When I get together with my father, we often talk about our plans: my plans for continuing to live in New Jersey or not and his plans to possibly move out of the state when he retires. One option he’s seriously considering is retiring to Delaware, near the ocean.
He currently lives in a relatively expensive area of the state. I expect that he won’t be struggling in retirement, but when you no longer have a steady income when work ceases, it’s going to be difficult to justify living in the state with the highest property taxes in the nation.
Several of my friends in New Jersey have migrated westward, across the state’s border with Pennsylvania. Their commute might be a bit longer that it would be otherwise, but they’re saving more money every year than they would have been able to if they stayed in New Jersey in a similar house in a similar community.
In a perfect world, the property taxes we pay — and as I renter I do pay property taxes, they’re embedded in the rent as the owners simply pass on the expenses to their tenants — are used to pay for services that benefit the entire community, like schools and emergency services. I have no problem paying reasonable property taxes as I benefit from these services, even if I have no children in the public school system. A good public school benefits the entire community. But how much is reasonable?
When looking at real estate listings, I look for tax payment estimates and other information about the quality of services in the community. Other people I know seem to be blindsided after buying their first house and finding out how much they have to pay to the local government. Do you look at property taxes while you’re looking for a new place to live? How do you weigh the taxes against the services they provide?
Published or updated September 30, 2010.