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To move or not to move, that is the question

February 19th, 2013 at 09:53 am

Today I compared some key annual costs of home ownership versus condo ownership.

On the home ownership side, we've got:

$0 common charges (I mow and shovel my own driveway)
Property taxes: $6600
Oil heat for a season: $1200 (fluctuates often, depending on price of oil)
Homeowners insurance: $600 (saved myself several hundred by going with another carrier last year)

On the Condo side of the equation, we have:
Average common charges of complexes I'm considering: $2400, or about $200 a month; some are more.
Avg. Taxes: Around $4200
If I go with gas heat, I'm conservatively guessing about 25% less than fuel oil costs, so $900 a year.
Homeowners insurance: About $200

So my annual costs for these items is just $700 more when living in a single family home instead of a condo. Not a great deal more, IMO. Of course, I'm not factoring the many and miscellaneous other repair and maintenance cost of owning a home, whether it be replacing a hot water heater or whatever.

Also, I'd expect to pocket between $40,000 and $50,000 upon the sale of the home, which I'd have left over and add to savings after paying cash for the new condo.

I guess it still wouldn't be a bad idea to stick around a few more years. It would give housing market prices a little more time to recover.

I paid $209,900 for my house in December 1995; today it's worth about $299,000. And yes, it is paid off. At the peak of the market, in 2007, it was valued at $435,000. So right now, the house is valued at about midway between what I paid for it and its high in 2007. Still, there's a nice $100,000 gain, more or less.

As for lifestyle matters, I do enjoy having a largish vegetable garden, big enough to freeze homegrown tomatoes and other veggies for the winter as well.
I do enjoy picking wild berries in the backyard in July. If I buy a condo, I will have room (and hopefully, sun) to grow a few dwarf cherry tomato plants in pots, but not anywheres near the scale of what I do now in my fenced garden.

The headaches about living here include the ongoing grind of mowing all summer and shoveling myself out in winter. I may investigate a rider mower; would love a battery-powered one but they are rather pricey. The other big issue is storm outages and many fallen trees, which freak me out and cost a lot to clean up. There's also the issue of possible worsening MS relapses, which would be easier to deal with in a one-level condo, although I've done fantastically during the past 25 years with it.

Every time I think I've made up my mind that yes I want a condo or no I don't, then I start waffling about it again, sometimes after hearing other people warn me about dealing with noisy neighbors in a condo. Something I'm certainly not used to, but I'd be going to a fairly upscale complex where I hope loud parties and such would not be common.

6 Responses to “To move or not to move, that is the question”

  1. Wink Says:

    Would it be possible for you to downsize to a smaller single home with less property? Maybe a small rancher (single level living) with just enough yard for you to garden? Less mowing and shoveling. I pay my neighbor to mow my lawn and shovel the snow. The cost of this is less than paying a monthly condo fee. I am a single woman, 52 years old, so I can relate to your situation. Also, I really enjoy reading your blog!

  2. JulieA Says:

    This is an issue we go back and forth on quite a bit --- where we'll eventually live. We love our house but the upkeep and the yardwork are extremely heavy. I think that we will eventually compromise and hire somebody to help with the mowing and the snow shoveling and even some of the repair work around here. That won't solve the problem of the stairs that lead up to the bedrooms which I think might become a problem in old age. My husband says we'll just worry about that when the time comes. Sometimes it seems like the house has become a part-time job and that is not always fun. But then we get those awesome summer nights out on our back deck and I think I'd never want to live anywhere else.

    I often find myself cruising on realtor.com quite a bit to see what is available and what the prices are running.

  3. CB in the City Says:

    I think since you are waffling a bit, it might be a good idea to let housing prices recuperate a little more. Then you could take your time on the home repairs; do them at a leisurely non-stressful pace.

    Can you hire someone to plow out your driveway? When I was a kid in Michigan we had a long driveway so we had a standing agreement with someone who owned a snowplow to come and shovel us out after every big snow. I don't know how much it cost, but we were pretty poor so it couldn't have been too much. Of course I realize times have changed, but it does seem to me that shoveling is the biggest drawback to home ownership you are facing. It is clear you love the garden and the wildlife and the open space, and condo living definitely will not offer that.

  4. gattaca Says:

    Also keep in mind the special assessments that condo associations dish out every now and then. I've had friends shell out $5K because the condo assoc. wanted to update porches or windows, etc. This is what keeps me from condos at this time.

  5. rob62521 Says:

    I think if you are undecided, then waiting for housing prices to increase would probably be the best for you.

  6. patientsaver.com Says:

    Gattaca, that is a valid point, and I've sometimes wondered on which side of the equation I'd come down on. On the one hand, I wouldn't want to be forced to live with a deteriorating structure (especially since I'll be paying cash, no mortgage) becus others didn't want to pay for it, but on the other hand, I wouldn't want others to go overboard on certain things either. I'd have to give up a certain degree of control over these types of infrastructure repairs/maintenance.

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