Greener Grass? To move or not to move

La Maya and La Bethulia have made up their minds to sell their beautiful, hacienda-like house down here in the Valley and move to Prescott, a more or less historic town in the cool upland parts of the Colorado Plateau. The redoubtable La B is applying for jobs there, and if she lands one (a foregone conclusion!), the house goes on the market forthwith.

So La Maya invited me on a real-estate expedition to Prescott in the near future. That should be entertaining. She’s already spotted a couple of houses online that she wants to see.

Cottonwood tree in fall

Cottonwood tree in fall

I’ve toyed with the idea of moving to Prescott myself, and with two of my best friends about to make the leap, it’s something to consider again. Summers here are getting really obnoxious. Temps of 110 degrees are tolerable, but when it gets up to 115 (or higher) and stays there, day after endless day, it’s just not livable. And whether or not you believe in global warming, it looks like what used to be a fluke is settling into the routine now: these extreme temperatures have happened for the past several years.

After the recent astronomical power bill, I turned the thermostat up to 85 degrees. Eighty-five is balmy enough when you’re outdoors in the open air, or when you can open up the house and let the outside air flow through. But when you’re cooped up in a boxful of stale air, 85 degrees is just plain hot. The house felt hot when I came in the back door from work, and it feels hot now. Most of the rooms, including the office where I’m writing this post with two fans blasting on me, really are uncomfortable.

And of course, there’s the ongoing drudgery (and cost) of pool maintenance.

Just imagine living someplace where it’s always cool enough to sleep at night! Where the locals think a 90-degree day is pretty darned hot.

Dang. With retirement coming up and GDU beside itself with joy at the very thought of farming out online scams courses to underpaid adjuncts, MOVE TO PRESCOTT oughta be a no-brainer. But being myself, of course I have to chew over all the possibilities.

Number One issue: What, really, is it gunna cost to move up there?

The last move I made took me across all of a block and a half. It cost about a thousand dollars. On the same day, a dear friend moved about five miles across the city. She paid two thousand dollars, and the difference in outcomes proved that my choice was radically penny-wise and pound-foolish. I won’t go into detail about the cocaine-snorting movers whose discarded baggy clogged the toilet, causing it to overflow  at exactly the moment my Realtor called to say the buyer was on her way over for the walk-through… Suffice it to say that it was The Move from Hell. After this, Funny ponies up enough to hire a decent moving company.

Average cost: about $100 an hour.

Well. To move my belongings a block and a half, the cut-rate chuckleheads I hired had to make two trips. Assuming I hire a major cross-country carrier, presumably they’ll bring a truck big enough to hold everything. Even so, it will take the better part of a day to load the contents of a four-bedroom house, and then it’s a two-hour drive to from here to Prescott.

Let’s give them ten hours for the first day; they stay overnight (do I pay for their time in a Prescott motel?); then they spend the better part of another day unloading.

If I don’t have to pay for their down time while they overnight in Prescott, then we’re looking at about $2,000. If they get paid $100 an hour for sleeping in a motel, dining, and eating breakfast, we can add another $1,000 to that. I’ll bet about $3,000 is conservative for a city-to-city move.

Now we have the cost of selling this house and buying a new one. Guess who gets stuck with all the closing costs? These days, sellers routinely are being asked to pay for the buyer’s closing costs, meaning to unload this place I’ll probably have to pay more than just the Realtor’s 6 to 8 percent fee (on $270,000, that will come to $16,200 to $21,600!). And how likely is it, really, that a Realtor who is invested in getting me to buy a house in Prescott is going to press for a seller to cover an out-of-towner’s costs, especially if that out-of-towner has sold her own home and now has no place to live?

We’re looking at a bare minimum of  $19,200 in selling and moving costs…and that’s before we learn that the water heater is crapping out, the dishwasher doesn’t work, the refrigerator leaks, and the wiring is not to code! Add the usual three percent of purchase price for the inevitable fix-up and nasty surprises: since I’ll only be able to afford about $250,000 for the Prescott dwelling, that will tote up to a mere $7,500 in first-year costs.

So: this proposed move could easily take $26,700 out of my pocket. Or more.

Compared to a $50 increase in summer power bills…uhm… Does that compute?

Number Two issue: Once I get there, then what?

Well, I’ll have two, count ‘em, two friends: La Maya and La Bethulia. My son will still be here.

I kinda like being able to see M’hijito now and again. Sometimes he even drops by on the way home from work! If I lived in Prescott, I’d be lucky to see him three or four times a year.

Then, if seeing my pal who lives in Waddell takes an Act of Congress and logistics like those required to move the Continental Army, how likely is it that I’ll ever see her again? Or VickyC, whose social life is so vibrant she has to be trapped with a butterfly net to get her into my slow-moving orbit?

