We started our lives together in a cruddy little chalet in Bennington, Vermont, blackflies in summer, interior icicles in winter. We’d purchased it for $35,000 and fixed it up, and it became a welcoming home for our new baby. A year later, we sold it for $70,000. That was the start of my interest in real estate and creative sweat equity.

A woman and a child walk along the rocks of Strawberry Island in Kennebunk as children in daysailers try to catch some wind. Susan J. O’Neil and her husband had bought a house in Kennebunk “to enjoy in the off season and to rent out each summer” when she realized that she didn’t want to wait until after they retired to live in Maine. Gregory Rec/Staff Photographer

We invested our profit in a house on the other side of town, lovely and larger, but dark inside. One morning my brother came over with a chainsaw and my husband suggested I take the baby somewhere for the day. When I drove back home, I saw a hole the size of a VW bus in the side of the house; it sure was a lot brighter inside – and, once the French doors were installed, quite nice. However, pregnant with twins, I could barely climb the steep stairs to the bedrooms. I knew I couldn’t be carrying three babies up and down those steps. So, we sold it and bought a ranch home in Shaftsbury, Vermont.

A couple years later, friends from Arlington, Vermont, had a lot for sale on top of Red Mountain. We bought it and built our dream house next to theirs. But then my husband changed jobs and off we moved to Peterborough, New Hampshire. Over the next 20 years we moved and renovated three times within that wonderful town as our children grew. I created a digital marketing company that grew along with our kids.

Next, needing to be closer to metropolitan areas for the benefit of my company, we moved to Manchester, New Hampshire, followed by the purchase of a condo in Dover, New Hampshire. It became apparent that we were marching closer and closer to the sea and toward my dream of owning a home in coastal Maine. In 2010, we purchased the ugliest house on the street in Kennebunk; we renovated it to enjoy in the off season and to rent out each summer.

Over the years, we talked about moving to Maine full time when we retired, but, one day in 2018, I was suddenly overwhelmed with the need to live in the place closest to our hearts – now. I explained to my husband: “I want to become invested in that community, that place. I don’t want to wait. Who knows what the future will bring?”

He likes to tell people I threatened to move with or without him, but in truth, he agreed. So we started the process of selling the Dover condo and packing for the 10th – and last – time.

You know that feeling you have when you’ve really come home?

Moving Day felt like what arriving in Heaven must  – at least when you’re moving to coastal Maine.

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