Monday, June 12, 2006

A man’s home is his hassle

A few years ago, when my wife Kara and I first started looking at houses with the insane intention of buying one, I remember the painful period of adjustment to the reality of how pathetically far a dollar goes in the real estate market. Back in the nineties, ten bucks would get you a matinee ticket, a large Coke and a two-bathroom Cape Cod. But that ship has sailed, leaving in its wake a housing market in which the only affordable houses are ones that have copious amounts of chicken wire and rusted staples holding things together.

When we first started looking, Kara would find houses for sale (but not on sale) on the internet, and we’d go track them down in the wild.

“It’s a little out of our price range, but let’s just look at it to get a feel for what things cost,” she’d tell me.

The first house we pulled up in front of looked like it might possibly have had severe fire damage. I looked back over to the printout on Kara’s lap and pointed at the asking price.

“Where’s the moat?” I asked.

“I don’t think this one has a moat,” she said. “Not on purpose, anyway.”

I said, “Anything that costs this much should have a moat. And a drawbridge. And it should probably include a neutered moat dragon that already has all of its shots.”

In the end, we managed to find a place for what seemed like a fair price, mostly because everything in the house was two months from breaking, leaking, exploding, imploding, fizzing out, burning up, or otherwise finding inventive ways to go kaput. The sturdiest thing in the house was the pink wallpaper, which clung to the drywall with such tenacity that we had to boil the entire house to remove it.

Until a couple of weeks ago, we thought that after almost three years of home ownership, we’d gotten all of the nasty surprises out of the way. But that was before we found out that towns pay people to send you letters telling you how awesome your house is. These people are called assessors. An assessor gives you a statement that tells you that your house could fund a medium-size NASA mission, not the kind where they have astronauts on board, but the kind where they shoot asparagus sprouts into space just to see what will happen, and that you will be taxed accordingly.

So last week we got to witness first-hand the bizarre spectacle of town grievance day, when the entire population descends on town hall to tell the assessment board that they live in a hovel. We also found out that the wheels of small town bureaucracy turn exactly as quickly as you’d expect them to. While we were waiting to see the assessment board, we actually graduated into a new demographic. One day, you’re crowd surfing at a Green Day concert, the next day you’re in town hall, sitting in a folding chair, scratching your belly, complaining to anyone who will listen about how they’re trying to run you out of town with these taxes.

We finally got the go-ahead to leave the waiting area and face our tormentors down in the dungeon of town hall. As we descended the stairs, we heard the lady in line ahead of us telling the assessment board in a sweet little voice, “The sewage plant is right next door. It always stinks. Our kids won’t even play in the yard.”

“Ooh, that’s a good one. We should use that,” I told Kara.

When our turn came, Kara told the assessor, “Our garage isn’t even attached to the house.”

“Attached garages are more of a fire hazard. You’re lucky to have a detached one,” the assessor said.

“Tell me that when it’s snowing,” Kara said.

“Our sewage stinks,” I interjected. That’s why Kara usually does the talking for us.

You can tell Mike Todd how bad he stinks online at mikectodd@gmail.com.

9 comments:

  1. Forget real estate dude, the stock market is where it's at. Do I need to show you my spreadsheet?

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  2. You could always RENT a house from your IN-LAWS, who just happen to live right BESIDE you. And then you could sit around and wait, year after year after year, waiting for them to die and leave your house to you in their WILL, but even though they're like, 100, they simply REFUSE to die, and so you keep throwing RENT money at them, praying they won't come for a VISIT and see the hole you put in the wall with a CUE STICK, or see where your kid wrote "KEISHA" on the bathroom door and you've NEVER been able, in the 7 years since she wrote it, to get if off, and your kid is NOT named "KEISHA",
    or all the other HUNDREDS of things you've done to their house in the TWENTY-THREE years you've lived there.......

    Not that it's happened to ME or anything. I'm just saying, it could happen........

    ReplyDelete
  3. Hey - who wants the luxury of an attached garage anyway?

    Walking through the snow is refreshing.

    Ben O.

    ReplyDelete
  4. Melodyann, you CRACKED me up. So TRUE in many ways. And FUNNY.

    Oh by the way, nice blog Mike.

    ReplyDelete
  5. And people wonder why I throw money away on rent month after month... I'm buying peace of mind, I tells ya!

    ReplyDelete
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