walkitout (walkitout) wrote,

not-so-random commentary: buyin' a place -- anywhere

The Sports Season -- Political Season, that is -- is about to start here in Brookline. I've been quietly active in the pre-season, causing trouble associated primarily with the library. I'm hoping to understudy as a trustee this year.

Recently, someone sent a very unpleasant letter to the selectmen (I have not yet been able to read it myself) complaining about the vast expense of living in town. Basically, property taxes, because other than a pretty minor restaurant sales tax, and an annoying unearned income tax that few people in the state ever encounter, that's the only tax there is in this state. But that does mean it's not low, and if you aren't expecting it, and bought all the house they let you, those taxes can push you right over the edge. Like, lose your house, edge.

Of course, the vast majority of the property tax goes to pay for the schools, so if you want to wail and moan about taxes effectively, one should do it to the school board/at the school board meeting, not to the selectmen/at Town Meeting. The selectmen, I understand, were kind enough to point this out to her, and also to direct her to meetings where she could learn more about her Tax Dollars At Work, and do her New England bit to be frugal. (After all, the town portion of taxes actually went _down_ this year.)

I laugh, of course, because I'm not paying property taxes out here (that'd be R.'s property and R.'s expense). I do pay property taxes in Seattle (I try to remember, but sometimes they are late), but those are considerably lower, even tho sometimes that property is valued higher than this one. I don't get to laugh very hard, tho, because I have to pay home owner's dues.

Let us, then, consider the cost of ownership:

home owner's association dues
property taxes
mortgage payment
electricity bill
heating bill
cooling bill

Here in DIY heaven, we bring our garbage and recycling to the town transfer station. We have a well, but pay for the electricity to run the pump, and sometimes have other costs associated with filtering or otherwise treating the water. We have a septic system, which has to be pumped every few years. We have AC (electricity bill, plus maintenance), a furnace (electricity on the fan, propane for the burner), a cookstove (propane for stovetop and oven), washing machine (electricity and water and sewage), dryer (propane and electricity), dishwasher (water, sewage and electricity -- oh, and maintenance on everything). No mortgage payment ('cause my husband is frugal). Lights, computers and similar. Property taxes (high enough to make a person nervous, and they went up a _lot_ this year). No association.

Never, ever, ever compare the rent bill to the mortgage payment. Ask the questions. Find out what's included. You might be shocked to discover what's involved in keeping a bunch of appliances up and running. Or keeping the place liveably cool/warm.

Our friend M. bought a condo a few years back. We helped him move in. I cleaned a bunch, because it was clear that even the carpet cleaning done for the sale was inadequate; the previous owners apparently never vacuumed. Eeew. And you should have seen the paint they used on the walls -- they bought cheap stuff and mixed it. Looked like vomit. Seriously. (Not chunky, but that icky pink color.) Over the first few months, he kept encountering all kinds of stupid lack-of-maintenance stuff that was the result of people-who-should-only-ever-rent being able to afford to buy a condo during a massive fall in the market back in the '90s. Nothing wrong with the construction and he likes the place. But catching up cost a bunch.
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