The sun shines on a great place to be


Crystal branches of hawthorn dance on reflections of diamond sun drops and glistens over clean carpets of snow. Frozen waters sing down white blankets. Tuesday morning a week ago. The outside air was 11 degrees and nature answered a question, "Why did God invent the hawthorn?"

We drove last week from Lake Placid (73 degrees and a pearl blue, cloudless sky) sliding into North Carolina's Blue Ridge, just ahead of the year's first cold front that dumped eight inches of clean pureness across our land.

Then the temperature rose above melting before it plummeted again leaving a glorious silver thaw shimmering throughout the forest. Giant silver coated hemlock branches drooped in submission, making hidden caves under the boughs. The sunny clear sky skidded in flames off an icy crust and we walked through this sparkling brilliance in wonder. When I came to a huge grove of hawthorns that we encourage (they are very good for the bird growth here), I was overwhelmed at the beauty. This myriad of spindly, spiny thorns stood coated in crystal ice. They glistened in refractions of sunfire brighter than a diamond cutter could dream. What beauty to behold!

One reason investing in Smalltown USA makes sense is that a survey (published in USA Today) asking whether people wanted a 4,000 foot Manhattan town house, a big suburban Tudor home or a 100 year old farm house on ten acres, showed that a vast majority wanted the farm house. I suspect this is because of the serenity, beauty, peace and quiet on the land. Yet I have to be honest, most people would not like to live full time up here. We are remote and in the winter it is cold!

This why Merri and I have also focused on places in the sun, such as Lake Placid. (See http://www.garyascott.com/articles/657/) So while Merri and I were in South Florida for our Grandson's christening we decided to visit the Lake Placid area to see what we could see. This area is within striking distance of our daughter, son-in-law and grandson, would make a warm winter escape and offer a good store of value that should appreciate if we bought right.

Coming south the easiest way to reach this area is down highway 27 off I-4 (you head south at the Haines City junction). The drive down from I-4 comes through or by many interesting Smalltown USA areas such as Lake Wales, Avon Park and Sebring. These areas however are busier and once leaving Sebring you immediately notice the end of all this busyness. Suddenly you are in a canyon of citrus groves that go on for many miles. The huge farming interest in this area is what has kept this area less populated. Third generation agri-businesses make enough money off this land that they are not tempted to sell out to real estate developers.

The land is rolling, hilly and serene until suddenly over one rise you leave the groves and several blocks of commercial development (fast food restaurants, gas stations, strip shopping centers and such) announce that you have arrived. Lake Placid proper is a few blocks to the right and is a slightly faded, but enjoyable Florida 50ish type of town, consisting of several blocks of shops, local restaurants, businesses and some old houses. They call this "The town of murals" and many of the buildings are painted with excellent large murals. There appears to be considerable community activity. We drove through twice and then returned later in the evenings to see what came out when the sun went down. We were encouraged to se several small shops, including a homey feeling ice cream shop which was open till nine p.m. where the owner and her daughter were sitting on the sidewalk taking in the last fading moments of purple dawn. This seemed a good sign a local woman and her daughter sitting alone in the dark at night, not afraid of crime.

We drove perhaps 15 square miles and this ride unveiled an interesting characteristic, there is no continuous suburb. The area is agricultural land spotted with suburbs throughout. Lake Placid consists of 27 lakes and we circled as many of the big ones that we could. Some lakes such as the largest, 27,000 acre Istokpoga has only very small strips of suburbia in a few areas. Otherwise the lake is surrounded by farmland. Other lakes such as Lake Placid and Lake June, are about half surrounded by houses with no access (other than a boat) at all to the other side which is wild or in groves. The suburbs and wild coexist. Just a few moments past the end of the road that ran half way round Lake June we were suddenly in Lake June Scrub Park and within two minutes saw both a deer and a bobcat.

We did not look at any specific houses (I explain why in a moment), but some of the latest listings covered every price range. A furnished lake front condo with new berber carpeting and covered parking had an asking price of $40,000 (listing # CP-0436 by broker C.S. Edwards Realty, emailcpol@htn.net). A duplex (rent one side, live in the other) with lake access sounded interesting at $74,900. (listed by Janet Bolton realty jbolton@htn.net), There were many lake and canal front homes in the $150,000 range such as a 3 bedroom 2 bathroom house on the canal to Lake Huntley with sunken living room, brick fireplace and screen porch asking $142,500 (Act Real Estate inc. MLS # 153745 www.actrealestate.com), More expensive properties are also available on up into the $500,000 range including an 1800 Square foot house on 1.4 acres with beautiful oaks and a cute, clean guest cottage and concrete block storage building, on crystal clear Lake McCoy asking $192,000. (C.S. Edwards Realty, emailcpol@htn.netmls listing 152838). Our favorite realtor…very thorough, extremely nice for all the above properties and more is: Debbie McCullough, 800741-7866, Compton Realty, dmccullough@htn.net.

We planned to get into the properties themselves on our way back from the christening, but events suddenly changed.

Recent messages (see http://www.garyascott.com/articles/676/) have talked about the importance of making investments that suit your lifestyle. Merri and I were interested in Lake Placid for three reason, the opportunity, a winter escape in the sun and as a place near our daughter and her family.

Events may have changed this as our son-in-law has a business opportunity that may move them further north. Based on this we skipped looking at houses on the way back. The bad news in this is that I have no interior inspections in the Lake Placid area to share with you. But there are good things too. Had I arrived back in North Carolina a day later, I would have missed the spectacle of the crystal hawthorn bush! Plus we now plan to look at Smalltown USA further north in Florida. Think of Tampa as a hub city, Ocala as a nearby town and places like Silver Springs, Fellowship and Fort McCoy. Smalltown USA is a big place, its everywhere and the adventure abounds.

I look forward to sharing this opportunity with you!

Gary


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