Herald and Journal Herald & Journal, March 29, 1999

Can you guess what this will cost you?

By ANDREA VARGO

Sometimes I just come unglued.

Mostly it happens in private, or I pace the floor and make my husband, Ron, listen to my tirade.

I may not be that well glued together in the first place, but see what you think. How would you react?

All my married life, I have been planning a house to build.

We had to find the right piece of land, and we had to be able to afford to build it. Not bad goals.

Well, it finally got designed with really very few problems. Ron wanted an open, two-story entry and a second floor.

I wanted an open floor plan for the first floor that would allow me to have my family all sit down to eat at the same time.

Well, it got out of hand.

The house was too big for two people, but it had resale value and contained all the things we ever really wanted.

Then reality struck. Lumber prices are a bit different from the early 1960s when we built our first house.

If we constructed the basement ourselves, did all the inside finishing work, plumbing, heating, and took a summer to brick the front of the house, we could afford to build it.

So off I went to the Wright County assessor's office to get an estimate on the taxes for my dream house.

Shortly after that was when I lost my cool. Remember, I get hot flashes, so that cool is easy to lose.

Nice house, he said. What kind of windows are you going to put in?

Well, I said, not crummy ones in a new house . . . Andersens, I suppose.

"Are you going to have any in-floor heating?" he asked.

"We thought about it for the basement," I replied.

Those sorts of things cost more on the property taxes, he explained.

"It's a quality item," he said.

Wait a minute! I've waited and saved a very long time to build a decent house, and I have to anticipate which "quality" items I can afford. I have to pick and choose, so I don't get too many.

A bay window? More!

Ceramic tile anywhere? More!

Wider trim moldings? More!

Steel siding instead of fiberglass that blows off? More!

Brick on the front? More!

"Is there a fireplace?" he asked.

No.

Perhaps it was my imagination, but he seemed disappointed.

Oh! Look! The pitch of the roof is steeper than normal. More!

When he gave me the estimated taxes for my long-anticipated house, I wanted to cry.

It didn't include land or barns; just house. We can't afford to pay those kinds of taxes, unless we both continue to work until we die.

Now don't get me wrong. I'm not blaming the assessor. He has rules to follow and like most of us, just does his job.

So don't call your local assessor and expect him to be able to do anything about the situation.

I've never minded paying for all the nice things we have in this country. Someone paid to educate me, and I'll pay to educate someone else. It is fair. But there has to be a better way.

I just feel there is something wrong with a system that penalizes people for trying to do better. It is so discouraging.

If I build a cheap, little box house that looks really ugly, I could retire and take vacations.

My dream home is gone. I have to start all over with the design, and I will never have what I wanted.

One solution is to move out of Wright County, but it is too far for Ron to commute, at least for a couple of years.

I hear most of North Dakota is for sale.


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