I will admit it is a little strange knowing that so many people believe that Sedona, the small red rock town in northern Arizona that my wife and I are planning on moving to, is home to something akin to mystical energy (known to the locals as “vortexes”), but my wife and I love that town nonetheless. We love it for its beauty, its tranquility and the way that it makes us feel every time we visit.
Nestled within Arizona’s red rock country nearly two hours north of Phoenix, Sedona is a tourist haven during the summer and a relaxing getaway during Arizona’s relatively warm winter months. Views of sweeping red rocks glimmer with the evening light, delighting photographers like me and anyone who appreciates southwestern life. There is no other landscape quite like what this city offers.
In other words, Sedona rocks.
From the first time that my wife and I visited Sedona in 2013, we toyed with the idea of moving up there; our current home is about 4 hours south, in Tucson, AZ. We would need to downsize, but honestly, we want to do that anyway. I love photography and my wife loves to hike. And we both adore the red rock landscape and the energy that a small, but active, town like Sedona holds.
We spent three days between Christmas and New Years in Sedona this winter. Everything was perfect. While cold at night, close to 50-degree days brought us ample opportunity to get out and hike some trails, enjoy a new south American restaurant that opened up just two weeks ago and met some very interesting people along the way. As always, our trip to Sedona was a success. We loved every minute of it. Each time we go, we talk about the idea to cut ties with Tucson and make our way up north.
Now, it’s official. The idea that we toyed with has become more than just a pie-in-the-sky goal, something that we “may consider” if the opportunity presents itself. The truth is this is the city that we absolutely hate to leave.
You know those vacations that you take where you’re happy that you went, but you are also looking forward to returning home? Well, not here.
Don’t get me wrong – we love our Tucson home and the friends that we have in the city. But, we love red rock country more – more than sticking around a larger city for the sake of money and “night life”.
We are moving to Sedona, damn it. Come hell or high water, we will be moving to the place that we both love to make a new life for ourselves. Our job now is to put all of the pieces together to do this as smart as we can, maximizing our savings while we are still both working in Tucson and setting us up to make this transition into the next phase of our lives easy and natural.
As with any other city with magnificent beauty, Sedona is not a cheap place to live, and my wife and I are fully aware that the cost of living there will be more than in Tucson. In life, you can’t have it all. Want freakishly stunning beauty? Okay, but give up cheap gas.
Here is the plan
My wife and I have considered a bunch of different options to make this move possible, and the plan starts with effectively relocating our current rental property from southern Arizona to Sedona to establish ourselves in the area and to start paying down a reasonable mortgage as quickly as possible with rental income – without actually living there yet.
We own a rental property in a small town south of Tucson. The current rental contract extends through midyear 2016. After the contract expires – depending on the housing market at the time – we will look to sell the rental property and use the revenue from the sale to put a large down payment on a townhouse or apartment in the Sedona area and immediately begin renting out that property.
The idea here is to find a cheaper mortgage on a smaller rental property – so, no standalone home.
Keeping the new Sedona property under $170,000 or so (before our down payment) will set us up for a low enough mortgage to make a small profit on the monthly rent. If all works according to plan, we will have a nice steady stream of rental income in the city that we want to move to in a few years.
When my wife and I believe we are ready to relocate, we sell the house that we are currently living in and use the proceeds from that sale to pay off the remaining mortgage of the rental property in Sedona and live in it for a year or two – I will continue working (from home) and we will sock away every spare penny for another down payment on our home – most likely a standalone property with a yard and a view of the red rocks. Until then, we live mortgage-free in our townhouse.
After moving into our home, we re-list the townhouse as a rental property to help us pay the new mortgage. From there, anything goes, and it all depends heavily on the real estate market at the time.
Short term goals
Most of our short term goals remain unchanged – save every penny that we can and continue contributing the wife’s entire salary into our savings. The more savings that we have, the easier that the move to Sedona will be.
What changes is how actively we focus on Sedona real estate and the overall market. Sedona is rich with high turnover younger folks who live in the area for a few years (or months!) and then move on. This ultimately bodes well for the townhouse rental because these scenic vagabonds are generally not in any position to purchase a home and solidify themselves in any particular area.
We need to talk with a good realtor to get a feel for how supportive the Sedona market is for our plans of moving into the area, hopefully into a completely paid off townhouse initially, then into our more permanent home. Staying focused with our eye on the prize won’t be hard. With each trip to Sedona, our excitement to live there only strengthens.
Long term goals
Retiring by 40 is still the goal and is very achievable even with the move to a city with a relatively high lost of living. Before we decided to prioritize this move, my actual targeted retirement age was more like 36 or 37 rather than 40, but now, it will probably be closer to 40. No big deal. But, even if I don’t ultimately retire by 40, it would come as the result of our move to the city that we love – a happy choice, for sure.
Life is a series of trade offs. Choosing the right things that make the most sense to you is the key to enjoying your life to the fullest. A lot of the right things for my wife and I include the outdoors, and there are few better places in the world to live for outdoorsy-types like us than Sedona, Arizona.
We also need to look into alternative sources of income. My wife loves to knit and is considering how to monetize the time that she spends working with yarn and fabric. For me, it’s photography. Selling photographs online, starting a photo tour business in Sedona or a photography gallery are all things that I am considering.
As the adage goes, if you do what you love, you never truly “work” a day in our life. After we move to Sedona, we hope to turn that adage into our way of life.
Steve is a 38-year-old early retiree who writes about the intersection of happiness and financial independence. Steve is a regular contributor to MarketWatch, CNBC, and The Ladders. He lives full-time in his 30′ Airstream Classic and travels the country with his wife Courtney and two rescued dogs.