The true cost of automobiles

Cars are expensive. I am not just talking about gasoline, maintenance, parking, insurance, repairs, and the cost of the car itself. Not to mention the cost to the

Rambler with tuck under garage

environment. We don’t even have to own a car to share in the high cost.

As a Realtor, I can tell you that houses with garages are more expensive than houses without garages. Where I live we also pay for a permit to park on the street. Condos with parking garages ramps or outdoor parking spaces are more expensive than those without.

People who do not own an automobile or drive at all also pay for them through taxes and higher housing costs that are related to including parking. If. you look around next time you are out you will see many parked cars and parking lots everywhere.

Also, notice how much land is dedicated to parking lots, that rarely fill up and imagine other uses for that land.

If cars were living organisms we night call them an invasive species because so much of our landscape has been changed or built to accommodate cars.  Auto emissions have wiped out other species. People live in places where cars are a necessity.

A few years ago my household went from two cars to one car for two drivers. It was an adjustment. We learned to plan ahead and to combine errands when possible. I enjoy biking and walking and am able to complete errands without a car. Living in the city helps.

The picture shows a rambler built in the late 1950s with a one-car garage. Homes built today usually have at least two garage stalls and three-car garages are very popular.

We take cars for granted. Sometimes it is hard to imagine life without the. I am not sure my business could exist without a car to use when showing houses. A car makes it possible to cram a lot of appointments into a day and to easily work in nearby suburbs.

We need to consider the cost of reliance on oil and what it means to the world economy.

The move away from crime

People honestly believe that the only way to deal with crime is to move away from it. Sometimes people believe that the police can make crime go away and keep us all safe. That isn’t going to work, it never has.

Crabapples

When I was young I lived in a high crime area. I helped form a crime watch. I got to know my neighbors and I got active in a couple of community organizations.

We actually believed that if we wanted to live in an area with less crime we had to help make it so.  Moving is expensive and houses in crime-free gated communities are out of reach for many home buyers.

We learned to pay attention to our neighbor’s houses. There have been many times when I have challenged people that I saw entering a neighbor’s yard.  Cameras are nice too but having pictures of getting ripped off is of limited value.

We also locked everything up and we still do. It is wrong to steal and it is still a crime even if valuables are left unlocked and easily accessible but we found that once something is stolen even if the thief is caught stolen items are never recovered.

As a country, we lock a lot of people up and the police shoot people but neither is a deterrent. People keep committing crimes. Crime rates are higher in some neighborhoods.

This summer I a going to be working extra hard in my neighborhood. We have had some turnover and I don’t have a phone number for everyone on my block. I won’t wait until August and the national night out . . which should be held in May.  I am convinced that if we work together block by block we can lower the crime rate in our neighborhoods so that no one has to move.

What is “senior housing”

There really is such a thing as “senior housing” it is usually housing for people who are over 55. In some cases people who are over 62 years of age. Senior housing can be assisted living but it usually isn’t a nursing home which is a room in a facility with skilled nursing services.

Sometimes I see the term “retirement home”, but not very often I think it is out of style now.

There are also “independent living” facilities for seniors that seem to include assisted living which is housing with services available for a price and apartments or condos in buildings for people over 55 or 62 with opportunities to socialize with other seniors.

I have had some experience working with seniors who have Alzheimer’s. They often can not live on their own. Eventually, they may forget how to use the stove. They may forget how to use the coffee maker and decide that they don’t need to take their prescription drugs and more or they may decide to go for a walk and be unable to find their way back home.

There is assisted living with memory care. It works for people who need a lot of supervision but who do not need skilled nursing care.

Where ever senior lives is senior housing because it is housing a senior. We tend to call old houses historic rather than senior to avoid confusion.  There is no rule or law that requires seniors to move. Aging in place is a great option. Not aging is ideal but not an option.

Inflation isn’t new

I feel as though I am a veteran and survivor of inflation as I remember the 1980s. The inflation rate just hit 8.5%, which is like the double-digit inflation we had in the 80s but it is a 40-year high.  Mortgage interest rates were also in the double digits and at one point the unemployment rate in Minnesota was 13%. Student loan repayment never paused and neither did any of our bills.  Health insurance and health care were both better and cheaper back then which was a plus

The 1980’s were traumatic in so many ways. The decade marks the beginning of how we got to where we are today but I digress.

Just like in the 1980s gasoline prices are way up too. Back in the 80s, people would steal the gas right out of our gas tank.

coins
spare change

Pro-tip: Get a locking gas cap, if your gas cap doesn’t already lock.

Living during inflationary times isn’t easy but it is doable and now is the perfect time to examine budgets and spending habits.

In the 80s large cars were cheap but small fuel-efficient cars were expensive. In the long run, the small car was easier on the pocketbook. Today all cars are expensive but even larger cars are more fuel-efficient than they were back then.  Cars have gotten more fuel-efficient but we can do better.

Pro-tip: Drive less

New cars and used cars have gone up in price.

Pro-tip: Drive your car until it wears out.

Food prices keep going up but eating at home is far less expensive than dining out or buying fast food. Meat prices have gone up but it is possible to cook tasty meals with less meat in them or no meat at all. Last week I made vegan chili and cornbread. No one noticed that the chili was meatless.

Pro-tip: learn to cook and eat at home. Pack a lunch and take it to work.

Pro-tip: Eat less meat.

Pro-tip: Don’t waste food, learn to use leftovers. 

Clothing can be expensive. A couple of weeks ago I put a new zipper in an old jacket that I really like. It was a reminder that some of what we buy can be repaired and we should repair rather than buy new.

Pro-tip: Learn to do simple repairs, sew on buttons and mend.

I have been keeping track of household expenses and so far we are not spending more on food or gasoline.

We are spending a lot more to heat the house because of increases in the price of natural gas. We bought a more efficient furnace a few years ago and I am sure it helps but our heating bills are still shocking.

Back in the 70s when energy prices went way up people did strange things to their houses like lowering the ceilings and in some cases putting in smaller windows. New construction was built with energy conservation in mind for the first time.

Pro-tip: Save energy by turning off lights and keeping the house a degree or two cooler. 

Other monthly bills went up like 60% more for health insurance (we all work for health insurance companies and for the medical-industrial complex) and property taxes are 11% higher.

We do have some control over how we spend our money and now is the time to take control.

As for housing prices are ridiculous. Having roommates can help lower housing costs so can multi-generation housing and where it is legal accessory dwelling units can provide more housing right in your own backyard.  Smaller houses are generally less expensive than larger houses.

Getting used to a smaller house

Downsizing is challenging for most people. I had a conversation with a client who recently downsized. It occurred to me as we were talking that her smaller house is actually larger than my house.

Larger houses make it easier to accumulate more stuff without really noticing it. Smaller houses have the same drawback but on a smaller scale.

We tend to fill our spaces and sometimes it starts shortly after an offer is made on a house. Plans are made to fill each room with furniture.

For some home buyers needing a certain amount of space is assumed. Special rooms are needed for special activities and houses with a family room and a living room are common. The space usually doesn’t all get used at the same time but it is always there when it is needed.

I am often surprised by the answer when I ask first-time homebuyers how much space they need. Homes built today are on average 150% larger than those built in 1980.

Space is expensive. There are taxes and maintenance, heating and cooling. Having less space can mean having more free time and more money. Before buying a house think about how much space you actually use on a regular basis. By use I mean occupy with people rather than just furnishings.

Think about creating spaces that are flexible and can be used for more than one activity. We all have stuff that takes up space but that gives us little in return.

Homeownership is a long-term commitment. Choose wisely.