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How much damage can one garden gnome do?

By CHASE SQUIRES
Published November 30, 2003

Important news has arrived from Great Britain: Gnomes are out.

And you know it's true, because it came from Great Britain, where a Great British accent lends authority and Great Weight.

The Daily Telegraph newspaper, published in London, reports that a British Broadcasting Company study found that a garden gnome knocks 500 British Pounds off the value of a home. That's about $840. Just by sitting there.

The proud garden gnome: homewrecker.

According to the esteemed British newspaper's report, the gnome - "subject of ridicule and jibes over taste" - is one of several "design and decorating blunders" that cost homeowners big bucks. Or, as they say in England, "big pounds."

And I got to thinking. Hmmm. "How could this benefit me?"

Because that's what it's really all about. Me. And the children of the world. But mostly, me.

Because I have a gnome in my yard. I also have a big clay mouse with a huge head, a flamingo, a ceramic frog wearing a crown with two broken legs, a busted bird bath, a Jeep that doesn't run, an old window grate, a disembodied plaster face staring up from deep inside a fern patch, and a yard sprinkler shaped like a frog that shoots water out of the top of its head and is intensely attractive to slugs that crawl up inside it and gum up the works.

Ever scrape slug guts out of a yard sprinkler?

So I figure, if my tax rate is, say, $24.46 per $1,000 of value, that little gnome in my front yard, by reducing my property value, should be worth a cool $20.55 a year. Just by sitting there. Not bad.

But ... What if I had another gnome? That's more than $41! And a third? $65!

Someone has already beaten me to the point.

Property developer Justin Ryan told the Daily Telegraph, "If you are walking towards property and there are 25 garden gnomes in the garden, it makes a prospective buyer question the design sensibilities of the owner."

Others may say he has a refined sense of whimsey.

And that same owner would also be shrewdly piling up $513.75 a year in property tax savings, if he were in my neighborhood. And if the property appraiser took full note of the effect a garden gnome apparently has on a property's appraised value.

So I ask Pasco County Property Appraiser Mike Wells, because he is wise in these matters. And because he has an eye for aesthetics.

Actually, he said he doesn't. Property values are set by statistics. Not gnomes, and not direct inspections, usually.

Wells said values are established by a pattern of neighborhood sales. Even if I smash out the front windows of my house, let my lawn go to seed and muddle up my property with all manner of trash, I'm still not getting a break from Wells' office.

So I guess I won't smash out the windows.

I cruised around Pasco and parts of Hernando counties, gnome hunting. But they are scarce. I am apparently one of the few who value them.

I did see a wide range of gnome wannabes. There were gazing balls on pedestals, ceramic ducks, dogs, deer and pelicans. I saw a giant statue of a Great Dane, a 6-foot-tall inflatable turkey, tires buried halfway and painted white (no kidding), and a bush decorated with whatnots and a sign commemorating Branden's ninth birthday. Happy birthday, Branden.

I saw lots of those kissing Dutch kids. You know, wooden shoes, bonnet, whole bit, bent over and smooching away. You would be amazed how many are out there. Start looking for them as you drive around. Soon you'll be seeing them everywhere. They will become part of your subconscious. You will crave your own set.

At least, that's what happened to me.

In the meantime, there's no way a simple gnome will catch you a tax break from Mike Wells. To get that kind of effect, something would have to be done on a wider basis.

"It would be interesting to a put a gnome in front of every house in a neighborhood, and then watch the market," he said.

Indeed ... hmmm. Who's with me?

[Last modified November 30, 2003, 01:16:37]


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