Nope, Not Selling Our House. Not Even For 1000% Rate Of Return In 2 Years!

by Silicon Valley Blogger on 2007-08-3020

How would you feel if a company or the government approached you and said that they need the land that your house is built on? I found an image below that tells the story of how some residents felt about giving up their home for the sake of “new development”. When approached by big business or big developers or the government, they make a stance and refuse to give up where they live. This may be called a matter of “eminent domain”.

It all started when they refused to accept compensation to move and, while the row rumbled on, the bulldozers excavated the site around them.

What this story boils down to is the question of how much you actually value your house. You can be offered that market (or appraised) value for your house at any time, but if you’re not ready to sell and move, that amount may not be enough.

Now I can see how you’d refuse to trade away your property if you were offered a lame exchange or unfair compensation. But crazily enough, some have even passed on some incredible offers that would have traded their tiny trailers and shacks for a cool million dollars. In this case, NO amount is enough.

Taking A Stand & Not Selling Our House

Here’s the image I was referring to. Though this photo is one from the busiest urban centers in China — in Chongqing to be exact — there are similar scenarios unfolding in our own backyard.

This is what you call: “really loving where you live.”

This house not for sale.

Meanwhile, In Florida…

Now let’s move on from China to somewhere local. There’s a situation in a “down-market relic of old Florida” called Briny Breezes. It’s a self-governed mobile home community smack dab in the midst of a glorious setting of luxury homes and condominiums. A mere couple of years ago, these oceanfront properties basking in subtropical weather were going for $150,000 a pop. Today, developers are asking these trailer residents to sell off their homes for millions of dollars.

I find the residents here both lucky and absolutely insane. Insane if they don’t take the offer. And I’ll tell you why, since every story has a context.

When you’re faced with delusional developers with dollars in their eyes (e.g. who are willing to fork out $1.5 million for something you bought for $150,000 — well that’s pretty much a lightning strike or a lottery jackpot. Take it.

When you bought your house for $37,500 nine years ago and you’re now 47 years old with empty pockets, a million dollars is sweet. Take it.

When you’re part of the hurricane belt and are in some kind of designated hurricane evacuation zone with limited access into or out of your community, and when some experts say “Briny Breezes, being on a barrier island, can eventually be wiped out by a hurricane”, and someone offers to take away this problem from you for a million? No brainer.

But people can be crazy. Some of these residents have stalled.

Million Dollar Mobile Homes

“You just can’t buy a way of life,” said Tom Byrne, a 68-year-old retired sales executive from New York who doesn’t want to sell even though he would make a little over $1 million on the trailer and site he bought two years ago for $150,000. “This is my home.”

John and Gay Sideris, retired teachers from New York who bought their home in 2001, are conflicted.

“It will be good for us because we’ll be able to help our family, but this is an amazing place to live. You know all your neighbors. You can walk your dog in your pajamas,” said Gay Sideris, 70.

“If you sneeze, a neighbor hands you a napkin,” added John Sideris, 71.

The couple paid just $155,000 for their home and now stand to make close to $1.5 million.

I can’t blame them. If you’ve turned your house into a beloved home, there may not be any price for it. Even while a hurricane starts bearing down on you.

Other Resources: Interview with China’s most incredible holdout

Copyright © 2007 The Digerati Life. All Rights Reserved.

{ 18 comments… read them below or add one }

Ted August 30, 2007 at 8:22 am

I find it telling that in a “free” country like the USA this would not happen. The people would move by force of eminent domain. But in a communist country, one person can stand up like this?

Moneymonk August 30, 2007 at 9:30 am

He only been living in the trailer for 2 years, how he can be soooo attached to it.

I would have took the 1 million dollars. Once you are in a home for 20+ years I can see why someone is putting up a fight. But 2 years….please, to each it’s own !

Lazy Man August 30, 2007 at 4:10 pm

I don’t get it, either. For 1.5M you “can buy a way of life”. The community should have a meeting, take the money and develop a new community elsewhere. It’s themselves that they appreciate, there’s no magic in the land itself.

Brip Blap August 30, 2007 at 5:43 pm

Well, whether they should have taken it or not you have to say that people are just strange and different. I can’t imagine turning down that kind of money, but they can. Go figure. I guess different people put different values on their homes than I do. I would sell and move two blocks away and walk to the beach (or move to Orlando and drive to the beach).

Amazing photo, btw.

mapgirl August 30, 2007 at 6:16 pm

If you’ve ever met a Parrothead, you can see how he’d get attached in 2 years. It’s about a way of life and if that’s your dream to do it, I can see how lots of money couldn’t sway you.

However, the thing to remember is ‘Be it ever so humble, there’s no place like home.’ 30 years of living at home and my folks aren’t easily going to budge from it either.

Silicon Valley Blogger August 30, 2007 at 6:43 pm

When we become sentimental and emotionally attached to stuff, we can potentially become irrational. I suppose it works on property and land as it does with just random items and goods that we receive and hold dear for one reason or another. How can one explain why people hoard stuff or keep old things around that they cannot part with because they represent something they value in their lives? Can you convince someone to part with old tokens from their family, many generations past? That’s what you’d call heirlooms.

I do think that the Florida case is crazy only because they’re risking losing their home at any time due to being in the hurricane belt. And to give up $1.5 million in the process just doesn’t seem like a wise move. I can see it now. They risk their lives, lose their houses then they rebuild and stay in the same spot, right?

