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Neighbors can make or break a home

Published February 08. 2014 09:00AM

My dear friend Jeanne moved on to a new stage of her life that meant buying her own home.

Bubbling with excitement, she took me to see the house as soon as she signed the papers.

When we pulled up to the house, she had tears in her eyes from happiness.

It's a grand new house, complete with soaring cathedral ceilings and a master bathroom her grandson thinks is big enough for a basketball team.

Faced for the first time with buying a home completely on her own, Jeanne did a good job of thinking about all the variables. She wanted a new home that wouldn't demand repairs or updating.

The home also appealed to her because it came completely furnished with nice furniture that fit with Jeanne's taste.

"I tried to think of everything and all potential expenses as I was picking a place," she said.

There was one thing she didn't check before she signed the papers: the neighbors.

Neighbors are important to Jeanne as they are for me. She relishes a friendly relationship with neighbors, just as she had in her old neighborhood where she made friends up and down the block.

I do have to say her old neighborhood was extraordinary with mostly lively, retired folks who love to socialize. They were always finding excuses to have neighborhood parties.

When someone is going away, one of the neighbors volunteer to watch the house, take in the mail and water the plants. They share fruit from their trees and produce from their gardens.

Everybody in her old neighborhood always took a shine to easygoing Jeanne and I hope she will find the same kind of neighbors near her new home.

So far, she hasn't met a neighbor. There are homes up and down the block but Jeanne says the street seems devoid of people.

"I never see anyone coming or going. No cars, no movement," Jeanne says.

Some people would love that kind of place. They call it wonderful privacy. Many like to drive home, shut their garage door and enjoy privacy.

According to HGTV, a desire for privacy is high on demand from potential buyers.

Jeanne and I both prefer having neighbors that are, well, neighborly. We both like having people around.

Before I bought my homes in both Pennsylvania and Florida, I made sure I got to know my potential neighbors. In both instances, I was blessed with wonderful neighbors. There were plenty of times when I told myself if having great neighbors were a taxable asset, the taxes on my home would soar.

When I was considering buying the sweet little cottage I now own in Florida, I first asked the seller about the neighbors. She told me they are so wonderful she was reluctant to move away from them.

We laugh about that conversation a lot because when I asked her that question about neighbors we had no idea what would come next for her. After she bought a home in a more upscale part of our development, she eventually sold her big house and moved back to her old neighborhood. She now lives across the street from me and we are close friends forever friends.

We would do anything for each other. Sometimes I cook something for her family so she can relax for a night. When I have an early morning doctor's appointment, Kay doesn't mind getting up early to take me. What a joy it is to have her back on "our block."

My neighbors are friendly and caring. But they are not intrusive. They tend not to visit unless invited.

I grew up in the coal regions where we didn't stand on ceremony and we didn't think we needed an engraved invitation to visit neighbors. But the world has changed since then and most people tend not to stop by without an invitation.

I often call Kay to have coffee with me in the morning, or, to be a guinea pig for a new recipe I'm trying.

She's my favorite neighbor, but fortunately, she's not the only nice neighbor on the block.

In late summer a storm with high winds blew down two trees in my yard. One fell across my driveway and had to be taken care of right away.

I went outside with big cutters to work on the tree. It was sweltering hot and my clothes quickly were soon soaked through.

Before I could get very far, Bob, my next-door neighbor appeared with an electrical saw. "You'll be there all day with those clippers. I'll take care of it for you," he offered.

He not only cut the two trees into manageable pieces, but he also hauled them away. That's the kind of neighbors I have.

People can make or break a neighborhood.

My friends Pat and Tom live in a great house but they have what they call the ultimate neighbor from hell.

The scary neighbor is forever screaming obscenities at neighbors or calling police to complain about imagined infractions.

When he threatened to shoot the neighbor on the other side, she moved away because she couldn't take his tirades anymore.

All it takes is one neighbor like that to ruin a neighborhood.

When people are buying a home, they hire an inspector to find any problem. Few thoroughly check the neighbors.

They should.

Neighbors can enhance or take away from the desirability of a home.

Whether you're seeking privacy or friendliness, it's pays to know what you're getting.

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