We have enjoyed camping in our Fifth-Wheel trailer for many years and have frequented many campgrounds from New England to Florida to Arizona.
And the fact that they are, well, just SOOO GAY!
A few years ago we looked at another local campground - a $750,000 property that needed more infrastructure and a pool and house repairs and rec hall repairs. We fantasized about making a low ball offer and getting bank financing....So much for that.
The problem is always, right from the get-go, MONEY.
Probably 80% of the campgrounds for sale are over $500,000. Most established campgrounds are selling for well over $700,000, with many going for one, two three million or more. If I had that kind of money, would I want to own a campground? I don't think so. We could live off the interest alone for the rest of our lives and travel and visit other people's campgrounds, or villas in Italy.
But I have been out of work since July and don't expect to be hired for anything anytime soon, especially since I no longer "tint" and so look like someone's grandpa. Leon is tired of climbing ladders and cleaning gutters and washing windows and cleaning carpets. He actually got excited when someone recently inquired about buying his business.
So we have been revisiting the campground idea again, or should I say campground fantasy? Every once in a while we'll see a listing for a campground for under $300,000 and get excited.
Recently we found two such campgrounds, both in Vermont. We contacted the respective sellers/realtors and set up appointments to see the properties.
One, we'll call Camp North was listed at $275,000. We drove the 5 plus hours to get a closer look. Everyone knows the admonition "Location, location, location". Camp North, even though it has impeccable infrastructure - water, sewer, electric, (but no pool) is so far North, well, no gay person from Boston or Providence or Hartford or New York would ever travel that far to sun their collective bare asses for a weekend. Besides, the place was both very remote and, at the same time, lacked privacy, as it was right on the road across from a house. So much for that.
The other campground, Camp South is listed at $199,000. Now that is a sweet price for a campground. It is in Southern Vermont, an ideal location within two to two and a half hours of large metropolitan areas with lots of gay bears who love to camp and show off their fur and romp in the woods.
|The "Unusual" House|
We had a realtor to see our house and tell us what we could get in this depressed market. Although we had planned on sprucing up the house, the realtor encouraged us to do more - tile the sunroom and kitchen, replace the bathroom vanity and stage our house like it was HGTV. Can you say cuh-ching. And there was no guarantee that we would get a higher price for our pain. We stuck to painting.
Another realtor's opinion left us as depressed as the housing market - the price we could expect to get for our home is less than we've put into it over the 12 years we've lived here and $40,000 less than the campground. And in this market, it might take six months to sell.
But we were undaunted. We could cash in all of our retirement savings, which isn't much, and if Leon could actually sell his business, maybe we could swing it. We'd put all our eggs in one basket - what the hell - when we're dead, what will it matter? We'll make it work.
We spent hours over several weeks researching the permits on the property, the environmental laws, the survey maps and various documents the realtor supplied. We made phone calls and wrote emails to environmental departments and banks. I researched and started writing a business plan.
|The Electricity is Good|
|The Cabins Need Work|
|If You See Smoke, People Are Living Here|
We spent six hours with the realtor in Vermont touring the campground and going over the well and septic engineering plans he had acquired for us. The house was not pretty, but it was livable. My feeling was, if I HAD to live there, I could. It needs work.
|One Well Is Working|
|A Little Lysol?|
The three stage septic pumping system was not in use. Was it functional?
The three water wells on the property were apparently dug by some grey-bearded Vermonter with a willow branch. According to records the wells could not supply a sufficient flow of water to service the campground and required huge, 30,000 gallon holding tanks (underground) and pumps to meet code. Were the tanks ever installed? What is their condition? Do they leak?
|Septic Pump Station|
It wasn't looking great. If the wells and septic didn't pass muster, we can back out. And did I mention, there is no pool. You know how gay guys like to congregate at the pool. Permits, engineering, construction...
Leon and I both agreed that the negatives were outweighing the positives. Neither of us are great risk-takers or wheeler-dealers. Unless the inspections go well, this property might be for someone with very deep pockets. We decided to think about it some more.
|A Brook Runs Through It|
I don't know if our problem is that we dream too big or too small or not at all. To many people a few hundred thousand dollars is chump-change. For people like us, an entrepreneurial venture seems always just out of reach, like chasing rainbows.
We will keep looking for now, but I'm afraid every star and planet will need to line up in perfect harmony for us to find that rainbow campground.