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Commentary: Almost Priced Out Of Town
By Mitch Traphagen
Dec 1, 2005 - 6:48:00 PM

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I talk a lot about how much I like living here. Recently, I was faced with the reality that it may be necessary to leave. I was almost priced out of town.

My wife and I literally moved to Ruskin aboard our small boats. Over the years, our two boats became a slightly larger one which became slightly larger still. Although we moved into a house a few years ago, we simply are not ready to give up our dream of sailing over the horizon some day in the future.

Unfortunately, the quiet little marina we sailed into more than a decade ago no longer exists. Mind boggling increases in property values and subsequent development have made changes to the place that we called home for so many years.

Since we are not ready to give up on our dream, we needed to find a new home for our boat. Marinas across the state are rapidly being transformed into high priced developments. Our marina had reached a point where staying put was becoming less of an option.

Unfortunately, we quickly found out something that I would never have imagined just a few short years ago - Ruskin was becoming too expensive for us — at least waterfront Ruskin was.

We bid far more than we could easily afford on one beautiful property. Upon our bid, the selling price went up to a point that was beyond what we were willing — or able — to pay.

We offered a whole bunch for a very nice house on a canal — only to find out that the canal was only one foot deep — far too shallow for our boat.

Michelle and I reluctantly came to realize that we could not afford to live in South Hillsborough County.

We began searching up north just beyond the line of Tampa Bay development insanity. We even looked out of state. Property that would include a home for our boat was considerably less expensive in both cases. Unfortunately the price of that savings meant that I would have to give up a job that I enjoy and we would leave friends and a community that we had both grown to love.

But in the end, the reality of finances won out and we put in an offer on a property well north of Tampa. It was a difficult decision to say the least.

The high price of living for dreams: Buying waterfront property in South Hillsborough is a frighteningly expensive proposition. But despite that, we discovered there is still some small town left here. Mitch Traphagen Photo
The seller of that property countered — just slightly higher than our pre-determined maximum price. For the umpteenth time we called our realtor — who over the years has become a friend — to ask if there was anything, anything at all available down here. He said there was another property that he could try. We made an offer that would force some necessary lifestyle changes - but was doable with effort.

He was honest with the seller — he told him that our offer was what we could afford — and the most that we could afford. The seller agreed to the price and by the end of the next day, we had a contract on a new house, complete with a dock for our boat. To make that news even better, our realtor, Kenn Raymond, told us that he had just gotten a contract in on our house. After weeks of searching, after coming to the conclusion that we had been priced out of town, we were both incredibly happy to learn we could stay. Best of all, we were trading one great neighborhood for another.

And in many ways that really is the best of all. I truly like my neighbors — this is a great place to live. But soon, assuming all works as planned, we will have new neighbors — a few of whom we've already met. On top of that, one of them is the seller of our new house — who, it turns out, is a very nice guy, indeed. When I think about it, it's pretty cool — we have a real estate agent turned friend pulling out all the stops — on more occasions that I can count and during more late hours that I care to think about — and a seller who will be a neighbor in a neighborhood that appears to be the very manifestation of the good things of living here.

If it all sounds like a small town saga that's because it is. And that's what I like most about it. Stuff like that can still happen here. Despite all the growth in Ruskin, Apollo Beach, Riverview, where ever — your friends, your neighborhood are still really all parts of a small town. And to me, that's a good thing — even if there are a few growing pains.

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