Funny about Money

The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing. ―Edmund Burke

To Move or Not to Move…That is the question: in numbers!

So during the night a bum came up the alley and dumped over the big, bulky four-residence garbage bins and scattered garbage all over the ground, presumably looking for documents that can be sold to identity thieves for enough to help support his (or her) meth habit. On my way to a friend’s house for brunch this morning, I saw a bum steaming along as fast as he could go on a kid-size bike, no doubt stolen — the bike, that is, not the bum. The bum was behaving so erratically, swerving back and forth and then stopping to holler and gesticulate at me when I tried to get around him — that he was no doubt high as a kite.

These things make me consider and reconsider: do I really want to stay in this neighborhood?

I could buy a very nice house in Sun City, freshly renovated, for so much less than I can net on sale of this house that I would walk away with at least 50 grand in my pocket. Given a little luck, with a lot more than net 50 grand.

Pumping up my savings by 50 grand would help my cause tremendously. So would the much lower taxes, house, and car insurance. SDXB said when he moved out there, his property taxes dropped to a third of what he was paying here, and his insurance dropped by half. Plus Phoenix now gouges residents for a tax on food; there are no food taxes on that side of the Valley, which is outside the Phoenix city limits.

And there are no bums in Sun City. Crime levels are very low. It is safe to walk to any grocery store, if you’re close enough (chances are you’re not, but those lucky few who are within walking distance of shopping need not carry heat to do so). You can get around in a golf cart, so gas costs and wear & tear on your car are low, if you rarely go anywhere but Sun City.

So…why don’t I hurry right up and list my house?

Well. There are some drawbacks:

  • Sun City is an old folks’ ghetto. By and large a white old folks’ ghetto. Weirdly enough, I happen to like the sound of children playing, and I even like a little diversity amongst my neighbors.
  • The place is overrun with coyotes — and overrun is no exaggeration. My little dogs would never be safe: they could not be allowed to linger in their own yard, even if the yard were walled in., Most yards in SC are not fenced or walled, and you build a wall at risk of incurring the neighbors’ wrath. And a coyote will ghost right over a six- or eight-foot wall, grab your dwarf pooch, and sail back out of your yard before you can move.
  • It is a long, long way from upscale shopping and dining.
  • It’s a long, long way from cultural venues.

Nevertheless, though… I’m really tired of the bum situation, and it clearly isn’t going to get any better. The city is moving another meth clinic into our neighborhood (the 24-hour one that serves thousands(!!) of drug addicts a month ain’t enough). The blightrail carries them into our neighborhood and drops them off for free. The corner of Conduit of Blight Blvd and Gangbanger’s Way presently has the highest rate of police calls in the city! Anything that you leave outside that’s not red-hot or nailed down will be stolen. And every few days you hear another report of some thug trying to gain entry into a home while the resident is inside.

Tiresome.

Maybe, I sometimes think, the advantages of freedom from crime, drug abuse, and homelessness would make it worth moving,. Especially given that property values and taxes out there are low enough to create a net profit on sale of one’s existing home.

But…is that so?

To parse out an answer to that question, I decided to list the advantages and disadvantages of each venue and rate them, on a scale of 1 to 10, according to how much I personally care about each factor. Thus, for example, a walled backyard would be worth 10 points (because I value my privacy a lot), while the fact that my present home doesn’t have enough cabinetry in the kitchen is only a 5-point disadvantage because I don’t have a family to feed and I don’t entertain much, so don’t need that much space for dishes, pots, pans, and utensils. The more important an issue is, whether it’s defined as an advantage or as a disadvantage, the higher its point rating.

So we get this:

Here we find that my house presents 80 points of advantage, as compared to 83 points in favor of a comparable house in Sun City. However, when it comes to  disadvantages, the spread is much, much wider: only 66 points’ worth of disadvantages for my present home, vs. 73 points in a Sun City house.

The disadvantages rack up because of the area’s distance from the central part of the city, the lack of natural gas service to the area, and lack of private outdoor space.

Even though Sun City has many advantages, it’s only 3 points ahead of mine in the areas that really matter. And even though my house has a lot of annoyances and drawbacks, Sun City outranks my neighborhood in the “disadvantages” category by 13 points.

Even though it costs more to live here, I can afford it. Even though there are a lot of bums here, I think I’d rather have a gas stove, gas heat, and proximity to social and cultural activities than a bum-free environment lacking those things.

Interesting little exercise, isn’t it?

Casts some light on why I feel so conflicted about this question. And it also reinforces the old saw: when in doubt, don’t.

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Author: funny

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4 Comments

  1. Are there other places you can move to that are more affordable but still close to shopping? A smaller place without a pool but with a safe backyard for your dogs? You might be better off with an older place so long as the major things (roof, foundation, electric system, HVAC) are fairly new and in good condition.

    Also that blows my mind that Arizona or at least Phoenix puts sales tax on food. Talk about a regressive tax on the poor!

    Here in PA, we actually don’t have taxes on retirement income (except at federal level) (or sales tax on groceries for that matter!), and I think the reason PA did that is they assume so many retirees move to Florida, lol, so they were hoping it’d be a wash. So in the end it actually is a decently affordable place to retire, especially in some of the smaller towns.