And then we have the choir. Ah, yes. The choir. Prescott undoubtedly has ladies who sing in church. But I can tell you for sher: it doesn’t have a choir anchored by a half-dozen professional singers, nor is it likely that any choir directors up there are engineering a lot of performances by members of the fifth-largest city in the nation’s symphony. Betcha no one up there has a multimillion-dollar organ and a church designed to accommodate it, either… Do I really want to walk away from that, now that the director has agreed to let me come back?

Number Three issue: What if I don’t like it?

Another friend, having served on her homeowner’s association board during a difficult time and felt alarmed about the wackos who rose out of the swamp to threaten board members, decamped to Cottonwood, the blue-collar suburb (as it were) of Californicated Prescott. Her son lived there, where he worked with his father building upscale housing for wealthy California expatriates.

She was sadly mistaken in imagining her son would welcome her presence. He and his second wife decided her highest and best use was to babysit their brats. She was in a wheelchair; they lived in a two-story house. You see the mentality, eh?

Before the car wreck that landed her in the wheelchair, she had been a high-powered corporate executive. Child care was, shall we say, not her forté.

On top of this depressing turn of events, she found herself in a place where she had no friends, no social infrastructure, and nothing to do. She hated it. But because it had cost her a lot of money to move, she was pretty much stuck. And that’s where she resides, unhappily, to this day.

Well. If I can’t afford $26,700 to move up to Prescott (and I surely can’t!), as you might imagine, I won’t be able to afford a similar hit to move back into Phoenix. Or anywhere else. Once I’m there, I’m there. And the prospect of ending up in my friend’s predicament does not appeal.

And finally…

Number Four issue: Is the grass really greener on the other side of that fence?

The lawn is already showing the effects of a certain amount of blow-torching, wouldn’t you say? But the above three matters aside, it’s not altogether clear to me that, other than slightly more clement weather during two or three summer months, Prescott has $26,700 worth of advantages to offer.

Trade-off for a warm summer? Cold winters! It snows in Prescott. Rarely does the snow stick on the ground, but what does stick on the ground is ice. I personally am not fond of driving on ice. And while I think 60 degrees is fine for sleeping, 30 degrees does not seem like the ideal snoozing temp. During the winter, Prescott’s lows drop into the teens.

Brrrr, I say to that!

Then it must be remembered that Prescott is a small town. I am a city girl. Not only that, but I’m a raving bitch. Make one enemy in a small town, and you might as well start wearing a red letter on your bodice. I know: I’ve lived in a small town. They can be even worse than homeowner’s associations.

The past few mornings, Cassie the Corgi and I have awakened to 70-degree mornings. These days have been truly lovely until 10:00 or so…and we’re still in early August. Temperatures were tolerable enough, if warm, until the middle of June. So we’re really only talking about maybe six or eight weeks of really awful weather. The rest of the time, this is a gorgeous place to live.

And a lot of stuff goes on here. In a couple of weeks, Kathy and I will go to an evening of jazz to benefit a charity that VickyC supports. Recently we attended a very fine chamber music concert in the Phoenix Art Museum. And, for that matter, every Sunday is chamber music morning down at the church meetin’ hall.

Furthermore, the Valley hosts the largest community college district in the country. As long as I live here, there’ll always be teaching gigs for me. Not my favorite work, but better than driving the zoo train or selling cosmetics at Walgreen’s. Prescott  has only three institutions of higher ed: an aeronautical school; a junior college, and a small, rather eccentric private liberal-arts college. None of these will pay as much as the Maricopa County College District, which itself is presently offering adjuncts about $500/course less than the Great Desert University pays, nor will they have as many openings. And while it’s true that GDU offers many online courses, a) there’s no guarantee enough courses will be available to keep me going; b) if you’re not physically present to remind departmental chairs that you exist, you soon will be superceded by someone who is present; and c) I have some ethical issues with online instruction, which I regard as passing fraudulent.

Maybe if La Maya and La Bethulia make their way to Prescott, I can have my cake and eat it too: stay here, save 30 grand or so, and visit them when the weather’s hot here!

Image: Mike Pedroncelli, Wikipedia Creative Commons

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frugalscholar August 11, 2009 at 2:13 pm

I would rent in a new place before committing all the time/money to what may be an irrevocable decision. I’ve seen too many people regret moves.

I only hope I remember this when temptation strikes.

funny August 11, 2009 at 2:29 pm

@ frugalscholar: Exactly! At $3,000 for a month’s vacation home rental, $29,700 would buy nine July fugues in Prescott.

Roomfarm August 12, 2009 at 5:58 am

Sounds like a plan — I believe in the philosophy of friends in nice places. With pals in place, you have a free way to visit and check the place out without paying through the nose rents…if the place seduces you later, you can jump then. Great post!

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