last night), I headed out to Stony Creek Park for a little quiet and relaxation.

It was AMAZING. And I say this as a California girl who isn’t easily impressed (we’ve got a lot going for us in CA, too!).

I saw lakes, creeks, paved bike trails, hiking trails, mountain bike trails, beaches with snack bars and out of the way water areas like the one above. There was also a golf course (where I enjoyed a quiet beer and turkey sandwich).

How did I know to go there? It was a tip from my lunch companion — one Ms. Cheryl Pickett — who I swear should start her own tourism/relocation podcast for the Greater Detroit area. The woman is a veritable fount of knowledge!

This Metropark System is impressive. Seriously, you should check out the website.

And can I just say that Michigan is one of the greenest states I’ve ever been in? (Not necessarily green as in eco-friendly. Although, there are folks who care about the environment here, to be sure.) I mean green as in lawns, grass, trees — it’s everywhere. You almost can’t tell the golf courses from the surrounding areas.

But back to the house hunting…

This one was my favorite — even before I saw the inside:

Grand Blvd, Detroit

Grand Blvd, Detroit

The house sits squarely inside the Island View Historical District (if you look on a map, it’s just blocks away from the river front — although I couldn’t see Belle Isle from there unless I was up in a balloon). Grand Blvd was originally constructed in the early 1900s as a way to emulate the streets of Paris. (Yes, I looked it up.) It was also meant to be the outer most city limit line, back in the day.

The house has a lot of good things going in her favor. Unfortunately, there’s an equally heavy list of concerns. Here take a look for yourself:

So besides the roof issue, and the near lack of plumbing (there might one functioning bathroom and the copper pipes in the basement are gone), the place has a few spots of dry rot, too.

After talking it over with Mr. Perfect last night, there’s still no firm decision on whether or not to make an offer — his argument (and I agree) is does it make sense to buy a house for peanuts and then put another $30-40K into it? Wouldn’t it be easier to just buy something at around $50-60K that was already livable?

Oh, that I didn’t love historic houses so damn much.

I’m back to researching properties — if only to see what’s out there in the $50K price range. Wish me luck?

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Day 4: Just Another Weekend in the Big D

Eastern Market, Detroit

Eastern Market, Detroit

Everyone told me “Be sure to visit the Eastern Market while you’re there.”

And if you know me at all, you know I love a good farmers’ market. (It was one of the big disappointments of moving from Ventura (where they were great) to San Jose (where they pretty much suck).

This one? Well let’s just say I was lucky to find my car again after wandering around for a little over an hour.

It’s really an outdoor farmers’ market in the middle of an entire food district. Permanent shops selling everything from freshly butchered meat to local cheeses and beer surround the sprawling produce and flower stands.

I didn’t take enough pictures, but this should give you a teensy idea of what’s available on any given Saturday:

I stopped at one of the food vendors called The Mac Shack (their menu board appears in the video). I only had enough cash for the bacon, egg and cheese sandwich, but it was delish! (The egg was fried and not all the way, so just enough runny yolk to keep things moist.)

Since I couldn’t eat and walk at the same time (it’s a problem, I know), I sat down next to a couple and their two young daughters.

Me: “You come here often?”

The Wife: “Not really. This is our first time in a loooong time.”

Me: “What brought you today?”

The Husband: “We just moved back here after living in Orlando for almost 10 years.”

Me: “Really?! Wow – why’d you move back?”

The Husband: (Laughing) “We’ve been asking ourselves that same question.”

The Wife: “Actually, we thought this would be a better place to raise the girls. More midwestern values. Orlando has such a transient population.”

Me: “Ah. Well, I’m thinking of moving here myself.”

The Husband: “Be sure to spend a winter here first to be sure you can take it.”

The Wife: “Yeah, we grew up here and we thought we remembered what the winters were like. But we totally forgot.”

And before you knew it, my sandwich was done. I thanked them for sharing their space and then was off to explore more of the market.

In one of the stalls, I found a man named Ron, his wife and their good friend Cynthia offering free samples of fresh bread.

Free samples! Fresh bread! (Two combos nearly impossible to resist.)

So of course, I had to ask them about the market, “Is it always like this?”

Ron told me it was Flower Day, so there were a few more people than normal; but yes, pretty much the market offerings were there every week.

And then, because they were raising money for a food bank, I bought a loaf of their awesome rosemary and olive oil sourdough bread.

Consider me duly impressed by the Eastern Market.

***

The rest of the day I spent driving around Detroit looking at neighborhoods (my realtor gave me a list of properties to drive by so I could see which ones I might want to see inside).

Keep in mind, I was looking at things $20K and under (mostly under $10). But out of 70+ listings, I only found two that I thought looked promising. And these were just in the five zipcodes I’d picked (out of about 20).

My criteria? The street needed to have 20% or less abandoned/dilapidated houses. Unfortunately, most of the ones I saw had over 50%. Sometimes closer to 90%. Truly very sad.

You just can’t imagine the sheer number of fixer uppers here. It boggles the mind.

And probably less than 5% of them are listed on the MLS.

On the agenda today: lunch with a colleague (I’ve been promised a Coney Island dog) and then meeting the agent to look at those two properties.

Here’s one of them:

Grand Blvd, Detroit

Grand Blvd, Detroit

This is a 5 bedroom brick Colonial owned by Fannie Mae. The offered price is $21K.

The other house is listed at $7200, and it apparently needs a lot more work. But it’s in the right ‘hood.

Until tomorrow, my friends…thanks for reading!

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