I recently asked for stories of residents who cashed out their real estate equity and moved in search of a lower cost of living and less gridlock. Here are some, with a surprising twist at the end:
Dear Dr. Gridlock:
My wife and I cashed out and built a villa on one acre, with a view of a mountain ridge, 31/2 hours north of Washington. The view has deer and wild turkeys browsing for forage.
We paid half of what a similar house would cost in the city. We have no traffic to speak of, low taxes, excellent broadband access, local D.C. television via satellite service, no noise, no water and sewer bills. And good local golf courses.
Have we really escaped congestion and traffic? Not totally, as most of our offspring live in the D.C. metro area and we have Redskins tickets. We time our visits to miss rush hours.
Ken and Jane Paxinos
My wife and I lived in Vienna for 42 years, the last 34 in one house. Its value doubled over the last five years. So did the real estate taxes. Both of us have loved the Shenandoah Valley, so last summer we sold and bought a smaller house with a smaller lot (easier to take care of).
Front Royal, near the intersection of Interstates 66 and 81, is a lovely town -- small enough to get to know people yet large enough for the amenities.
We have found that Winchester, some 25 miles north, is now buried under the same growth explosion as Loudoun and Prince William counties. Growth is hitting Strasburg now and is about to hit here in Front Royal. Hopefully, we'll have enough time to enjoy what we came here for.
Front Royal gets heavy traffic on summer weekends and in the fall, when the leaves turn. Aside from that, it's pretty much heaven.
Dave and Jay Gushee
Front Royal, Va.
We fit your description of people who are "cashing out and moving somewhere where the cost of living is lower and the traffic nonexistent."
When my husband retired last year, we sold our home in Vienna and moved to Williamsburg, where we built a new home on a golf course for 60 percent of the sale price of our home. This, indeed, is paradise.
Friendly people, much less stress and no traffic. The negatives? Having to deal with Interstate 95 and the Northern Virginia traffic on our frequent trips back to visit friends and relatives who still live there.
Maybe our situation will be instructive. My wife and I are military retirees. We looked carefully at our options and decided to move to Virginia Beach. The reasons: the benefits of the many military installations in the area, and the home prices and cost of living seemed lower.
We found our house in 1992 and bought it. The problems began soon after:
First, taxes began outstripping those in Northern Virginia. Traffic was a mess and got worse. Congestion grew because streets were built to support a small town that is now the most populous city in Virginia.
My wife, a teacher, has two degrees and the equivalent of a master's degree -- and was offered a job paying $7 an hour without any benefits.
We sold our home for a handsome profit, using it to move back to Arlington. Somewhat the opposite of what you might have expected.
When we moved back, we found that our taxes were about $1,200 a year less and our homeowners insurance was more than $2,000 a year less.
Being retired, the traffic is of little concern, and Metro is only a 15-minute walk away.
James R. Campbell
Ten years ago, my wife and I made a move. We bought a 60-year-old Cape Cod within walking distance of Metro. The neighborhood is safe and clean.
You can escape our traffic congestion if you look for older neighborhoods near Metro. The houses are smaller and don't have all the features of new ones, but they are less expensive, even in today's market.
Dr. Gridlock will conduct an online chat from 1 to 2 p.m. tomorrow on www.washingtonpost.com/liveonline.
Transportation researcher Diane Mattingly contributed to this column.
You can write to Dr. Gridlock at 1150 15th St. NW, Washington, D.C. 20071. He prefers e-mails at email@example.com or faxes at 703-352-3908. Include your full name, town, county and day and evening telephone numbers. Dr. Gridlock cannot take phone calls.