Some time back, shortly before the real estate bubble started to blow up, I asked a Realtor why a house in the tract a block to the south of mine should be worth $60,000 or $80,000 more than my house, when mine is newer, its rooms are larger, its lot is nicer, and its interior had been updated more recently. She sniffed and remarked, “It’s the neighborhood.”
Well, there may be something to that. This evening I took Cassie for a walk during the height of the Hallowe’en tricking and treating and, as usual, walked down into that area. The difference between my neighborhood and that one was striking.
First, to get there you have to cross a feeder street, one that’s not so busy you can’t jaywalk across safely but that does carry some traffic. The road was hectic with people carting their kids in from the unsavory districts to the west and north, where no parent in his or her right mind would let the kiddies visit the local crack houses and meth factories in search of “treats.”
My neighborhood north of this asphalt dividing line had almost no children, but the slightly more affluent neighborhood to the south was alive with kids in costume.
In my neighborhood, almost every house had its front lights off (except for the occasional security light outside a garage) and the front windows shut up tight. In the other neighborhood, residents were out in droves, sitting at tables in front of their homes and doling out candy from big bowls. At three houses, the grown-ups were drinking wine and partying companionably on the front porch or driveway as the little visitors went from house to house to show off their outfits and collect their loot.
Think of that! The neighbors talk to each other! What a quaint idea.
Heaven help us, they also speak to poor folks. Now that is outré.
I walked over into La Maya’s part of the area, a block closer to the truly desirable addresses. Her house is worth about $150,000 more than what mine is worth—maybe more than that now, after Dave’s Used Car Lot, Marina, and Weed Arboretum was given away for practically nothing at auction. Interestingly, that neighborhood was just as hermetically sealed as mine: most houses had their lights out, and none of the locals were to be seen in public. Precious few kids, either.
So there you go: what makes a neighborhood is the neighbors.
Maybe when you’re looking to buy a new house, you should wait until Hallowe’en and visit all your candidate areas. Look for one where the residents are outside enjoying the little kids and each other—that’s a good neighborhood!