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Retiring “Big Sky”?

If you don’t know, Mrs. SSC and I like to watch home renovation shows, Renovation Realities, Property Brothers, and even home buying/selling type of shows like Love it or List It, House Hunters, and recently, Tiny House Hunters and Tiny House Nation. You’re probably thinking, “Thanks for sharing your TV preferences, but what does this all have to do with ER or finance or anything?” Well, recently Mrs. SSC discovered a new show called Living Big Sky, essentially a house hunters for Montana. It has amazing views everywhere you go, and people keep using phrases like, “we loved it so much during vacation, we decided to move here,” and “Every day we wake up we feel like we’re on vacation. Just look at these views.” Which led Mrs. SSC to ask me, “Are we setting the bar too low in the Appalachians? Will we feel like that when we retire? What if we got big views like that too?”

It's No Montana, but it's still beautiful!

It’s No Montana, but it’s still beautiful!

Yes, there are some impressive views, but we’re basically talking about moving from the Gulf Coast to Southern Canada. Previously, we’d investigated places in Idaho, Oregon, Washington, Colorado, and the like, but ultimately found what we “think” we’re looking for in Virginia, North Carolina, Eastern Tennessee.

I say, “think” because, except for vacationing around those areas, hiking through those areas, and other short term type of trips, we’ve not gotten out there to visit for a week with the express purpose of house hunting, community snooping, and general poking around to get a feel of the town and surrounding area. The little things like, where are the closest grocery stores, is this area “too far” from town? We’re hoping to get there and do a recon trip in the fall, but that is highly dependent on if Mrs. SSC’s mom can cover the little ones for a few days. I’m not spending 4-7 hours in a car driving around with toddlers in the back. That sounds horrid for everyone involved.

Virginia is nice and has great properties with excellent views. It’s like we discussed, yes, I love the west and Rockies, and those sorts of views, but the Appalachians feel comfortable, and homey, and I find them beautiful. The mountain laurel, rhododendrons, streams, and green-ness of the landscape just brings me back to my growing up days of hiking and backpacking in Eastern Kentucky with my Grandad, and at Mammoth Cave National Park backcountry. I love the hollows and ravines, and rolling hills, broken up by some mountains, and most of all, Fall! I miss seeing leaves change colors, the smell in the air, the crisp bite of winter on the back of a warm fall breeze, reminding you that winter is coming. Almost as nice is Spring. Real Spring, where you feel warm air mixed in with the biting cool breeze, and see trees bud, bright blossoms emerge, and watch the brown landscape become green, lush and vibrant again. After 8 years on the Gulf Coast, I guess I really miss seeing seasons change, and realize that’s something I definitely want.

We are hoping we will have a view like this from our porch!

We are hoping we will have a view like this from our porch!

In the meantime, we started looking out west again. Except for some real fixer uppers that are already at the top of our budget (~$300k – with reno included) we would have to work another year for some out west living. With the experiences of fixing things in the last 2 homes we’ve lived in, plus the horror shows that unfold on Renovation Realities, and Love It or List It, I realize we could spend more than anticipated on a fixer upper. If we’re already at the top of our budget, it gets tight finding something we can afford, with land, etc… Nothing that warrants a whole extra year of working.

If I had a million dollars, I'd still probably move here.

If I had a million dollars, I’d still probably move here.

It reminded me of one of the couples on the Living Big Sky show. They bought a house at the top of their $600k budget, saying “We’ll find a way to make it work, because this is our dream house.” It was custom everything, and they both said, “We just love the uniqueness of everything being custom.” Before I even thought about it I blurted out, “Oh you’ll love it until it breaks, and you’re paying custom prices to fix it.” Side note – our shower door broke Sunday, and after 3 estimates, consultation with 4 companies, and about 5 hours online we found out, there is no repair – only replace…

Ultimately, we think we’ll end up on the East Coast though. The land is cheap, houses are affordable, and we love the views. We may end up somewhere else, but unless we find something amazing at a great price in 3 more years, we’re most likely East Coast bound!

What are your “Big Sky” ER plans?

Are you planning on moving or staying where you are when you pull the trigger?

16 thoughts on “Retiring “Big Sky”?

  1. Steve

    It’s funny that you mention those TV shows in your first paragraph because my wife and I watch pretty much the exact same programs while we eat dinner. Like, exactly the same. I think House Hunters and House Hunters International are my favorites, but I really do enjoy watching them all. Looks like I need to check out Living Big Sky.

    We are planning to move up to Sedona, AZ, after retirement. Beautiful red rock country. Some of the best hiking we’ve done, bar none.

