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I’m pretty sure the first thought that came to your mind when reading that title was that I must have sold (or are selling) a lot of stuff on Ebay.
You would be wrong with this line of thinking.
In fact it was not selling at all but buying (my largest purchase ever in actuality) a listing on Ebay that I credit jumpstarted my path to financial independence, though I did not know it at the time.
Curious what on earth on Ebay it could have possibly been?
Well first a little background.
I was very fortunate growing up that the majority of my childhood was spent living in a beautiful lake house in Louisiana where my dad practiced medicine.
I absolutely loved having a water feature in our backyard.
I would come home from school and either jump into my canoe and go fishing, or cruise the lake on my own 14 foot bateau (a flat bottom boat) with a 9.8 horsepower Mercury outboard.
We even had a family boat that we would take out to go wake-boarding.
Water was definitely an integral part of my childhood.
Fast forward 30 years and I found myself suffering blizzard like conditions in northern Ohio.
I bought a house (one of my financial mistakes) in residency that was located 2 blocks away from Lake Erie and was “rewarded” by this choice with lake effect snow.
I would shovel 2+ feet of snow from the driveway one day only to have it re-covered the next.
I happened to be on call as an Interventional Radiologist and had to drive in through brutal conditions and something in my mind just clicked….
Why am I here?
As my now ex-wife had just got expelled from the Radiology residency program that I got her in (they accepted her on condition that I would stay on as faculty during her residency training), I was no longer bound to stay.
So between on-call cases I came to the conclusion that I needed to find a medical practice below the snow belt and began random internet searches.
I had no particular geographic ties to any region so the possibilities were endless.
Recalling fond memories of my childhood, I knew that I wanted a forever home that had some sort of natural body of water tied to it.
I forgot the actual google search term I used but I know it contained waterfront property in it.
And then a few months later there it was…
A listing that popped up on Ebay that essentially changed the course of my history.
I was stunned.
I never even thought it was possible to actually own a waterfall, much less find it on Ebay of all places.
To say I was intrigued was an understatement.
It was mid-week when I discovered the listing and on a lark I decided to book a flight down to view the property in person that very weekend.
I figured that this listing on Ebay was an over-exaggeration and surely a natural waterfall could never be on private property.
Even though the Ebay listing had 38 more pages of pictures of the property, it did nothing to decrease my astonishment when I saw it in person.
I felt like Alice in Wonderland (and to pay homage to this reference, I later named my property “Looking Glass Estate”).
I went down to the base of the main waterfall and just took in its natural beauty.
It was breathtaking and in that instance I knew I had to do everything to make this property mine.
Knowing I was heading back up to Ohio the very next day, I gave the seller an initial offer that night and, after a counteroffer, entered into contract, which still ended up being $79,000 below the listing price.
I took a leap of faith.
I essentially committed to buying this property without a clue of where I was going to work or even if there was a suitable place to work nearby.
I knew nothing of the area except that it met my criteria of having a natural body of water in my backyard and it was considered below the snowbelt.
Sometimes when you take a leap of faith, you fall tragically (much like the leap of faith I took in agreeing to an arranged marriage).
This time, however, my leap of faith was rewarded many times over due to beneficial financial implications I had no clue at the time (it is often better to be lucky than good).
I essentially was using the advantage of geoarbitrage to accelerate my path to financial freedom before I even knew about the terminology:
- I went from a state with not only state income tax but also 2 separate city income taxes (I worked in Cleveland and had to pay Cleveland income tax and lived in an outlying city and had to pay a separate income tax for that city as well) to a state with no income tax at all
- This has translated to over a $60k/yr savings in taxes alone based on my salary over the last several years
- There was additional considerable savings due to lower property taxes
- I was also getting significantly more land/home for the money (the amount I spent on this property would have only bought me a mid-level home with a small backyard in Cleveland)
- I now live in a low cost of living (LCOL) area
- Physician salaries across all specialties are also much higher in this region of the US compared to HCOL areas such as California.
I do have to pay higher sales tax than before, however just to make up the difference in state income tax savings alone, I would have to buy over $4 million in goods/year (FYI, I don’t).
In terms of taking a leap of faith of buying a home before getting a job (completely the opposite way most people (rightfully) do), I also got incredibly lucky.
In 2005 Radiologists were in incredibly high demand.
After I bought the property I posted my interest in the area and was contacted by several facilities/recruiters.
I ended up interviewing at 5 different places and was offered a spot at all of them.
I ended up picking the one that I felt gave me the best lifestyle
- 60+ multispecialty outpatient physician group
- Clinical duties for me were Mon-Fri 8:30-5pm, no weekends, no call (a rarity in the medical profession)
I had some better financial offers from other practices, however, because they would require call/weekend shifts, I went with the one that was most conducive to maintaining a good work-life balance..
Looking back, I am thrilled even at that time (age 35) I started realizing the importance of prioritizing time over money.
When I first laid eyes on that fateful Ebay listing, there was approximately 2,400 views. By the time escrow closed that number ballooned up to 30,000.
I was informed by the previous owners that after I entered contract they later got multiple offers, all higher than mine.
In fact the agent involved in the original transaction said that another party was so interested in buying the property that they would pay me $100k so that I would get out of the contract.
It was a lot of money to say the least, but I was not tempted at all by it because I knew that this type of property rarely comes up for sale and I would likely never be able to find something that moved (and still moves) me the way this property did.
This property has also allowed me to achieve local mini-celebrity status. In 2008 my family and I were featured on an HGTV show (What You Get For The Money), we have been in many newspaper articles, and even in a book.
Through the 12 years I have since owned this property I have made multiple improvements (multi-level composite decking, landscape lighting system, concrete driveway, geothermal system, major landscaping, etc.) to finally get it to the state it is currently in (essentially doubling the purchase price).
It is my own personal Shangri-La and another great way to decompress when I get off of work.
And it all started with an Ebay listing and a leap of faith.
Superpower Take Home Points:
- Sometimes it is okay to go chasing waterfalls
- You can sometimes be richly rewarded in ways you never thought of when taking a leap of faith.
If you are in search of financial help, please consider enlisting the service of any of the sponsors of this blog who I feel are part of the “good guys of finance.”
Even a steadfast DIY’er can sometimes gain benefit from the occasional professional input.
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