Friday, July 4, 2008

The Doubts Set In . . .

Shortly after returning to Carlsbad I started looking on the Internet for blogs and news about Bend; wanting to gain familiarity with the local scene, its issues and events. I quickly found the bendbubble2 blog, Jesse Felder's My Back Pages, and the Bend Economy Bulletin Board. Written by folk that seem to know their economics and real estate stuff, all three sources have a high Doom and Gloom content about the future of Bend, at least for the next handful of years.

Had we made a Big Mistake? Would our house shortly end up being worth less than we paid for it? Will Bend turn into a depressing "once was" town, the quality restaurants and shops shuttered due to lack of tourism and HELOC spending money? In answer to the first question, we bought a house for $135 per square foot, well below the westside average, and even if the median home value were to drop another 25%, as some are predicting, we'd be okay. With regard to the second question, I guess the only answer is that time will tell.

But after running the numbers this much became obvious: living here in Carlsbad costs us $1,000 a month more for mortgage, property tax and homeowner's insurance than what we'll be paying in Bend. That alone means that Mrs Elliott and I can work a little less hard, spend a little more time recreating and chilling, and a little less time chasing after the smaller, less-interesting sales and business. Not inconsiderable lifestyle gains.

And Bend has these weather phenomena called "seasons," very little pink stucco, far less traffic (no matter what old Bendites may say, Bend has a long way to go to match coastal SoCal's traffic ugliness, and only 78,000 people. Sure, Carlsbad has about that many people, but it's pressed up against other towns with as many or more people, who are pressed up against other towns with more people. In fact, a fellow has to drive at least 50 miles to find relatively unpopulated areas, and while I like the desert as much as the next guy, the desert, with its crappy little depressed towns gets a little tired. Bend, on the other hand, has a lot more to offer for the guy that appreciates natural beauty.

Bend probably deserves its reputation for whispering sweet nothings into the ears of Californians and seducing them into buying overpriced real estate, then leaving them with nothing more than a headache in the morning. Like Lowell George's Dixie Chicken:

I've seen the bright lights of Memphis
And the Commodore Hotel
And underneath a street lamp
I met a Southern belle

Well, she took me to the river
Where she cast a spell
And in that Southern moonlight
She sang this song so well

Yeah well, we made all the hot spots
My money flowed like wine
And then that low-down Southern whiskey
Began to fog my mind

And I don't remember church bells
Or the money I put down
On the white picket-fence and boardwalk
Of the house at the edge of town

Oh, but boy do I remember
The strain of her refrain
And the nights we spent together
And the way she called my name

Yeah, well it's been a year since she ran away
Guess that guitar player sure could play
She always liked to sing along
She's always handy with a song

Then one night in the lobby
Of the Commodore Hotel
I chanced to meet a bartender
Who said he knew her well

And as he handed me a drink
He began to hum a song
And all the boys there at the bar
Began to sing along

Will Bend be our Dixie Chicken? Frankly, we don't know. This blog will record the ups and downs of our experience in Bend. But before we can move, we need to sell this house.

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