Choosing a place to live can be incredibly stressful and mentally taxing. Finding the perfect blend of comfort, price, and location can take weeks if not months. Even when you find the right home the work has only just begun. Upkeep can be expensive though necessary to keep your home in it’s top condition.
How your neighbors take care of their property can also directly impact your property value. We’ve all heard of curb appeal and how important it is for everyone to keep their areas in tip top shape. But what happens when several of your neighbors start to care less and less about their homes appearance? The sad truth is that neighborhoods occasionally fall into decay.
The good news is if you stay alert and look for the signs, you may be able to tell before anyone else that you’re living on a block that’s headed in the wrong direction. Even if you think you’ve found your forever home, surrounding circumstances may lead you to think twice. If this happens to you, have no fear, moving is always an option. There will always be more fish in the sea, or in this case, houses.
So if you think your neighborhood may be going bad here are some troubling indicators to note:
- Increased police presence: This is an obvious one, but its significance can elude you if you’re shrugging off frequent police visits as isolated incidents. Added police patrols and elevated law enforcement responses likely indicate a problem—or several—on your block. Police typically step up patrols to deter potential problems, and this is a bad sign if they’re doing it near you.
- Broken windows staying broken: If graffiti or other petty crime goes unchecked, it could mean that property owners have given up on the neighborhood. In their classic study on crime prevention, Fixing Broken Windows, George Kelling and Catherine Coles argue that controlling disorderly behavior prevents neighborhood decline. Unchecked vandalism is a sure sign of neighborhood decay. If you begin to see broken windows or have heard of an increase in petty crime it’s most likely time to start banding together as a neighborhood and keep things in check.
- Homes in disrepair: If homeowners regularly ignore decorating, basic maintenance, and/or upkeep of their homes—like planting spring flowers, painting or replacing deteriorating fixtures—it could be a sign that property owners either no longer care about the neighborhood or are looking to get out.
- Drop in homeownership and a corresponding rise in rentals and foreclosures: Neighborhoods dominated by rental properties and foreclosures tend to be headed toward decline. Foreclosures take a significant social and economic toll on a community, while renters don’t always view their residences the same way that homeowners do. Too often foreclosed homes are sold to investors who transform the homes into multi-unit apartments or transitional housing, and this can be a sign that things are getting worse, not better.
- Long-term vacancies: If properties remain vacant, go unsold, or remain boarded up, these homes can become havens for mischief and crime. Likewise, their value will decrease and depress the property values of every home on the block. More than one vacant property is bad news. The longer these homes remain vacant, the more deleterious the effect.
With a little effort and some organizing, neighbors can work together to keep their blocks and neighborhoods moving in the right direction. However, if these signs sound too familiar, it may be time to call it a day and move on to a new home. By ignoring these signs, you put yourself at risk for damage to your new home as well as the future sale price if you ever do move.
Featured photo credit: Viktor Hanacek via picjumbo.com
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