Dateline: 16 January 2015
My mother-in-law, Evelyn Myers, died last July (my eulogy is HERE). She lived in a simple home (pictured above) on a quiet side street in the village of Moravia, New York. The house has been for sale nearly 6 months, and now has a buyer.
A woman named Emma Westfall had the house built for herself back in 1976. It was built by a local company named Slade and Sovocool. The farmer I worked for back in high school used to refer to Slade and Sovocool as “Spade and Shovelfull.” Funny the things we remember.
Slade and Sovocool doesn’t build houses any more. The business is now a hardware store, owned by Mr. Emmet Sovocool. Mr. Sovocool is up in years but he's a sharp man, and runs the store with the help of his family. His son, Bob, was in my class in high school.
Mr. Sovocool once told me that the stretch of land on West Cayuga Street, where his store and several other businesses are located, was the farm he grew up on. When I drive down that way I often try to imagine the farm as it was, right there on the edge of town.
Though I did not know Emma Westfall, I know that she was not married, she lived into her 80's, and the story goes that she had a lot of money—a fair amount of which she left to the Methodist Church. Investing in the stock market was her hobby. I have no idea how I know these things.
This is, after all, small rural town. People just know. And if they don’t have the story exactly right, it’s pretty close.
When Emma Westfall died, the house was bought by Kevin Genson, who is one of Roy Genson’s sons. Roy owns Genson Overhead Door company. He started the business in the garage next to his house. The business grew, eventually moving to a larger, more official location in a neighboring town.
It was Kevin Genson's brother, Greg, who killed the bull that came down into town from Owasco Meats, up on Oak Hill road, a few years ago. The cops shot the bull and just made him mad. Greg Genson met the beast in his back yard and put him out of his misery. I wrote about that episode of Moravia history here: How Not To Shoot The Bull
What I like about the Genson family is that Roy started a business, taught his sons how to do the work, and it is now a family business. It's a family economy. Click Here to see a picture of the Genson family.
Anyway, Kevin Genson fixed Emma Westfall’s house up, lived in it a short while, and listed it for sale. Evelyn’s husband, Jay, had recently died and she wanted to move into town. The house was perfect. She bought it. I don’t think it was on the market for even two days. That was 1997. She paid $70,500.
The house is on Donald Drive, which is a cul-de-sac of relatively new homes. The land was once the back yard lot of a large old house on Main Street that was owned by the Donald family. The Donalds had a nursery. They had greenhouses and gardens on the land. That was before my time.
One of the Donald girls, Hilda, married Jay Myers’ brother, Victor. So Hilda was Evelyn’s sister-in-law (or Marlene’s Aunt). Aunt Hilda and Uncle Vic lived in the big house all their married life, until Uncle Vic died and Hilda decided it was time to move into Millstream Court, the senior citizen’s apartments.
Aunt Hilda was a perky woman who took up oil painting in later years. One of her paintings (a farm scene) is on the wall by my computer. She was a surprisingly good painter. She passed on a few years ago.
Aunt Hilda once told me that her father used to sterilize soil for the nursery by packing the soil in a box, around a long length of coiled-up radiator hose. Then he hooked the hose to the radiator of a motor vehicle and let the hot water circulate through the hose for a period of time. I thought that was pretty clever, and I’ve never forgotten it.
Donald Drive is, in my opinion, the best location in the village to have a small retirement home. It was perfect for Evelyn for the last 16 years of her life. Pleasant setting. Quiet street. Thoughtful neighbors.
Marlene and I actually thought about buying the house. It would be a good place to park some cash, and Marlene could live there after I kick the bucket. But I didn’t have the cash to spare, and the house really needs some updating.
Word has it that a local woman is buying the house for $72,500. No bank financing is involved. And she has people lined up to go right in and start remodeling once the sale is finalized.
It was good news to hear that the house has a buyer. The selling price is less than was hoped for, but not that much less. The family is glad to have a buyer. I think that is the usual attitude when there is an estate to be settled.
I’ve made a short story much too long (though I could have made it longer) before getting to the whole point of it...
Marlene told me about the sale of the house and said something to the effect that it is selling for $2,000 more than her mother paid for it. So, at least it didn’t lose any value.
Well, I’ve been thinking about financial repression quite a lot lately, so I couldn’t help but go to the Online Inflation Calculator....
What the inflation calculator tells us is that, as a result of inflation over the past 16 years, the house did not increase in value by $2,000. It actually decreased in value by around $30,000.
If the house sold for $102,138.93 it would have simply maintained it’s value, and anything over that would have been a true increase in value.
When I say value, I am talking about the buying power of the dollars. As the inflation calculator shows, the value of our American dollars has declined by 44.9% in 14 years.
Some people think of their home as an investment, and if they sell at a later date for more money than they put into the place, they think they have made a profit. But, in order to make a true profit, your investment must outpace inflation. The inflation calculator tells the real story.
But almost nobody looks at investing with financial repression in mind. The numbers are too depressing.
P.S. I have never looked at my home as an investment. It is, first and foremost, a place to live (out in the country), to raise my family, grow my garden, run my home business, and exercise a degree of personal freedom. Such benefits are worth more than money to me.