Moving into your very first owned home is a big step in life. While you may be completely wrapped up in the excitement of owning your own house and the promise the property holds for your life, it can be hard to remember the world around you. But you’re not just moving into a house, you are becoming a permanent member of your new neighborhood. Neighbor feuds may be funny in sit-coms but here in the real world, you want to be that neighbor everyone else on the street is happy to see. You want smiles when you see others heading to work in the morning and for your children to be welcome playing with the other neighborhood kids. To achieve this, you can take some deliberate friendly steps to be a great neighbor from the moment your moving truck pulls onto the street.
On Moving Day
Where You Park the Moving Truck
Being a great neighbor can start immediately. While your future neighbors have likely noticed activity as the house you bought was being sold, this is their first chance to get a real impression of you and your family. If you can, direct the moving truck to park courteously in a way that neither blocks the street or anyone else’s driveways or mailboxes.
Say Hello to Curious Neighbors
How forward and openly friendly neighbors are will vary from person to person but the most outgoing and curious are likely to approach with caution on the first day when all your furniture and boxes are still strewn over the driveway and front porch. Keep an eye out for these slow approaches and make the first friendly move. Greet any neighbors who are passing by and/or seem curious and introduce yourself. This is the first step to making new friends.
Offer Moving-Day Tour
If you are feeling particularly outgoing, take one or more of your new neighbors on a quick tour of the house before you’re fully moved in. This lowers the intimacy of the home tour while giving a few select friendly neighbors a chance to sate their curiosity. By opening up your clean mostly-empty home, you are indicating that you are not overly closed-off and might be welcome to more neighbor-to-neighbor visits.
Get Everything Inside Quickly
While having boxes and furniture in the yard is understandable on the first day, the neighborhood, in general, would rather the street look tidy and well put together. To this end, try to get all your things into the house, garage, and backyard by the end of the first day at all possible.
Be Prepared for Play
If you have children, moving day is going to be both disruptive and very exciting. To keep them busy and out from under-foot in the moving process, give them permission to play in the front yard and the nearby street (if safe) with the outdoor toys they can find. This will serve as a signal for other curious neighborhood kids. Be friendly to them, greet their parents, and invite a moving-day play date since you’ll be around to keep an eye on them anyway.
In the First Week
For all the neighbors that didn’t say hi on the first day, don’t be shy about making the rounds. Bring food if you want to or don’t if you’re not big on cooking (or on a tight post-move budget). Just be friendly and make the first move in reaching out to your nearby neighbors. Consider going around in the late afternoon on weekends or the early evening on weekdays when people are most likely to be home.
Join the Neighborhood Watch
Every homeowner is responsible for their own home security but neighborhood security can be increased as a whole with shared vigilance. If there is a neighborhood watch, join it enthusiastically. If there isn’t a neighborhood watch, offer to loosely form one and keep an eye on each other’s children, pets, and property. Suspicious activity, signs of undetected damage, and small mammals running free in the street are all reasons to send over a friendly call or message.
Visit the HOA Office
Some neighborhoods are overseen by HOAs and some aren’t. If your home is in an HOA neighborhood, you are an automatic member who will be expected to pay monthly dues and follow the rules. Whether or not you feel the need to get involved and influence policy, pop your head into the office, say hello, and pick up a few pamphlets to learn about the local policies along the local amenities like parks or pools that might be available.
Build the Play Network
For parents of any child under the age of 14, talk about building a play network with other parents in the neighborhood. When all or most of the parents in a neighborhood know each other, children will have an easier time finding playmates, you can all watch out for each other’s children, and the parent phone network will form naturally. This can make it easier to agree on policies, settle disputes, manage sleepovers, and even get modern kids to go play outside with their neighborhood friends.
Host a Barbecue
If you want to be the super-star neighbor, be the first to throw a barbecue in their first week or month after moving in. Since you’re making the rounds, shaking hands, and trading contact information with parents, also invite everyone to a fun pot-luck barbecue where you supply the burgers and kebabs while the neighbors bring the specialty side dishes they’d like to be remembered for.
