Complacency hath its charms…
The other day while holding forth about frugal habits, I reflected that another frugal trait is to live someplace that you can love. If you really like where you live, you’re unlikely to pull up stakes and go in search of the “dream home.”
Moving is wildly expensive. The Realtor’s commission takes a huge bite out of your home’s sale price, leaving you with a whole lot less to buy another house. If you’re like me — your house is paid for and you have no intention of ever taking on mortgage debt again — it means you can’t move laterally into a house of comparable value unless you have several tens of thousands of cash dollars to throw into the deal. If you have to take out a mortgage, then the move costs you even more outrageously: in addition to a big chunk dropped into the real estate agent’s pocket, you will pay many, many thousands into mortgage interest, a debt that may not go away for 30 years.
So it behooves you financially to stay in place for decades, if not for the rest of your life.
In that line of thought, I wondered why would I ever want to be anywhere else? What we have here is a beautiful little house, not too work-intensive and not absurdly expensive to maintain, centrally located, and (despite a few drawbacks) smack in the middle of a neighborhood on the upswing. Most of the time (except when the breeze wafts the racket from Conduit of Blight and the freeway in our direction, except when the drag racers are roaring up and down GangBangers Way, except when the helicopter cops are chasing perps, except when the City and the utility companies are digging up the streets), it’s nice and quiet. The upscale commerce that followed White Flight to the suburbs has noticed the affluent young urbanite set and is moving back to our parts. Is this not the best of all possible worlds?
Yes…but Dr. Pangloss: is this the best of all possible worlds, or is it a kind of pyrite-plated inertia?
Two houses in the ’hood, one of them the same model as mine and one the same square footage on a slightly smaller lot, are on the market for four times what I paid to buy into this tract.
Shake it up, baby?
If I sold my house today, I would net (in theory) enough to move to a quieter, less bum-ridden part of town, far away from the inane lightrail and the crime-infested apartments and the schools that serve the hapless children of the crime-infested apartments and the child molesters who jump your back wall to get at your little girls and the grocery store parking lots where you dare not carry a purse over your shoulder as you scurry from your car into the market.
There aren’t many places around here where I would rather live, not that I could afford. But there is one. Way to hell and gone on the far side of the Valley, bordering the highway to Payson, is a development called Fountain Hills.
It is very, very quiet and very, very upper-middle-class. I first noticed how quiet a couple decades ago, when Anna the German Shepherd was a pup. That dog was just flat wired to the teeth. She was like a grenade with the pin pulled out…at all times. Anything, and I do mean anything, would set that animal off. Especially if it had wheels.
For some reason that I don’t recall, I happened to have Anna with me in the car when I happened to wander into Fountain Hills. She needed to relieve her doggy self, so I stopped next to an arroyo to let her out. As she was sniffing around, along came a couple of golf carts laden with enthusiasts.
Uh oh! thought I. Here it comes… I tightened my grip on the heavy leather leash and braced for a 90-pound lunge.
But no! She was calm. She was quiet. She refrained from flying into a berserk fit. She just stood there quietly and watched those fascinating, usually enraging objects roll past.
Before long, it became clear she was calm in general. A car drove by and she didn’t try to bring it down by the oil pan. Somebody walked by with a dog and she didn’t try to rid the earth of the beast. Eventually I realized this was because Fountain Hills itself is quiet.
Where I was living at the time, a couple blocks away from the present abode, was a few lots southwest of the War Zone at GangBanger’s Way and Conduit of Blight Blvd — sometimes it was so noisy there that SDXB and I actually had to shout to hear each other when we were sitting outside in the backyard. The ambient noise, evidently, was driving that dog batshit.
It’s a lot quieter here in my present castle — as long as the wind blows in the right direction. Sometimes the noise is annoying, but most of the time it’s tolerable. Fountain Hills is just about the only place — other than Sun City, which enjoys the silence of the mausoleum — where you a) can find that kind of peace and quiet and b) can afford to buy a house.
Despite the presence of some startlingly priced real estate, it does sport a few houses that I could afford. Here’s a sweet enough little place, whose price is eminently right. That shack costs less than I would net on my house, it’s smaller than mine and so would cost less to air-condition, and even though it has some flowers and a fantastic view, the exterior would cost a fraction of what mine costs to maintain. There’s no pool, no trees, and the ground is all gravel.
Fountain Hills has a few disadvantages:
• Most of the housing is cheaply built, as you can tell from the cheesy dry-wall shelving in the shack above; anything built after 1990 is pyrofoam and plaster.
• There’s no gas service out there, so you’re stuck with a glass-top electric stove, IMHO inadequate and unsafe.
• It’s way to hell and gone away from everything. Though it’s relatively close to the Mayo Clinic, the only other serious services and shopping are in Scottsdale, which is a drive.
• It’s so far away, I would be isolated from my son, from the choir and the church, and from my present set of friends.
• I hate that tacky fountain they’re so proud of.
• Even though the scenery is spectacular and the air appears to be clean, it boasts the highest ozone levels in the Valley.
If it ain’t broke…
One of the charms is that it’s a lot cheaper to stay put than it is to move. Maintaining and upgrading this place would cost no more, over the long run, than forking over a commission on several hundred thousand bucks, paying a moving company to haul my stuff to the far side of Scottsdale, paying furniture stores to replace the stuff the movers break or lose, and fixing or upgrading some aging shack. Probably the routine cost of gasoline alone would make it totally not worth moving way to Hell and gone out there.