Saturday, September 10, 2011

This land is your land, this land is my land...

Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn't do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.   Attributed to Mark Twain

The first morning of our land seeking adventure dawned clear, blue and hot.  Steve joined us at the island house right at 9 am as he'd promised and we sat down with a cup of coffee to discuss our plans for the day.  "What exactly are you looking for?" Steve asked.  We appreciated his need to understand our goals and we shared that we were looking for a nice piece of property within a certain budget range, close to the water and with opportunities for expansion and perhaps a future business.  Steve considered our requirements for a moment, asked a few more questions to clarify, then said "follow me!".

We piled into our van and followed Steve back to the main road, and away we went on our land hunting adventure!  Steve showed us a variety of land, homes and small business opportunities over the next several days and the more we looked, the more confused we became.  Roatan is an island with limited land available for purchase and it quickly became evident that there was not a great need for title research and land survey reports, as everyone knew who owned what land and where the borders were.  As we walked across a stretch of property Steve would do a wide sweep with his hand and say, "Henry owns the land on that side - the border is right there.  His brother Gordon owns the land on this side and this particular piece is owned by Henry's 3rd wife Vera, who wants to sell and move to the mainland.  She's not getting along with Henry these days and she wants to move back with her family.  Now, if you buy this, you'll have to negotiate the water rights with Gordon and the access rights with Joe, who owns the land in front of Gordon that you'll need to cross to get to this piece...."   And so it went.  We tried valiantly to take notes and keep all of this straight in our heads and I was completely impressed that Steve knew all the ins, outs and particulars of every piece of land.  I found myself humming in my head, "This land is your land, this land is my land ...."

We didn't spend all of our time with Steve as we wanted to explore land that was listed by other agents, too.  At the time that we purchased Roatan didn't have our equivalent of an MLS and agents were somewhat limited to showing their own property listings.  So we engaged the services of a woman named Evelyn, whose website indicated that she had several years of experience and a large variety of land to sell.  Evelyn, it turned out, wasn't quite as interested in aligning with our budget and goals and ended up showing us some beautiful pieces of property but way out of alignment with our budget.  I'll never forget one property in particular - and not because the land was so memorable, but because of our SQUIA adventures in getting to the land!  We had to climb a very narrow and steep dirt road up the side of a jungle covered hill.  Our SQUIA was not a 4-wheel drive vehicle and let me tell you, I've been on rugged 4 wheel drive roads in Colorado that were in much better shape then this one!  But with Jim behind the wheel and the SQUIA squealing like mad, we managed to grind and bump our way up that hill, following Evelyn in her 4-wheel drive Land Cruiser.  We were hanging on, swaying, bumping and sweating in the back of the van as we climbed what seemed to be a straight uphill road.  Finally - we made it to the top!  We parked where Evelyn indicated (actually - the road ended, so we really had no choice!), but the parking was not flat and we worried the van might roll right back down that hill.  Jim, Ransom and Jamison stayed with the van while the rest of us piled out and navigated our way down the other side of that hill to the beach front property below.  This is where it became interesting - for the guys on the hill, at least!  When we had explored the land and hiked back up the hill to debrief the guys, we discovered that they had experienced an adventure all their own! 

The van had indeed begun to slide back down that hill and it took Jim, Ransom and Jamison struggling with the brakes and pushing against it with sheer might to prevent it from careening backwards down a sheer drop off.  What a catastrophe that would have been!  The guys were covered in sweat and had looks of anxiety on their faces when we returned and we were just so grateful no one had been hurt.  We quickly decided that this was definitely not the land for us, piled back into the SQUIA and began the harrowing drive back down that hill, going straight down in squeaky van with overheated brakes.  Let me tell you, we uttered a lot of prayers getting off that mountain!

We parted ways with Evelyn that day and moved back to Steve.  It just didn't seem like her listings were going to be what we needed and the adventures they offered were just a bit more then we were hoping for.  Let the search continue!