Back in January, I wrote about looking for a car-centric home—you know, your basic dream of moving out of your postage-stamp-size lot in the pricey suburbs and finding something less expensive in Vermont with a thrilling house, a thrilling view, and an 80’x60′ metal outbuilding that’ll hold the space shuttle and twenty cars.
Well, that never happened.
Part of it was supply and demand: There were virtually zero properties that threaded my incredibly narrow needle of requirements. Part of it was that we never settled on a target location: I said Vermont, but anywhere in New England, rural, and scenic would’ve fit the bill. Part of it was financial: The “thrilling but less expensive” part was a pipe dream, we didn’t have the on-hand cash to fund the kind of 20%-over-asking-price offer you need to make these days to snap up a thrilling property, and we were unwilling to sell the house in Newton without having somewhere to go.
But the largest part was that it became increasingly clear that my wife Maire Anne’s social network around Boston is crucially important to her happiness, and a move several hours away would effectively sever that. Certainly there are interesting properties within 40 miles that have more space than we have here in Newton, but you can’t build a truly thrilling view. you have to go to where the thrilling views are, and 40 miles away ain’t really where the views live.
As Maire Anne and I talked about all this, I asked her “Are you unhappy here in Newton?”
“No, not at all,” she said, and that was that. Decisions are a good thing.
So the move died—and that’s okay. The whole thing may have started from a car-centric standpoint—and Maire Anne would like to enable my happiness (and income) with a nearby big building for the cars just as much as I would—but people who are happily married generally aren’t that way by accident. They’re that way because they listen to each other. At least that’s how it works with us.
I tend to be all in or all out with things. When I was looking for houses, I was all in; I looked on Zillow every morning, noon, and night, poring over new listings. But once we back-burnered the idea, I went all out; I haven’t searched once. It’s one of my patented Hack Mechanic rules: Don’t crave things you can’t have. And again, that’s okay. We’re digging in here in Newton. As I speak, the house is being repainted. And we selected a vibrant color that we like, not some inconspicuous and agreeable gray that you’d choose in order to offend the fewest people come sale time.
However, the cars and the space issues that fueled the idea of a move certainly haven’t gone away. As I described here last May, the combination of my buying back Zelda (my former Z3), followed by the non-sale of Hampton, my ’73 2002, on Bring a Trailer, pushed the number of cars to twelve, and the number of must-winter-garage cars to nine (okay, seven must-garage cars, two should-garage cars), and I only had eight spaces. In addition, the house in Fitchburg where I rent four garage spaces was sold, and I hadn’t heard from the new owner in regard to whether she’d continue to rent to me at the incredibly reasonable $75 per-month-per-space rate when my lease ended in July, double the rent, or throw me out. I really, really needed a Plan B in case we didn’t move and I lost the Fitchburg spaces.
And then it got worse: I bought the 2008 Chevy Silverado work truck (aka “The Bigger Badder Mouse Warehouse”) from my old engineering job. This doesn’t occupy garage space (hell, it won’t fit in the garage), but it does totally max out the space in the driveway.
Although part of the reason for buying the truck was to allow the possibility of hauling home crime-of-opportunity cars, the fact is that there’s no more driveway space to act as a safety valve for “I bought another car and it’s sitting outside while I figure out what to do with it.”
Fortunately, three things happened that made me able to breathe. The first was that I found a guy on the Massachusetts-Connecticut border who rents warehouse space for RVs, boats, and cars for $35 a month for every ten feet of length. So a car is $70 a month. It’s a bit farther than Fitchburg, and it’s not 24-hour access, but it’s available. I talked with him and told him about the possibility of my getting thrown out of Fitchburg without a lot of warning and needing four spaces. He said, “Yeah, no worries, I have lots of space—but the catch is that your cars have to be interesting. What do you have?”
I told him about 1970s-era BMW and the Lotus Europa. It turns out that he owns a Europa S2, and is storing his uncle’s 2002. So I passed the test—and now I had a Plan B. I literally felt my body relax as the stress left it.
The second thing was that I finally got in contact with the new owner of the house in Fitchburg. Via text message, she agreed to continue to rent me the spaces at the existing rate after the lease expired in July. Both she and I are so laid back about it that at the moment, it’s just a word-of-text month-to-month agreement, with an informal understanding that a lease would be fine if either one of us ever gets the energy to write ione up.
I love trusting people.
The third lovely bit of happenstance was that I received an out-of-the-blue message from by BMW friend Jonathan Selig, who by utter coincidence rents Space Number Three in Fitchburg (the owner had offered it to me years back; like an idiot I turned it down because at that moment I didn’t own thirteen cars The owner put it on Craigslist and Jonathan grabbed it). Jonathan had pared down his fleet a pit, no longer needed his space in Fitchburg, and offered to sublet it to me for the duration of his lease, which runs through the end of March. I jumped at the offer, we cleared the issue of subletting with the new owner, and boom! All five Fitchburg spaces were finally mine. My M coupe, which had been stored outside in my driveway since the spring, had a place to hide from the elements.
Zelda the Z3, however, has still been sitting outside in my driveway in Newton, and as winter approaches, that’s an increasingly unpalatable solution. As I described here, when I left the little ragtop under a cover at the sun-obscured end of the driveway for a few weeks at the end of the summer, I was greeted with a substantial mildew bloom. I’ll likely go through the annual ritual of cleaning the garage and creating the floor space to allow the Z3 to be slid sideways on wheel dollies and stored in the garage here in Newton over the winter. That makes it almost unbearably cramped in there during the winter if I want to execute actual projects, but it’s the current plan.
So I’m good. It certainly could be worse; they’re only cars and storage spaces. One can always shed some of the former, or rent more of the latter. And if I stumble into some crime-of-opportunity car that I can’t live without, I can always pull the trigger on Plan B in Monson. So you can stop sending me Zillow links to properties with lots of garage space. Really.
Unless it’s a killer Mid-Century Modern house… with a killer view of mountains or water… on a private lot… with a Morton building big enough to store a couple of SR-71s… forty minutes from Boston… for half the value of my house in Newton. Because I’d be on that like Ted on Robin in How I Met Your Mother.—Rob Siegel
Rob’s new book, The Best of The Hack Mechanic, is available here on Amazon, as are his seven other books. Signed copies can be ordered directly from Rob here.