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First Time Buyer - What Should I Know About That Pig In The Yard?

Written by Posted On Thursday, 27 March 2014 04:52


We were out looking at house and my agent said that there was a pig in the side yard of one house. I didn’t see any pigs or cows or chickens or anything else. What was that all about?

You were probably in any area that is not served by natural gas lines and the “pig” that the Realtor® was referring to is a quaint term for the propane tank that he saw in the side or back yard. Most homes in very rural areas are heated with propane, which is the same stuff that you might be using in your barbeque.

If you want to read more than you really need to know about propane, click here to go to the WikiPedia explanation for propane and how it compares to natural gas. Click here for a propane vs. natural gas comparison.

So, what do you really need to know? Well you may have seen stories on the evening news that there was a shortage of propane this winter and that prices were high. Heating with propane is more expensive than heating with natural gas. Propane costs per gallon this last winter were running close to that of gasoline and sometimes higher.  Remembering that pig in the side yard, just imagine the bill to have a truck pull up in your yard and fill that sucker up. It can get real expensive - hundreds of dollars per fill-up.

One thing that you might often see in homes that have propane for heating is that they usually have electric hot water heaters and electric kitchen stoves. It is just too expensive to heat water and cook with propane every day. Many of those same homes may have electric supplemental heating systems like electric baseboard units or the owners might have installed alternative heating sources, like wood-burning stoves. Corn-burning stoves are also popular out in the country-side.

The cost of propane is market driven and can fluctuate fairly widely depending upon factors like availability and difficulty in delivery. This past winter the state of Michigan took on one of the larger propane suppliers in the state for what it alleged was price gouging. You can read about that lawsuit by clicking here.

Unfortunately when you get out beyond the natural gas pipelines the alternatives that you have are all expensive. You can heat with propane or you can heat with heating oil, if you want to use a liquid/gas fueled furnace/boiler. You can also go all-electric, which many people do with electric baseboard heating systems. As mentioned earlier, you can also go with wood or other biomass fueled stoves or systems. No matter what you choose, when you get a winter like the one that we just had it is going to get expensive. Click here to read a story about the costs for Michigan residents this past winter.

Should you avoid homes that are heated with propane? No and you may not be able to anyway. If you have a locale in mind you just need to be aware of the options that you have for heating and fueling other things in your house. Fortunately the infrastructure to deliver those alternatives is in place everywhere, so getting your propane or fuel oil or electricity is not the issue, paying for it is. You should factor those higher costs into your buying decision and future budget planning.

So, the next time that you’re out house hunting and you see a “pig” in the side or back yard, the “oink” you hear in the back of your mind will be the thought of that sucker eating away at your wallet. But, hey, there are advantages to being out there in the countryside with lots of privacy and maybe a little bit of land; so, suck it up and get used to living with your pig. 


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Norm Werner

Norm Werner is a Realtor at the Milford office of Real Estate One serving the southeastern Michigan area of Oakland and Livingston Counties. Norm specializes in residential real estate. Norm lives and works in Milford Michigan and is married to Carolyn Werner. Norm and Carolyn live in a historic home just three blocks from downtown Milford, with their two dogs - Sadie and Skippy. Norm specializes in the historic homes of Milford and the surrounding area and is on the Board of Directors of the Milford Historical Society. Norm especially enjoys working with first time buyers and those at the other end of the real estate spectrum who are downsizing into their retirement home. 

In addition to his Movetomilford.com web site, Norm also owns and m,aintains TheMilfordTeam.com web site, the HuronValleyRealtor.com web site. He is also the webmaster for and the MilfordHistory.org web site and the MilfordCar Show.com web site, as well as his church web site - Spiritdrivenchurch.com. In addition to blogging about real eastate, Norm has a personal blog - NormsMilfordBlog.com - on which he shares inspirational messages and the occasions personal observation about life. 


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