As a Homeowner
Don’t ‘Bump’ the Neighborhood
Whether it’s roaring action movies, the bumping baseline of your favorite albums, or home improvement projects, know how loud is too loud and keep your activity below that whenever possible. Rattling your own windows may be alright if your house is an acre from everything else, but remember that in the suburbs, you’re shaking your neighbor’s windows as well.
Know the Quiet Hours
If you need to make a lot of noise or if you’re going to have a wild party, know when it’s most polite and tolerable to do so. The middle of the day on weekdays is the best choice because most people are at work or school during these time. However, before 8AM or after 8PM, assume someone who needs to rest before morning has gone to bed.
Work Together in Neighborhood Defense
There are a number of things you might want to defend your home against ranging from weather to criminal activity and as it turns out, your neighbors are concerned about the exact same things. When you’re clearing and salting your sidewalk, offer to extend your work onto neighboring sidewalk as well to improve neighborhood traction and safety. If you’re securing windows before a storm, explain to a curious neighbor how they can do the same for their home.
Respect Property Borders
While it’s courteous to do a little extra tidying for your neighbors, also remember that ‘encroachment’ is one of the leading causes of neighbor-to-neighbor disputes. Keep your fences in good condition, mow exactly up to your property line, and don’t let your trees grow out too far.
If something a neighbor does bug you, be as patient and tolerant as possible. Whether their front garden is particularly pungent or their dog likes to yip after walking school children in the morning, there may well be something that your neighbor isn’t mentioning about your behavior as well. Be a flexible neighbor and it will be easier to let little things roll off.
Do Your Home Renovations Courteously
If you do take up the hobby of annual home renovations as so many homeowners do, remember to do so in the most courteous way possible. Keep the loudest activities limited to weekday afternoons and try to choose quiet methods for most of your construction. If you bring in trucks and equipment, remember not to block the road and try not to fill the street with mud or gravel.
As a Member of the Neighborhood
Keep an Eye Out for Suspicious Activity
Burglars, thieves, and creepy stalking ex’s are all things that make a neighborhood less safe if they are allowed to remain nearby and thrive but we can’t all watch our homes all of the time. Besides a complex network of cameras, the best way to defend the neighborhood is with everyone keeping an eye out. Watch for ladders left in yards (bad security), disabled security systems, people creeping around, and other suspicious activity. Depending on the nature, either call your neighbor or the police.
Trade Favors and Tools
Neighbors who do favors for each other can drastically increase both household’s efficiency. You can bring in your neighbor’s trash cans while they’re away on vacation and they can check in on your dog when you have to work late. You can lend them our lawnmower from time to time and they can lend your child a bike their child recently grew out of. Good neighbors make for especially great childhoods.
Hold and Shop at Garage Sales
Garage sales are a chance for the neighborhood to come together once again to look curiously through each other’s things, chat about the past, and sip lemonade. Be sure to stop buy and purchase something from any garage sale on your block and consider throwing garage sales of your own when you accumulate too much stuff as always eventually happens to suburbanites.
Be the Bearer of Gifts
Don’t be afraid to bring over a platter of cookies when you think it would be welcome or just when you want someone to talk to. The platter can even be store-bought, it’s a new manufactured world. You might be surprised the combination of friendly to emotional responses you get. For neighbors who are having a hard time in their lives, you could be the best thing that has happened to them in weeks.
Spend Friendly Time Outside
One new neighbor moving in and acting friendly can change the tenor of an entire neighborhood and invite everyone to be more available and personable. Consider setting up a few deck chairs in the front yard and perhaps building some toys in and around the front tree for your kids (or grandkids). Take walks alone, with a partner, or with your dog and invite others to join you. You might even consider using the charcoal grill at the local playground park.
For more homeowner resources and tips, contact me today!