JEM August 31, 2007 at 7:51 am

I live in palm beach county and have been to briny breezes. Although it is the nicest “trailer park” I have ever seen and being across from the ocean is wonderful…I can’t imagine not selling. They will definitely get taken out if a hurricane even comes close. With the amount of money they would get they could buy a really home on the island if they want to! Oh how I wish someone would offer me 1 million for my townhouse!

Eric August 31, 2007 at 8:04 am

At this point in my life, I can’t imagine not taking the money and finding a new place to live. Perhaps things will be different when I’m older. The folks in Florida that were quoted were all 68+ years old. These folks may have more interest in keeping their lifestyle than in hitting it rich. They likely have their financial futures for the rest of their lives already planned out (or maybe not – you can never tell). I’ve noticed that as I age, what’s important to me changes and values get re-prioritized. I can’t judge these folks as crazy because I don’t know how they’ve prioritized their lives, but if I were in their position now, I’d take the money in a heartbeat.

Harveen August 31, 2007 at 10:28 am

Nice comment Ted! Just goes to show, money isn’t everything!

Kim August 31, 2007 at 5:18 pm

Even if they did sell, 1.5 mil won’t buy much on the ocean here in FL anymore. Add the cost of the property & home to the new and “improved” property taxes they’d be paying. They wouldn’t be able to afford it for very long, as odd as it sounds.

Bravo to them for wanting to stay put. To each his own.

tovel August 31, 2007 at 8:42 pm

I’d be tempted to sell and get away from the hurricane belt but I can’t judge them cause quality of life at that age I’m sure is very important.

Like Kim says you get a lot of money but it doesn’t really add up as everything esle has gone up just the same, so if you go to buy you’ll be spending heavily.

Silicon Valley Blogger September 1, 2007 at 8:28 am

I agree that money is not everything. We’re all different as well, so if someone decides to take the risk of facing hurricanes and wipeouts and turning down a million+ bucks, that is their prerogative. Personally, I would have a different take on this all. Since I’m not willing to take the risk of living in a hurricane disaster zone in the first place, I wouldn’t be living in Briny Breezes even for free. I can see the attraction, but with change happening all around and the threat of scary and destructive weather in the horizon, I’m surprised about the holdouts in Briny Breezes. There are other coastal towns in the nation they can always move to without being in a dangerous zone — these locations can be equally expensive but at least, the million bucks gives them a choice.

stidmama September 2, 2007 at 9:18 am

I followed the link from golbguru’s Money page today.

Kim is right: to sell would mean not just leaving their homes, but giving up the entire lifestyle. No instant beach access, no comfortable, no easy walks (most places are being built up as condos/apartments)… possibly not even Florida’s warm (and comfortable for arthritic people) climate because everything there is so expensive now.

Our home, in a rapidly more expensive and “posh” part of the county, is one of only two mobile homes on the street, most of the other houses are rather big and expensive-looking. We have had spontaneous realtor solicitations… If we sold, WE could not afford to move to another place in this area — nor to any other place in the county with this amount of land or quality of schools. It has taken 7 years for the orchard I planted to begin bearing…

Finally, to older people moving can be traumatic for more reasons than mere sentimentality — a person who is comfortable and capable in their accustomed locale can rapidly become disoriented and lose their independence when forced to move. How much for the increased risk because they have to drive further to see friends or walk their dogs? How much would full-time, or at least daily, in-home supervision cost these people? What value do YOU place on being able to visit with your friends/family/independence?

Personally, I think a million bucks would never make up for the losses.

Silicon Valley Blogger September 2, 2007 at 10:21 am

There are definitely some very strong and interesting points here that I hadn’t considered before, particularly those made by Kim and stidmama. Thank you for those.

If it were not for the threat of hurricanes, I would deeply reflect on all these aspects that make up a difficult decision that involves moving away from the home I cherish. At my current age, I do not think of “lifestyle” being any more different in location A as it would be in location B. But older people may be more fragile about resettling elsewhere. So I hear that point loud and clear.

As I said earlier, we all are different. In my mind, I see the money as giving me a choice. Don’t forget that the $1M to $1.5M (million!) bucks is only attributed to shelter. Plus some homeowners moved only a mere 2 years ago…. With all other things equal, I assume they would have liquid retirement and other accounts to live on (ok, so here’s where cost of living becomes a consideration as well). So from a mere $150,000, their HOME is now worth $1.5M. As a younger, mobile person, I can probably be able to find a place somewhere in the US or out of the country for the perfect place to make the adjustments, settle in and live the rest of my life.

But I can definitely see how change can be frightful to many people. At an older age, we become less mobile, and living away from people we love becomes very undesirable.

Drew M from Zillow September 17, 2007 at 9:34 am

Very cool & interesting topic, we touched on this a couple weeks ago at Zillow Blog –

Rebecca Levinson September 19, 2007 at 2:06 pm

Whether you understand it or not, you have to respect people who value something more than the almighty dollar. Kudos.

Rebecca D. Levinson

San Diego Insider November 7, 2007 at 4:04 pm

Both my father and my father-in-law are the same way. They are at a point in their lives when the lifestyles they have don’t come with a price tag. They figure when they are gone, then the buyers will still be there and then they can start writing checks.

Simon December 30, 2009 at 9:24 am

haha so funny, now i’m thinking — how to enter the house, via plane right?

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