Tuesday, September 17, 2013

All the House You'll Ever Need

After battling a summer cold for the past week I managed to get the best of it to the point I could do my regular run again of 6 miles.  This run of course a bit more full of mucus as I coughed the last vestiges of green phlegm vacationing in my throat, but it was back to my regular schedule at my regular route.

My regular route is at "The Lakes" in Minneapolis.  "The Lakes" refers to a group of 4 lakes within the city limits that have immaculately groomed trails, trees, and mansions of old-money fame (Pillsburys, Daytons, Cargills, etc.).  I've enjoyed running around these lakes for the past 20 years, fancying in my youth someday I might be able to buy one of those houses.

My favorite house, however, is this one.  An old Italian villa that if I ever had the money I would buy it.

Or, at least that's what I thought when I was 18 and first saw it.  For now that I've doubled in age since first laying eyes on that house and dreaming that if I worked hard, such a house would be within my reach, my experience and wisdom has told me that such a house is the last thing I would want.

First, unless you have 10 children, a wife, and heck, staff and a mistress or two, the house is just not practical for your average bachelor, let alone family.  You'll have tons of unused rooms and unless you have a ton of hobbies (telescopes, music, painting, etc.) they'll remain that way - unused.  Heck, in my window-washing days I had seen the insides of enough mansions to realize most rooms, if even dedicated to "telescopes" or "piano rooms" are rarely used, essentially turning them into insanely expensive storage for insanely expensive, rarely practiced hobbies.

Second, the property taxes.  I tutored a rather well-to-do woman who was getting her MBA.  The property taxes ALONE on her house was $16,000 per year.  That was more than I paid ON MY ENTIRE MORTGAGE per year.  And this house, while very nice, was NO WHERE NEAR as luxurious as my Italian villa above.  For that amount of money not only can you afford another entire house, but you could travel the world, staying in different places, having a much more interesting and adventuresome life. 

Third, on a related note, property taxes again.  Minneapolis is notorious for jacking up their property taxes at a rate 4 times that of inflation.  My humble duplex I once owned was making me money until my property taxes went from $900 per year to $3,600 in less than a decade, making it no longer profitable AND A RISK TO EVEN OWN.  In other words, it's not even an issue as to whether the property taxes are "high," it's an issue akin to nationalization or Cuba.  Cities in major metro areas are headed up by socialists.  And while they may not take the deed to your house from you, they'll just tax it to the point they've effectively confiscated it anyway, and now you are paying exorbitant rent to have the "privilege" to live in Minneapolis.  In short that Italian villa would be nothing but a HUGE liability in that the city would attach such property taxes it becomes a debt to the city, not an asset to the individual.

Fourth, cleaning and heating and maintenance.

I know, I know.  If you had the money to afford that house, you'd outsource the maintenance of the place and not worry about the heat bill, but I am talking from the standpoint of normal people who are looking from the outside, "dreaming" of what it would be like to own that house.

When you put this altogether, the house is very much like a hot trophy wife - pretty to look at, but not worth owning.

This is the house you want:

This house was for sale near a buddy's of mine.  It is not flashy, it is not luxurious, but for your average bachelor or couple, this is all the house you'll ever need.  It's cheap, it's small, it's easy to maintain and clean, and the city will never jack up the taxes on it to the point it loses it's value, and you will save money over the long haul in rent.  And even if the city did "municipalize" it, in the grand scheme of things, it's not that big of a loss because it can't become that big of a liability.

Of course, it's not as luxurious or prestigious as my Italian villa, but that is what I'm trying to get you to see past.  That's ALL the Italian villa is.  It's a pain in the ass AND a risk otherwise.  In short, what I am trying to do is spare you the longing, envy, desire and pain I wasted countless calories of energy on as I ran past that and other luxury houses for the past 20 years.  Yes, you may have your favorite house or houses, but unless you are filthy rich, there is no point yearning or sighing heavily to own such a house because if your did, YOU'D LIKELY REGRET IT.

So do what I do now every time I run past this or a home I really like a lot - look at it and enjoy its architectural beauty.  Because, once again, like a trophy wife, its visual beauty is usually the best thing about it.  And you can enjoy that for free.


Anonymous said...

"tutored" = "banged"


But yes, style ain't what it used to be. I see an old Model T and that turns my head, the latest jeep cherokee isn't worth the initial look...

Southern Man said...

Absolutely. My mid-range plan (once I get teen daughter through high school) is to add on to the barn / workshop I already have out on my ten acres and live there...forever. My siblings think I'm crazy as they go to their second job to pay their six figure mortgates.

Anonymous said...

No HOAs, unincorporated area, and a decent garage.

Anonymous said...

sometimes i think about how many resources are squandered just making things 'beautiful' for women. which from my perspective, isn't beautiful but just fluff. it's still resources though, and i've dated women that'll fish my trash out of a garbage can to recycle a napkin but see no contradiction in wanting that villa for their own.

Unknown said...

In America Maybe, but Europe has many old castles, chateaus, farmhouses that can be renovated. You can create hotels and commercial space within them if you know what you are doing of course.

Anonymous said...

Kinda like cars. Or most things. You can spend a lot of money for something nice, or a lot less for something adequate.

Anonymous said...

Interesting perspective...

Just as long as your neighbors are OK!


Joe said...

I'm an Architect and a huge fan of modest homes. The fact is that it isn't the trained taste that looks down its' nose at a humble abode, it's a trained douchebag that does it.

