Living in a neighborhood with no HOA can be a challenge to people concerned with their community, their property value and their quality of life. In Virginia, there is often a feeling that neighbors should mind their own business, or that homeowners should be allowed to live any way they want…after all, it is their property. That logic may work when you live in the middle of a 25-acre farm, but it’s woefully lacking in a densely packed neighborhood with quarter-acre lots.
Numerous studies show property in decline invites crime. When it looks like people don’t care, it’s easy for criminals to move in and eventually take over. We may think that is impossible, but some of our most troubled housing areas in PWC were once clean, bright, shiny neighborhoods with proud homeowners and no crime.
Anyone familiar with the broken window theory (see the attached PDF) knows that if property maintenance is ignored it gets worse. Property values decline 10-20 percent when a seller lives next to an ill kept property according to “Neighbors Hurt Your Home Value," by Liz Westhon for MSN Money.
When my husband, Bill, retired from the Air Force, we bought this house. We didn’t think of it as an investment or a starter home. We deemed it a friendly neighborhood with well tended properties and frankly, it was all we could afford.
We skipped vacations, new cars and Starbucks, and kept adding additional money to the principal. We paid our home off in 13 years and ploughed the saved monthly interest and payments into remodeling.
We’re still doing that remodeling. Most of the work we’ve done ourselves. My husband and I learned carpentry and how to lay tile. Lots of jobs that are just too big like roofing or the driveway and patio we’re currently having done, go to local, small businesses.
It’s about pride. We take good care of our property and invest money in our home because it is a reflection of us. We don’t want or need the biggest house, the fanciest car, or expensive jewelry. We just want to live the best we can in a neighborhood where we feel safe and connected to our neighbors and friends.
So now, 23 years after purchase, I do think of our house as an investment. My husband and I have invested not only money, but countless hours of our time. A lot of volunteer time has gone into numerous projects to improve our neighborhood. Next time, I’ll let you know how the Lindendale Clean Sweep Pilot Project is coming along.