    I lived in Virginia for 10 non-consecutive years. I lived primarily in northern Virginia but have traveled quite a bit into southern Virginia where the Appalachian Mountains are. There is definitely a BIG difference between those mountains and the mountains out here. In fact, after living in Colorado and getting to experience the mountain ranges out here, I most affectionately refer to the Appalachians as “rolling hills” rather than mountains. :)

    I also lived in eastern Tennessee for a little while. There is no question that the mountains/hills out there provide a sense of comfort. For us personally, though, we kinda grow tired of just seeing a bunch of trees, so we are definitely “big sky” kind of people.

    If the west is truly where your heart is, then working a little bit longer might be something to consider. But there are many areas out here that are much cheaper, too. It all just depends on where you look. Northern Arizona, for example, is absolutely freaking beautiful, and real estate can be a steal – depending on the exact location.

    In any event, I would definitely recommend making your way back out East with the specific purposes of checking out real estate and how far out you truly want to live. We’ve done that plenty in Sedona. Ask yourselves questions like, “Would I be okay driving 20 minutes to pick up a loaf of bread”? Do I want a gym close by? “How will we make friends if we’re living out in the woods”?

    Maybe some of those questions concern you. Then again, maybe they don’t. But getting out there and literally standing in the environment helps – at least it has helped my wife and I, to get a feel for what we truly want out of our retirement living arrangements.

    For us, we’re leaning more and more towards traveling almost full time, so that adds another question into the mix for us: “Is investing in property truly worth it”?

    1. Mr SSC Post author

      Yeah I love the house hunters, especially the international. I’ll have to check out the area around Sedona and N. Arizona again. I remember we’ve looked before when you’ve brought it up, it does look beautiful.

      I grew up in KY, and the first time I visited CO was Aug, 1999. Jan 2000, I was enrolled in CU Denver and living there. I totally get that there’s a huge difference in the mountains. I’d agree, the Appalachians have more of a rolling hills, but that’s what ~400 million years of erosion will do… hahaha We’re thinking maybe heading out west when we’re not constrained to a good school district as well. To be honest, that’s a big killer of some great property deals. The school district those properties are in are ranked 4-5 out of 10, and in better districts, it drives the home price up and the lot size down. So, yeah… constraints of ER plans with kids. :)

      Those questions about driving 10 minutes for a loaf of bread, gym proximity and more are exactly why we want to get out there and bum around for a bit before making any decisions. But, with 1090 days or so left, there’s still time.

    1. Mr SSC Post author

      It’s fairly new, but has awesome scenery and a setup like house hunters. I’m just blown away how 2 schoolteachers can afford a $600k house…

        1. Mr SSC Post author

          That is based on their comments on the show. They seemed tentative and uncomfortable about it at first, but then chose the most expensive house and said, “we can figure out how to make it work” or something along those lines. Yeah that made me think, “man, anything breaks and it’s gonna be spendy to fix”.

  2. Fervent Finance

    Thanks for the show recommendation! I don’t watch too much TV anymore but if I need background noise I usually have Seinfeld or HGTV on. I’m definitely going to give Living Big Sky a chance! I have definitely given thought to a nice rural financial independence. I grew up in a very rural town in New England. I’m pretty handy so buying a fixer upper is definitely on my list down the road. All my family and friends are on the east coast, so moving out west would definitely be very tough. So I think once I reach FI, I’ll settle ruraly in the east and vacation in the west :)

    1. Mr SSC Post author

      Traveling for family can eat up a lot of time and money, and it makes it harder to see them as often as you might like.
      We’re most likely ending up on the east coast in a rural sort of setting. There’s just so much to do and see within a few hours drive, like civil war historic sites, colonial history, and more that would be convenient for taking the kids to show them.

  3. Our Next Life

    Since we ditched cable, we can’t watch most of those shows, but we love to indulge when we’re at hotels for work! Check into hotel, get to the room, turn on the TV, find HGTV… that’s pretty much the routine. :-)

    We moved four years ago to our dream location, a friendly mountain town in the west (we’ll reveal all when we quit!). We were lucky to get to buy near the bottom of the market, so that helped us pull the trigger and make the move. We’ve found, from years of traveling in the mountains and through small towns, that not all of them have a particularly friendly vibe. Definitely spend some quality time in any towns you’re thinking about before you house hunt, and try to talk to as many locals as possible. If you ask them how they like living there, and they equivocate at all, that means they don’t want outsiders moving in, and that’s a bad sign! You want to live somewhere friendly, where they are open to new people, and open to some amount of change. We found that in our town, but know that it’s rare in a lot of places. We visited here four or five times before we house hunted, to be sure, and are glad we did that! Know it’s tougher with kids, but better than accidentally moving to the wrong place, because it isn’t the place you thought it was!

