There’s at least one in almost every neighborhood. You’ve no doubt driven past one, probably had a disapproving thought come to mind, and maybe even verbalized it. One of Tom Hanks’ lesser known films (and a personal favorite), The ‘Burbs, centers around one. I’m talking about the nightmare house that is the eyesore of the block. I can’t help but be reminded of a scene from that movie whenever I pass by one of these monstrosities. The mysterious new neighbors have just moved in and all the current residents are wondering what to think. As he sips his morning coffee Hanks’ character, Ray Peterson, stares over at the creepy dwelling and remarks to his wife, Carol, “Hey, honey, I think we should move. We got an arms dealer across the street and a crazy person down it. All they do is fight.” “Now these new next-door neighbors…They’ve been here a month. Think they’re gonna do something about their yard?” Now, I’m the direct descendent of your quintessential “nosy neighbor” so I’ve heard similar talk over the years. I also understand the inclination of others who prefer to mind their own business. Isn’t there a happy medium somewhere? Do those nosy neighbors just have too much time on their hands? Can taking care of your yard and house really make that much of a difference?
Let’s start by looking at it from a potential buyer’s perspective. I am a buyer specialist for the Hargreaves Home Sales Team of Keller Williams Integrity so I have direct knowledge of what buyers are thinking and saying. I’m your local real estate professional and neighborhood expert. One of the first things most buyers mention when we sit down to talk about what’s important to them in a home is they want to be located in a “good” neighborhood that’s “safe.” It’s not permitted for me to say that one area is better than another so that’s when buyers have to do some research on their own. They scour the internet to find out crime rates and school ratings. They look to see who’s saying what on social media (and almost everyone is saying something). They even drive around the neighborhood at different times of the day to get a feel for the community and it’s residents. Hey, it’s the biggest purchase most of us are going to make so I’d be surprised if they didn’t do some homework. I give them the hard data, all the numbers and stats, and advise them accordingly. They put all this information together to get a better feel for what’s going on in a given area, and it weighs heavily on their final decision of whether to submit an offer or not. It’s not just the house for sale they are concerned about, it’s every house in the neighborhood.
So what does this mean for homeowners? Well, let’s start with the premise that when you go to sell your home you’re trying to get maximum value out of it. How do we determine the value of a house? Really, like most things in our free market system, a home is worth what someone is willing to pay for it. Now, we have safeguards in place to make sure buyers don’t overpay for a house, but home values go up when new buyers are willing to pay a little bit more than previous buyers, especially now with the all-time low interest rates. Therein lies the big question: Why would a buyer pay more for a similar home than another buyer recently did? Let’s put it in terms that most of us are familiar with – buying a car. Most likely the biggest purchase a first time buyer has made to date is their car. So how did they choose the car they eventually purchased? Sure, they had their wants and needs, but how did they decide on that exact car? What if it came down to two cars, both the same make, model, and age that look good from the online pictures. Car A is listed at $15,000 and car B at $12,000. Car B is the obvious choice right? We all love a great deal, but why are two similar cars priced so different? It turns out, upon further examination, that car A is in like new condition, the service records are immaculate, and it’s been washed, waxed, and recently inspected. Car B, on the other hand, has some dents and scratches, there’s trash and dirt littering the inside, it was in a pretty bad wreck in the past, and the tires are unevenly worn. In the end, like many things in life, you get what you pay for. If you’re going to have to spend thousands of dollars just to get car B up to the level are car A wouldn’t it make more sense just to buy car A and not have to worry? Even if car B runs great, the perceived value is decreased simply by the way the car is presented. The point is, for major purchases like a car or a house, most people are willing to pay more if they feel they are getting a better product. How we present our house and neighborhood to buyers helps to create a perception about the value buyers are getting.
So, in the end, while having nosy neighbors and HOA rules may be a bit of an inconvenience at times, they are also necessary to ensure individual homeowners do their part to keep the values of not only their own but all their neighbors’ homes up also. We know full well what we are getting into when we buy a home in a community with an HOA. Being active and involved in the community and working to make it a safe and desirable place to live not only helps to improve our quality of life, it improves the quality of our future by increasing the value of the homes in our neighborhood. When we have programs like a neighborhood watch, it shows potential buyers that we take an active role in the safety of this community. It also shows those who choose to act in a way which makes us all less safe that we are standing up and choosing not to accept it. What I do with my house affects all my neighbors, so I have a civic duty to do my part in that unspoken agreement we enter into when we buy our home. Instead of standing at the window wondering when the new neighbors are going to do something about their lawn, go and ask if there’s anything you can do to help! Maybe they don’t have a lawn mower yet, or maybe they physically are unable to get out there at the moment. Showing that you care and are willing to help is a great way to start building an active and involved community that people want to invest and live in.