Monday, March 23, 2009

Blog 6 Time for Plan B

My hot lead on one company from whom I was expecting an offer soon cooled.  Further, it was beginning to look like the market for M&A types was becoming saturated with recently out-of-work Investment Bankers (e.g., Lehman Bros.) also looking for work.  So at that point we firmly shifted mentally to relocating to the Big Island.

We also decided to get serious about the possibility of buying a B&B and began reading everything we could get our hands on.  We even looked into attending B&B seminars, but couldn’t get the scheduling to work out.

Meanwhile we also had a California “bucket list” to slim down which we did by taking trips to Yosemite and to Mammoth Falls as well as to one of our staple California spots, Carmel. We had lunches and ball games to attend in the city too. 

Our California realtor agreed that we needed to fix up our kitchen before putting the house on the market, so we had new cabinets installed and did some painting etc. We made plans to return to Hawaii in August and to put the California house on the market in early-September. 

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Blog 5 We Think About Buying a B&B

Kelly also took us to a Bed and Breakfast (B&B) named the Log Cabin Inn and yes it was made of logs.  It was upcountry somewhat at about 1,100 feet and if you awoke there, Hawaii would probably be one of your last guesses as to where you were.  The Big Island is extremely diverse in climate, vegetation and life style.  For instance, near this B&B is one of the largest cattle ranches in the country.  Who knew….in Hawaii?

The B&B idea really intrigued us.  My wife’s interest include cooking and my background includes finance, so we thought perhaps we could be a formidable combination in running a successful B&B that we could sell later and then buy a house similar to the “wow” house we had seen.

The "WOW" house

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Blog 4 How We Found a Home

Devany had a connection through an online group on the Big Island that recommended a realtor to us, Kelly Moran, principal broker of Hilo Brokers, Ltd.  We were staying in Puna on the southeastern coast of Hawaii (the Big Island’s real name, not to be confused with the state name), but agreed to meet Kelly some 75 miles north in a town named Honokaa on the Hamakua Coast which is basically on the northeast side of the island.

Devany had communicated via email with Kelly previously about our tastes, preferences, price range, etc.  Still largely in a vacation mode, we were taking this as something of a lark at this stage and still expecting I would find a position back in the Bay Area.

What surprised me after seeing a few homes was that they were houses that could be anywhere.  No thatched roofs, no pounding surf, but just plain, ordinary dwellings like ones in suburban Illinois perhaps.  Where was the “wow” factor?  Well, we soon found out when Kelly took us to a house in Hilo right on the ocean – naturally, out of our price range.

We met up with Kelly another two times and probably viewed over 25 houses from Puna in the south up to Honokaa in the north.  So we pretty much traversed the entire eastern part of the island during our visit.  Kona is on the other side of the island, and although the resorts and beaches were fantastic, it did not appeal to us, primarily due to the “vog” (a smog-like condition in the air caused by volcanic eruptions from the active Mona Loa volcano – it reminded my wife of growing up in Los Angeles.)

Friday, March 20, 2009

Blog 3 Why the Big Island II

Having never been anywhere other than Waikiki in Honolulu (and me only twice for one night each on business travel to Asia), we thought all of Hawaii was only about tourism – sort of a larger Cancun.  We were surprised and pleased by the lack of commercialism on most of the Big Island.  There is plenty of tourism and great hotels, but also agricultural areas and some rural areas so remote that you would swear you were in West Virginia.  It is a great mixture of people, ages, life styles and all surrounded by beautiful scenery and fantastic weather.


Thursday, March 19, 2009

Blog 2 Why the Big Island

The economy was just starting to get squishy in early 2008.  However, very few people expected the severe economic downturn that followed.  Initially, I was quite optimistic that I could find another position with an established company in short order.  We decided to give the job search five months, not so much to have obtained a position by then, but at least to have a good reading of the lay of the land.  Meanwhile we were going to work on our “Plan B.”  California was simply too expensive for us if I couldn’t locate a good paying job.

We had only been to Hawaii once before.  Our seashore/island destinations had tended to be in the Caribbean, Central America (Belize) and Mexico before moving to California.  Yet my wife (Devany) immediately thought “Hawaii!” if the job search floundered. 

I did not want us to make a decision prematurely, so after some research about best beach retirement communities, I met my son who lives on the New Jersey Shore over Easter vacation (he is a high school teacher) and we drove down to Rehoboth Beach, Maryland.  We checked out the community and looked at some real estate.  It definitely merited consideration, but after living in California it seemed awfully cold and dreary.

Meanwhile, Devany had the Hawaii mantra thing going, so we came for our second visit to the Big Island in late April, 2008 – but this time not as tourists, but to view it as possibly home.  Immediately you see things a lot differently when you think about living somewhere – as opposed to just having a great time visiting.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

From the Tundra to Paradise

The view from our Chicago House

Blog 1 Chicago to San Francisco to Hilo, Hawaii 

In August 2006 I accepted an executive position responsible for mergers and acquisitions for a company headquartered in the Bay Area of San Francisco.  We were living outside Chicago at the time, and I was Vice President Corporate Development and Investor Relations at the Alberto-Culver Company ($4 billion in sales).  The new position seemed challenging and the package included a corporate relocation so we accepted.  Plus we had always both wanted to live in Northern California.

The Chicago House Packed for the Move

So after some weekend commuting, during Thanksgiving weekend in 2006 we drove across country with our pets, and shortly thereafter our possessions were moved into our newly purchased house overlooking Mount Diablo. 

Less than 18 months later in February 2008, the company hit a bumpy patch and my position was eliminated, luckily with a reasonably generous severance package.

About eight months after that we closed on a house in Hilo on the Big Island, and on January 5, 2009 we arrived for good with our dog, Valentine, and our cat, Kiwi, in tow.  It took 6 more weeks for our goods to arrive and since then we have been settling in. Life is good on the Big Island.