Home Front

A blog about the economy and the Sacramento-area real estate market.

April 10, 2008
Leaving expensive California for a $114,000 house in Midwest


One morning last summer the phone rang here at the office and on the other end was a Sacramento woman concerned about the tone of our real estate reporting. She thought we were negative and needed to write more about the positive things happening in the market.
It happened that she had recently listed her house for sale.
I listened and she made points about it being hard enough to sell without the newspaper scaring away buyers.

Then I happened to ask where she was moving.
That started one of the more goofy episodes of journalism I have been involved in over 30-some years. (And in my cub days at The Fort Wayne Journal-Gazette I wrote a 1975 story about a family pet rabbit in Indiana that liked to watch television. It still hurts to remember).

Anyway, I am talking about the story last July of Cathy Del Brocco and her search for a $150,000 house in one of the best towns in America. It really hit a nerve in expensive California where $150,000 might buy you a shack in the woods. And do not think it includes a kitchen sink.

It turned out she had seen a Money Magazine story that called
Holland, Mich., one of the top five retirement towns in the U.S. And after checking out Las Vegas, Orlando and Midtown Sacramento and then ruling them out, she flew to Holland and looked at houses. She did not know a soul there; it was a move based on a magazine recommendation.

I wrote this story about her, which was discovered in Holland and led to invitations from the mayor to lunch when she arrived and all kind of other surprises. Two Michigan newspapers wrote about the Californian giving it all up to move to Holland. The town was already swelling with pride that Money Magazine had noticed it; now it had a Californian coming because of that.

Cathy Del Brocco became a kind of celebrity there.

Her only problem was she lived in Sacramento and could not sell her house to save her life. In the end it took her nearly nine months.

She called late last week and said she had finally sold it and was moving to Holland. She thought she was probably forgotten there after all this time.

No. The mayor again offered an invitation to lunch and a tour of the city. He said he would reserve her a Dutch costume and hoped she could sit as a guest of honor on the city float in the May Tulip Parade.

Most amazing at all, she never found a $150,000 house.
The whole time she had to cut her price in Sacramento to sell somebody in Michigan was doing the same. She bought a house for $114,000.

The full story runs Friday in the print version of Home Front. Who knows what will happen when you pick up the phone.

Photo courtesy of www.infomi.com

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