    Have a great weekend!

    1. Mr SSC Post author

      I’m excited to hear which friendly mountain town you guys ended up in! Between working in the CO mountains for about 6 years, and backpacking and hiking through little towns in Eastern Kentucky, I totally understand that not all towns will have a friendly vibe. We’re on the verge of getting to take a 3-4 day recon trip out to Roanoke area in the fall, fingers crossed that the Mother-in-law comes through for us!
      Those are some great tips! I’ll have to be sure to be outgoing and social when we get there. We hope to visit as much as possible in the upcoming years, and maybe even do a multi-week vacation when we get closer to the relocation date.

  4. Mr. 1500

    Eastern US is beautiful! I have many fond memories of hiking Smoky Mountain National Park and other random adventures in Kentucky and Tennessee. Heck, I’m headed out there in September!

    If you want a Colorado fix, you can always come visit anytime.

    Those people on that show are a slow motion train wreck! I like to be unique too, but I do it through tile that I set in funky ways and tweaking my spaces with ideas I find on Pinterest. No need to buy $5,000 appliances or any of that nonsense. What is wrong with people?!?

    1. Mr SSC Post author

      We might just take you up on that Colorado visit! I agree, I love the Eastern US and the mountains there. Like a lot of the home buying or renovating shows, it is entertaining to watch other people’s thought processes in decision making. With all of our recent repairs being so spendy, and with us not having things “custom” I was just thinking, I really would not want to pay to repair custom anything. Like you, I’d rather go the DIY route and then I know how to fix something when it breaks, because I put it there.

  5. Lee

    I don’t watch TV, so I have never seen the show. I do however live in Montana (10 years this month). In general, housing is VERY affordable here. The exceptions are Whitefish, some communities in Flathead County, Missoula, Bozeman, and Big Sky. Whitefish and Big Sky are both pricey because they have ski resorts that out of state people want to be near. Missoula and Bozeman are both university towns and tend to be populated by out of staters as well. However, you could live slightly outside one of these towns and find affordable housing. You will want to live in western Montana as eastern Montana is very rural,

    The big expenses in Montana are gas and car maintenance — we think nothing of driving 100+ miles one way to do something — and everything associated with long winters — heating costs, winter clothing, snow tires. Except for about two weeks of the year, it is not particularly cold here, but it is colder and a longer winter than Colorado. No humidity in the summer.
    There is no shortage of outdoor activities and the lifestyle is casual and laid back. People are very polite and friendly.
    Employment is not easy to find. Best to either be FI when you come or bring your own job with you.

    My quality of life is very high, far better than on the East Coast. Montana is not for everyone. Many people are attracted by the natural beauty, but leave within a few years because they can’t find employment. But if you love to climb, kayak, ride, hike, fish, ski, bike, camp, or any other outdoor activity, this is a hard place to beat.

    1. Mr SSC Post author

      Thanks for the info on Montana, it sounds amazing! I can’t wait to get out there and check it out, but we’ll most likely end up doing vacations out there as opposed to relocating there.

  6. Mrs. FI

    Well this is embarrassing…we live under the “Big Sky” and had no idea there was an entire show dedicated to the area. We LOVE all of those reno shows and are always saying things like, “I wished the Property Brothers would come here and fix up our next house” and “Why is every show on HGTV in Canada? MT is basically South Canada…maybe they’ll make an exception.” So yes, with absolutely no sarcasm, thank you for sharing your TV show preferences. We will have to check this show out.

    As for our ER plans for location, we actually haven’t settled on Montana for where we’ll live after we’re FI. Don’t get me wrong, I love this state and it’s beauty, but Mr. FI grew up here and I’m always open to experiencing a new place and a change of scenery, so leaving (for at least a while) is definitely a possibility. I kind of like not knowing, honestly. It leaves a little mystery for our future that we’ve been planning so diligently thus far 😉

    1. Mr SSC Post author

      Haha, we thought the same about those HGTV shows always being in Canada! While we’ve homed in on a general area, with things most likely getting shaken up over here next week, even that has changed some. Mrs. SSC had been looking for teaching jobs and we realize that of the right opportunity showed up we may move pre FI and to where that job is which may not be East Coast.
      It’s so exciting thinking of the possibilities! I still think “Southern Canada” might be a bit much whichever state it could be.
      Thanks for stopping by!

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