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December 8th, 2008
Tips for getting to know a new neighborhood

President’s Column, Texas Association of REALTORS®

As you like it

When you buy a home, you’re not just buying four walls and some brick – you’re also buying into a neighborhood. For whatever reason – the character, the area, the schools, or the investment potential – you chose to buy in a certain area. As a homeowner, you should take an active role in your community so that the conditions you found so favorable stay that way.

Getting to know you

Nothing is more important to a sense of community than knowing the people who live around you. How do you do it? Spend a little time chatting over the fence, and find out what others’ concerns are about the neighborhood. You may offer to help organize a block party so you can meet lots of your neighbors at one time in a relaxed environment.

It takes only a little time to get to know your neighbors and discuss your concerns about the neighborhood and community. Share information.

Back to school

Almost every school needs some kind of help. Talk to school administrators and ask if they need volunteers to, say, read to younger kids or help with groundskeeping a few times a year.

Plug in

I hear more and more about neighbors forming Internet discussion groups, e-mail distribution lists, and neighborhood-specific Web sites. Any of these offers a great way for you to efficiently communicate and interact with people in your immediate area – people who drive the same roads, send their kids to the same school and who may have similar home-maintenance situations as you do.

I’ve also noticed that many of my fellow Texas Realtors are publishing blogs with highly localized information, sending out neighborhood newsletters, or otherwise sharing their expertise with their neighbors.
Look out!

Be alert to things in your neighborhood that say “we don’t care” and may invite crime – like insufficient street lighting, boarded-up buildings, no recreational activities for kids, vacant lots littered with debris, lawns that haven’t been mowed in months and rusted-out cars in driveways. Work with law enforcement, civic groups, schools, local businesses, community agencies, churches and service clubs to address the problems.

You may also consider joining a neighborhood watch group. Members receive training in crime prevention and agree to look out for each other’s safety and property. If there’s no watch organization in your neighborhood, start one with help from local law enforcement and community groups. Every year, there’s the “National Night Out” that encourages people to get out and meet their neighbors. Take advantage of it.

Finally, help local government do its job. You can also ask the local police department to come speak to your neighbors about safety, recent crime trends and things that citizens can do to help.

Be in the know

Change is inevitable; so is growth in most areas. Not every change is a huge six-lane highway. Sometimes, small projects, like a new stoplight or a street that’s widened to accommodate a bike lane can have a big effect on your daily life.

Many times, there will be a designated contact person who can let you know what projects are on the horizon for your neck of the woods. Take some time every so often to see what kind of developments are on the agenda. By finding out about proposed projects before they are approved, you and your neighbors can organize, assess the impact and offer constructive input in the appropriate forum throughout the process.

Above all, find out who the local politicians are and be willing to contact them – remember that they work for us – it’s their job as elected officials to answer questions and help their constituents. If you catch wind of a troublesome project, organize your neighbors and draw up a petition that supports changing or eliminating it. Giving a petition to local government officials may or may not work, but continue to press your case – you never know what might happen with a little persistence. The squeaky wheel gets the grease.

It’s your ’hood

No matter where you live, your neighborhood directly affects the quality of your day-to-day life.

Do your part to ensure the neighborhood and your home retain their character and their attraction. After all, a stable or improving community is an integral part of increasing real estate value and makes your investment much more profitable in the long run.

For more information about buying and selling real estate in the Lone Star State, I invite you to visit TexasRealEstate.com.

by Amy DuBose, RCE
Association Executive
San Marcos Area Board of REALTORS®

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