As for having a house that you can make your own, essentially a house you can F with, nothing beats a bungolo or single story salt-box...

Thin-Skinned Masta-Beta said...

Your point on the status and luxury being overrated is quite wise. I couldn't agree more. I truly wish our society would rediscover the value of modesty in many applications...

The only reason to pay extra on real estate is for the location. It may be necessary to spend a little to be able to isolate yourself from undesirable elements. If your neighbors are living an incompatible lifestyle or culture (think noise and filth), your house is at risk of being broken into frequently, or nobody can go outside and enjoy the neighborhood because everybody is afraid of getting mugged or shot, then the real estate is hardly a bargain.

The problem is that the market has seen fit to bundle good locations with immodest and overpriced construction. I've been having a devil of a time finding a modest bungalow or cottage that's not in the 'hood.

What about the availability secluded lakefront cottages or bungalows in Minnesota? That might be a good spot to Enjoy the Decline.

Unknown said...

Growing up. every time I visited the family I loved driving down Summit Ave. in St. Paul; for years it was on my "Lottery List." Now even if I could afford it I wouldn't want the necessary servants in my space, but it's still a pleasure to enjoy the view.

I'm happy to keep my rather dumpy little two-bedroom down by the poor people's fishing hole. It's warm and clean.

Unknown said...

My father was a general contractor and I helped him build houses starting when I was 11.

I can build a tiny little house (rural, due to code restrictions) for perhaps $3000.

Sears used to see tiny little metal houses through the mail. I've seen the in the area I used to live.

There really is a guy who builds Tiny Little Houses and ships them to you.

Unknown said...

That's the conclusion I've come to. Once I finally finish the short sale on my house (due to divorce), if I ever do buy another house again, it'll be a modest 3 bedroom, 2 bathroom. Hopefully out in the country.

Hamilton said...

Took me a while to realize this same thing.

I now look longingly at houses like modest one in the photo above. So small, so easy, so inexpensive.

Luckily this same viewpoint also translates to cars. I admire the nice cars, but no way in shit I'll ever spend big bucks on something that depreciates as fast as a car. Dave Ramsey (podcaster, radio host) says that cars are responsible for the majority of the money problems with the middle class. Even more so than homes. Too much money wasted in those things.

Carnivore said...

Captain - THINK BIG! Not dreaming of places the servants wouldn't even live in. For example.....

A nice 8 acre lot, 9 bedrooms, 15 bathrooms, 32,000 square feet - ONLY $21 mil. A steal considering it originally listed for $29 mil.


And speaking of property taxes, paid this year (for 2012 tax year), was a cool $179,000. You know, the real estate market is bad, so the assessment went down. Last year, the tax bill was $181,000. Things are rough.

That, by the way, is Michael Jordan's home, as can be seen by this year's tax bill:

Carnivore said...

Or another way to do it while enjoying the decline, is getting some rich friends who have large homes. Then pull a 'Max Detweiler'. Remember the character in the Sound of Music and his line that went something like: "I like rich people. I like how they live. I like how I live when I'm with them."

Unknown said...

If I can ever get my house sold (which requires putting it on the essentially non-existent market where I live). I'm really not sure which direction I'll go.

I like my privacy and part of me would like to build a small bungalow with a big shop just out of view. Part of me would like to just get a townhouse, no yard work, no external maintenance. Yet another part of me wants to just get an RV and call it good enough. I hate renting from the state - oh excuse me, I mean property taxes which benefit our school district (yeah, right).

In the end, I suspect I'll opt to build a bungalow. I'm still working on the interior layout. If I can swing it, I want to keep it down to about 900sq feet. Might have to give up on a couple of things I'd like to keep - or making it a bit bigger - say 1,100sq feet.

The goal is to build it for as close to zero maintenance as possible. And where maintenance is needed - it should be simple for a single old fart to accomplish.

Pete Brewster said...

Fun fact: the same megabanks who want people to mortgage their souls to buy the house of their dreams long ago sold their headquarters to real estate companies. They rent the office space back, are spared the trouble of maintaining the things, and can move the minute they get a better tax break from another city.

That, if anything can, should underline what a trap real estate really is.

A one bed, one bath rental is all a MGHOW will ever need, and will be a heck of a lot easier to dump when the decline sets in in earnest in your neck of the woods. Keep your net worth in gold and silver coin in as secure a location as possible. Let your landlord pay taxes to support government schools' efforts to raise another generation of socialists.

You Go Girls wanting a pretty princess dollhouse like they saw on Real Housewives should be advised to pay for one out of their own pockets, if they want one that badly. Forgive me if I don't wish them luck doing so out of what they can scrape together serving lattes at Starbucks or flogging useless crapola on Etsy, because nobody will hire a Masters in Ecofeminism at anything near a living wage.

Anonymous said...

I like the concept, but I think you might want a garage for man toys - just sayin'

dannyfrom504 said...

travel trailer, few acres, i'm good. just 6 more months. SIX.MORE.MONTHS.

Anonymous said...

Being house rich and cash poor really stinks. Don't do it.
The problem is people's fantasies are so much more enticing than financial reality.
Most even if GIVEN a home like that could never , ever afford to maintain or keep it.

WhatHouse.co.uk said...

Large old houses are full of character but also full of draughts and damp!


Anonymous said...

No Cappy,

THIS is the house I want:

and I WILL have it.


Samson J. said...

Great post, Captain. We just moved my toddler-age daughters into the same room together, and they love it. Love is all ya need.