Know your Neighborhood: The Value of Good Neighbors

One thing that’s difficult to evaluate when you’re checking out a property to purchase, be it via an open house, through a realtor, or very unofficially on a random drive-by, is who your potential neighbors may be, but did you know that trusting your neighbors potentially leads to better health?  A recent study performed by Eileen Bjornstrom, an assistant professor of Sociology at the Missouri University College of Arts and Science demonstrated that people who trust their neighbors report having better health.

Good Neighbors

I’ve lived in my condo complex for more than 3 years now, and have amassed a number of familiar faces and people I feel comfortable saying “hi” to while picking up the mail or discussing the weather and other similar small-talk while riding the elevator together.  These tiny conversations make me feel like I’m part of a greater community, and lead me to believe that these people would warn me if they saw someone odd lurking outside our door, or witnessed something strange in the parking lot, like a masked man carting off what appeared to be a room full of electronics.

I’m originally from a small town in Connecticut, where people wave to each other when you drive down the street and it wouldn’t be considered weird at all to call your neighbor up and ask if you could borrow a cup of sugar.  Boston’s a big city and I think that small-town mentality doesn’t actually translate too well here, but there’s something to be said about knowing and trusting your neighbors.  Unfortunately, there’s something also to be said about knowing and not trusting or otherwise disliking your neighbors.

I recently witnessed two notable scenarios while visiting a friend that made me realize that I was glad to be living someplace else.  The first scenario involved a new neighbor that had recently moved into the unit above my brother-in-law.  What started as a friendly conversation somehow morphed into her inviting herself and her two children and the husband she’s soon-to-be-divorcing into my brother-in-law’s place for dinner and drinks and generally overstaying her welcome.  When they all finally left, we each looked at each other in awe and said “Did that really just happen?”  The second scenario involved us investigating a rental apartment with a friend and realizing that the backyard was a total mess from downed branches from Hurricane Irene that no one had bothered to address.  In our conversations with the person showing the property, it seems as though some of the branches crossed the property line and the neighbor on the other side was apparently on vacation.  If you ask me, it would be nice for anyone to have taken the initiative and the time to pick up the branches regardless of the fact that maybe a few strayed onto their neighbor’s property.  Not doing this is not only stubbornly selfish, but it typefies the exact way to not be a good neighbor.

Two of the neighborhoods that I believe has a strong sense of community are the North End and the South End, though this is purely through observation.  I have made my judgment based on pedestrian traffic, local eatery options and the sheer number of people out walking their dogs.  Alternatively, the collegiate atmosphere of Allston and Brighton during the school year may pose a burden on nearby residents, but these college-aged kids may prove helpful in lending a hand to shovel the sidewalk in the winter or pet sit if you’re away.

If you’re checking out properties in the coming months, it may pay off to look around and watch who’s walking by.  If you believe the research, good neighbors can increase your health.  They also tend to invest in their homes and have a greater sense of pride in their surroundings, and would probably make good friends down the road.

What do you think?  Do good fences make good neighbors?  Is there value to knowing your neighbors?  What other Boston neighborhoods have good neighbors?

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