BURBANK, Calif. — Stepping into Kelly Cissell’s backyard in Burbank is a bit like stepping into a private zoo. Three chickens roam freely about the lawn. A rabbit named Sir emerges from under a bush. There’s a dog, a few cats and two small birds vocalizing in a large cage.
And then there are the humans who live here: Cissell, her husband and their 8-year-old son. Their backyard may have lots of space for all their animals plus a pool, a fire pit and a trampoline, but inside the house, things are pretty cramped.
“My current house is just about 750 square feet,” Cissell said. “And the new house is 3,300 square feet.”
That new house, as you’ve probably already guessed, isn’t in Burbank, where Cissell was born and raised and has lived her whole life. It’s not even in California. It’s in South Carolina.
Cissell’s husband is eligible to retire at the age of 52 and financially, they’re in a position to take advantage of that opportunity. They just can’t do it in SoCal.
“Unfortunately, California makes it very hard for people who are retiring,” Cissell said. “You know, with their taxes and their property taxes, we just can’t afford to stay here and pay all of that.”
But in Greenwood, South Carolina, she says, their green will go a lot further.
“Cheaper cost of living, income tax is cheaper, gas is cheaper, everything,” she said.
In a few months, Cissell and her brood will move to a brand new, three-floor, lakeside home being built on an acre of land in a gated community. The property taxes will a third of what she pays now. And the price tag of $566,000 is almost impossible to fathom – even for realtor Justin Worsham.
“Five hundred and sixty-six thousand could not buy you a single family home in the LA area that was habitable,” Worsham said. “And that is not an exaggeration.”
He says so far in 2021 he’s seen a spike in the number of people moving out of state to places like Tennessee, Texas and Idaho. But he says not everyone is jumping ship.
“People are leaving expensive counties like Los Angeles County,” he explained, “and they’re moving inland, so San Bernadino and such, where it’s cheaper.”
Cissell realizes her move is a big one. She has never lived outside California, she has no family or friends in South Carolina and she is leaving a very tight-knit community where the neighbors are close. Sometimes, too close.
“I can hear my neighbor’s toilet flush,” she said with a frozen smile.
That won’t be an issue in her new home, which is surrounded by so many trees, you can’t even see the houses next door, let alone hear what’s going on inside of them.
If the pandemic showed us one thing, Cissell says, it’s how precious and short life can be, and she is looking forward to starting her new life in a new state and leaving her old state of mind behind.
“It makes me wish that I would have left years ago, to be honest with you. We could have stretched our dollar that much further and probably had our house paid off by this time,” she explained. “If you have the ability to get out and change your surroundings and slow the tempo, why stay in a place that makes you feel like you are part of the rat race?”
She’s looking forward to the privacy and the financial peace of mind her new roost will provide.