03/11/2012 07:32 pm ET Updated May 11, 2012

Penniless Counties Repel Purchasers

I thought I'd heard every excuse for not buying a home in our current real estate market. There's the practical reason, "I can't be restricted to the local job market," the prediction defense that "I'm waiting because prices are still falling," and the pragmatic justification of "All I can afford are areas where foreclosures seem to be multiplying." I don't judge the home avoiders and I certainly can't contest their rationale. If they don't want to buy, I'm not going to twist their arms or attempt to pry open their clenched checkbooks just to plump up mine.

However, a chat with a house-hunt dropout added another anti-buy refrain to the song shunned home sellers are hearing. You can supply the tune, but the lyrics sound something like, "Your county is broke, I'm not going to fix it. No one's getting my money to clear up your deficit."

The ex-buyer explained to me that in light of the Suffolk County (New York) declaration of a financial emergency (and a $500 million+ deficit), he was afraid that the not-quite-affordable taxes on all the homes he saw would swell to make up the gap. Moreover, there was no reason to look to our neighbor, Nassau County, as its financial woes were under a financial board's oversight already.

Mr. Ex, who proclaimed to possess an economics degree, elaborated on his reluctance. "How will Suffolk make up the shortage? More revenue, less services, or taxes, taxes, taxes." He half-laughed, half-sighed as he said, "I sure don't see Suffolk bringing in an extra half a billion dollars in the next few years."

Mr. Ex was certainly making sense. Yet I was up for a discussion, since I already knew he wasn't going to become my client. I wondered if he realized how small a percentage of our area's high tax bills were county-related charges, and how big the school tax portion was.

The erstwhile home seeker was ready for this line of reasoning. "The schools on Long Island are gigantic money suckers! The state told them to cap taxes, but most are looking for loopholes. They want more and more. I won't be the one giving it to them," he declared.

As Mr. Ex had made it clear that his shortfalls fright triggered his purchase flight, I questioned where he was going to live, as he was employed locally. He walked me through his plan, saying, "I'm going to rent a house. Put down two month's security. I'm looking for a new job in a few locations where they can pay their pensions and fix the potholes. If that works out, I bolt and just lose a few bucks."

I could have pursued the matter further, noting how landlords base rents on their carrying charges, including taxes. However, Mr. Ex had reached the finale of his addition to the sidestepping homeownership song. "Don't you agree? Who'd want to pay sky-high taxes for dark streets, closed parks, and garbage everywhere? Not me! "