The question I am always asked first is, “Why are you leaving?“, when the question from me should be, “Why are you staying?” The ‘home truth’ is that New Jersey has become too expensive by far. The most expensive state in the Union. How did that happen?
Simple comparisons between New Jersey and Arizona; median house price $350,000.00 and $150,000.00, property taxes $6,200.00 and $1,300.00. That’s before you consider the penchant for toll highways in New Jersey and the lack thereof in Arizona. What I will leave behind is $1,600.00 p.a. Home Owner Association dues. $5,200.00 p.a. Property Taxes that started at $6,200.00. A mortgage that started at $1,300.00 and, whoops, “sorry, we miscalculated your escrow for 2007, 2008, so you are no longer current, but with an arrears and a large projected arrears and now your mortgage is $1,800.00“. “And, by the way, due to the Federal Mortgage Rule changes you will not be able to refinance nor qualify for mortgage modification because you are self-employed, but have a nice day“. Really? And I thought banks could add and subtract.
My bills in Phoenix will be $685 monthly rental in a complex that is gated, includes two swimming pools, (one heated through Winter), gym, clubhouse, office and my only utility, $110 Electric on a monthly budget. Water, sewer, trash and 2% renter’s tax included. Gone also are the high NJ Auto Insurance bills and monthly tolls.
What I recall to mind when considering the state-of-the-state, is the Al Gore, “Inconvenient Truth“, analogy of the frog jumping into the beaker of boiling water; ‘the frog jumps right out and saves itself compared with the water that starts cold and includes the frog, but slowly heats to the point where the frog dies or is rescued’. I think New Jersey residents are like the latter frog, slowly coming to the boil after years of being numbed into accepting preposterous property taxes that grew slowly over the years almost without notice. I have reached my “boiling point“.
As I have gone through my final check list, the phone calls to discontinue service, return cable modems, enquire about transferring water and sewer bills etc., I have noticed a certain mechanical response. A lack of the expected, “where are you going?” enquiry, “you are moving away?” and “why?” replaced with bowed heads, cursory eye contact, an indifferent and unfriendly manner. It seemed like I was forcing them to bring to the fore of their minds inconvenient truths about their ability to afford and stay in this state.
So, as I sat in the Title Office yesterday, patiently and mechanically signing home sale documents, exchanging curt pleasantries with the new owners and eyeing the last of Hammonton through a rainy window, I ran my mind back through years of state-to-state research, the long slow months of my home for sale and allowed myself a deep, inward, mental sigh. It’s finally over. A free man. Homeless and unemployed, but free. I also spared a thought to my BFF who finally exclaimed in sadness and frustration that she thought that I was abandoning my friends, like they no longer mattered to me, as if I had suddenly decided that nothing mattered, but me and that I simply did not care enough. But, no, my wonderful BFF. I am not abandoning my friends. I am rescuing me.