Housing Bubble? Of Course!

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I was making my annual property tax payment, when I had an epiphany. Here I am, an old man, and the truth of the much-discussed "housing bubble" only just now has become apparent to me. I cringe with embarrassment.

Well, in my defense, I don’t think too much when preparing my property tax payment. It’s too painful to contemplate; I just want to get it behind me. This year, for instance, I must send the local rulers over 3600 just to be allowed to remain in "my" house. Most of that goes to support schools which my family has not used. What’s more, I think the community would probably benefit from not having any public schools, but that’s just my opinion. I have a right to my opinion, guaranteed by the First Amendment, but that’s all theory. In fact, I must subsidize an "educational" establishment where students are taught things with which I am in profound disagreement. In other words, I must finance the spreading of ideas which are hostile to my own, which seems to me very much against the spirit of that First Amendment. And I must do this by paying to live in what I refer to, in my lighter moments, as my house.

In recent years, this question of ownership has insinuated itself into my mind, and I can’t dislodge it. If my home (automobile, income) is really mine, why must I pay strangers to continue to live in it, use it, retain it? Is it MINE, or not?

Not only must I pay to keep what is presumably mine, but the strangers who demand the tribute have a greater claim upon "my" property than I do. Over the years, I’ve needed to have several repairs made to a shifting foundation, have had to replace the roof shingles, re-pave the driveway, install a sump pump, etc. If, because of unexpected expenses, I had been unable to pay the property tax bill, would the collector have understood when I told him I’d have to give him a pass this time around? Of course not. His claim upon my money (say, should that be "my" money?) outweighs my own.

But I digress. Back to the "bubble." We have lived in this house for forty-two years. We started construction in the late summer, or early fall, of 1965, and moved in on January 20, 1966, just one week before my son was born. Now for the epiphany: while I was musing over the tax bill, it suddenly dawned on me that, over the years, we’ve paid the local rulers more than the house cost. Much more, in fact. It’s incredible, when you think about it. The local authorities did nothing to facilitate our purchase of the land, the building of the house, or its subsequent maintenance; that all came out of my pocket. Yet, over the years, they’ve collected more from me than I paid the developer for the land and the building. And, needless to say, it’s not ending here — I’ll be paying them until I die or sell the house.

And then there’s the inflation factor. As the dollar has withered over the years, the "value" of the house has increased to seven or eight times the amount paid for it. I’ve always marveled that a building that gradually deteriorates becomes more valuable as it does so. My income, over my working years, did not increase sufficiently to match the decline of the dollar, especially with Medicare forcing me to work for less with each passing year. But for the true, actual, owners of the house, it didn’t matter; their tax rate was based upon the inflated value of the house, so that as the dollars became more worthless, they collected more of them.

What a sweet scheme! No wonder those windbags in the state house, or city hall, never stop referring to home ownership (sic!) as the fulfillment of the American Dream! For them, it’s a sweet dream indeed; for us, it can be a bad dream, if not a nightmare. For every house built within their jurisdiction, they will, eventually, collect more than the contractor, the developer, the architect, etc., from that house, and without significant expense on their part, or liability for flaws or defects. And should some defiant home "owner" challenge them and refuse to pay, they’ll simply take his house away from him, and sell it to someone who will. To cap the climax, I suspect that when the municipality borrows money, it uses "my" home as collateral.

A housing bubble? Of course. Every building that’s constructed means a perpetual flow of income to the local authorities. It may look to you like a house, but to them it’s a cash cow. And you’re getting milked, no bull!

Dr. Hein [send him mail] is author of All Work & No Pay, which is out of print, but may occasionally be obtained on eBay.

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