    • In fact my house is relatively cheap for an in-town place, because the ‘Hood forms a buffer zone between an upscale strip called “North Central” (a horse path, now a running trail, traverses the entire length of it…you get the picture) and the vast low-income expanse of West Phoenix, which starts at Conduit of Blight. Those bums are what keeps our real estate costs within reason. 😀

      So I cannot afford a house in the central area that is also in a safer area. Prices are pretty startling. What I could afford — maybe — is a small ticky-tacky structure made of styrofoam and plaster (literally these little shacks are considered “old” after just ten years!) in some tract of look-alikes halfway to Tucson. Literally, these places are so monotonous that if you came home three sheets to the wind, you couldn’t find your house. In fact, a few weeks ago a woman shot a neighbor who did exactly that: came home after a few drinks and, confused because all the houses look alike, tried to enter her house thinking it was his.

      I don’t want to live in a place like that any more than I want to live in Sun City. But given a choice: Sun City is preferable — at least the houses are made of block and should stay standing for a few more years.

  2. I’m just a few years older than you are. A suggestion : Rerun the comparisons based on what you think will be true in five years. And include an estimate for the difficulty and hassle of selling, buying and moving now or in the future. We did it two years ago at 73 and 78, and it was no picnic. I don’t see it getting any easier.

    I don’t comment often, but I’ve been reading your page every day for years.

    • Thanks for commenting! Glad to hear someone out there reads this stuff. 😀

      Yes, moving when you’re older is not a joke. Actually, IMHO moving any time is less than altogether fun…

      I actually am 73 now. Last time I moved, around 14 years ago, I realized I was already too old to do that… It indeed was difficult and made even more unpleasant by a pair of moving guys who were stoned. They dropped some of their coke on the floor and failed to clean it up, and then clogged the toilet when they flushed their baggie.

      Good times!

      The houses in my neighborhood are built much the same as the original Sun City houses: block, poorly insulated but sturdy. It’s easy to improve insulation either by firring out east and west-facing walls on the inside, installing that pink stuff that comes in rolls, and dry-walling over it or by plastering the exterior over a layer of Styrofoam. It probably wouldn’t cost any more to plaster the outside of the house than it would to move, especially by the time you add in the usual repairs and surprises you have to deal with every time you move to another shack. At any rate, because they’re essentially the same houses as the ones in SC (only a bit bigger), in terms of the quality of the buildings it’s a wash.

      This place is experiencing the same thing that occurred when XDH and I lived in a historic neighborhood called Encanto. The City wanted to run a freeway through the middle of it, and to do that, they needed to get rid of the cluster of lawyers and doctors who lived there. One of their strategies was to chase the derelicts (most were still alcoholics back then, though at the time they were shifting to drug use) into our neighborhood. They proceeded with their plans, in cahoots with road builders who expected to get rich, but were partially blocked by a coalition that demanded the area be designated “historic.” Now the agenda is downtown “revitalization”: in order for the builders to get richer erecting high-rises, they need to clear the rest of the bums and criminals out of the decrepit downtown areas. They’re doing that by moving services for drug-addicted and homeless mentally ill up into our area and giving these folks free transport on the fancy lightrail. It’s hard to escape the suspicion that the lightrail was built not only to profit political contributors immediately (in construction of the boondoggle) but also to create long-term profit for those who plan to make hay rebuilding the downtown and capitol areas.

      Well, that “historic” area — Encanto — is now one of the priciest districts in the city. Despite pressure from developers and the continuing presence of homeless addicts (the situation is much worse there than it is here), real estate prices there are astonishing. Our old house recently was on the market for a million dollars!

      So…one could argue that even though the bums and the crime are unpleasant, when a generation of upwardly mobile, educated professionals decides that they don’t want to commute in from a look-alike suburb located halfway to San Diego, centrally located districts WILL be gentrified, no matter what. I think that’s what’s happening here.

      Personally, I would prefer to age in place — to live here until I drop dead or am hauled off to a nursing home. Quite a few original owners have done exactly that. These houses are relatively low-maintenance, especially if you can afford yard help. The pool is easy to care for and it also can be maintained for a reasonable price by a service. It would be cheaper to hire yard help, pool help, housekeeping help, and handyman services than to move into a life-care community. Moving to Sun City would create what is essentially a wash, except for the absence of the criminal class.

      IMHO, I suspect it would create less hassle and a lot less expense to simply stay put until I’m forced to move to a life-care institution (or, with any luck, die quickly) than to uproot myself now and move to Sun City.

      It’s surprising how many people move out there, decide they don’t like it, and move back into town, or back to Ohio… I can’t find any figures on that, but I do know SDXB’s next-door neighbors moved out there — for much the same reason as the one I’m nattering on about: when he was burgled one night (he chased the prowlers off with a pistol), he told the neighbors all about it. They were spooked and decided to move away. Within a year or 18 months, they turned around and moved right back to the fringes of North Central. The woman whose house I decided not to buy out there said she was moving because Sun City is unfriendly to single women: if you don’t have a male partner, you don’t have a social life. She said she felt very isolated out there. And when my parents lived in SC, at least two couples that I knew of moved back to where they came from.

      So it ain’t all beer and skittles on the other side of the tracks…