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Welcome Home: 10 Tips to Turn Your Neighborhood Into a Hometown Haven

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“Communities work better (students perform better, crime rates are lower, kids are safer, people live longer) when neighbors know one another better. Knowing your neighbor on a first-name basis…is a surprisingly effective first step.”
Robert Putnam, Harvard Public Policy Professor and author of Bowling Alone

While advancements in technology have made it possible for us to connect with people from around the world, numerous studies show that it has led to a decline in face-to-face interactions.1

Places where we used to strike up casual conversations—such as a doctor’s office waiting room, bus stop or grocery line—are now filled with people looking at their smart phones, barely acknowledging those around them.

Even many families dining together or relaxing in the evenings can be caught spending more time focused on screens than each other. Is it any surprise that we’ve experienced a steady decline in community involvement?

In his book Bowling Alone, Harvard Public Policy Professor Robert Putnam “draws on evidence including nearly 500,000 interviews over the last quarter century to show that we sign fewer petitions, belong to fewer organizations that meet, know our neighbors less, meet with friends less frequently, and even socialize with our families less often.”2

How is this shift impacting our overall well being? A study by Oregon Health & Science University researchers found that having limited face-to-face social contact nearly doubles an individual’s risk of depression.3

CONNECTING WITH YOUR COMMUNITY

If you’re considering a move to a new city or neighborhood, you may be worried about replacing the comfort and support of family and friends you’ll leave behind. Or perhaps you have completed a move but would like to meet more people, build friendships and strengthen your support system.

In this blog post, we’ll explore 10 ways you can utilize technology to foster in-person connections with your neighbors, make friends and get engaged in your local community.

 

  1. JOIN YOUR NEIGHBORHOOD’S SOCIAL NETWORK

A growing number of neighborhoods are utilizing private social networks like U.S.-based Nextdoor and Canadian-based GoNeighbour. These platforms are designed specifically to connect neighbors and include an address verification process.

Residents post about a variety of topics, including neighborhood news, recommendations for local businesses, lost pets, etc. These platforms are a great way to stay up-to-date on what’s happening in your neighborhood, but don’t just use them to connect virtually. Extend an invitation to your neighbors to attend an in-person event, such as a park playdate for families, an informal soccer game or a potluck block party.

 

  1. ATTEND A PLACE OF WORSHIP

If you have a religious affiliation, joining a local place of worship is great way to meet people and get involved in your community. Aside from attending services, most religious institutions also host extracurricular activities to foster fellowship amongst the congregation.

Whether you are looking to join a church, synagogue, mosque or temple, there are a variety of online resources available to help you find a match in your area, including:

 

To make the most of your affiliation, look for opportunities to meet in smaller group settings. It’s a great way to form interpersonal relationships with people who share your beliefs and values.

 

  1. FIND AN INTEREST GROUP

Whatever your favorite hobby or pastime, you’re guaranteed to meet people who share your interests when you join an interest group!

The website Meetup.com has over 32 million members in 288,000 groups in 182 countries. You can search for a group in your area that appeals to you … from book clubs to running groups to professional networking, they have it all.

If you don’t find what you’re looking for, you can start your own group for a monthly fee. The site makes it easy to ask (or require) members to pitch in to cover the cost. It also enables you to promote a corporate sponsor on your page, so you may be able to find a local business to cover the cost.

Most people who join Meetup are there for the same reason you are … to meet people who share their interests. So it’s a great place to make like-minded friends in your community.

 

  1. LEND A HAND

Volunteering your time and talents is another good way to get engaged in your community and meet those who share a similar mission.

Most nonprofit organizations rely heavily on volunteers. Find one with a cause you’re passionate about by visiting VolunteerMatch.

You can search by cause, location and keywords, and filter your results to include opportunities that are suitable for kids, seniors or groups. Another option is to search for volunteer positions that require specialized skills. Perhaps you’re musical or maybe you’re good with computers. There could be an organization in your area that needs your talents or skills.

Lotsa Helping Hands is another site focused on connecting volunteers with those in need. Members can request help or search for opportunities to assist others in their area. Most of the volunteer opportunities involve aiding neighbors who are ill or elderly by delivering meals, offering rides to appointments or just stopping by for a visit. This can be a great way to make a direct impact on your neighbors who need a helping hand!

 

  1. TAKE A CLASS

Taking a class is a wonderful way to develop a skill while meeting people who share your interests and passion for learning.

Whether you want to brush up on your Spanish, finish your novel, or learn how to tango, most community colleges offer inexpensive, non-credit classes on a variety of topics.

And if you are pursuing a degree, forego taking your courses online. Opt for the traditional route instead. There’s no substitute for being part of a live community of your peers.

To search for a community college in your area, visit the American Association of Community Colleges or SchoolsInCanada.com.

 

  1. ATTEND AN EVENT

Attending a live event is another way to engage with members of your community. From festivals to fundraisers to retreats, Eventbrite is a great place to search for events in your area. You can filter your search by category, event type, date and price to find something that fits your interests, schedule and budget.

Be strategic about the type of event you choose. For example, while attending a large festival might be a fun way to feel engaged with your community, it might also be harder to meet people. A retreat or a networking event may offer more opportunities for one-on-one interaction.

 

  1. SHARE YOUR STUFF

Everyone’s talking about the rise of the “sharing economy” with the popularity of Uber and Airbnb. But there’s also been a rise in “sharing communities,” which facilitate the free exchange of goods among neighbors to reduce consumption and keep usable items out of landfills.

Nonprofit groups like The Freecycle Network are made up of people who are giving (and getting) stuff for free in their own towns and neighborhoods. Members can post “offers” of free items or “wanted” items they need.

The company Peerby has a similar goal of reducing consumption by encouraging neighbors to lend and borrow items they don’t often use. For example, you can offer to share your blender, rake or ladder. Maybe you need to borrow a drill, cake pan or moving trolley. Peerby enables you to request items to borrow from your neighbors and encourages you to register items you are willing to lend.

The Little Free Library is another innovative way neighbors are participating in a sharing community. Stewards build or purchase a box to house the library and fill it with books they are willing to give away. The library is usually placed in their front yard or in a public outdoor space. Visitors are encouraged to take a book they’d like to read, and in exchange leave a book for someone else to enjoy. With over 60,000 libraries in 80 countries, the organization estimates millions of books are exchanged annually among neighbors.

 

  1. SUPPORT A COMMUNITY GARDEN

 Community gardens have become increasingly popular in both urban and rural areas across North America. Not only do they beautify a neighborhood, they also foster community, encourage self-reliance, reduce family food budgets, conserve resources, and provide opportunities for recreation and exercise.

The mission of the American Community Gardening Association is to build community by increasing and enhancing community gardening and greening across the United States and Canada. The organization’s website enables you to search for existing community gardens in your area. If there isn’t one nearby, you might considering starting one. The site provides helpful tips and resources for organizing a garden in your neighborhood.

 

  1. CARPOOL WITH A COWORKER

In the spirit of joining a “sharing community,” carpooling offers many similar benefits. It presents an opportunity to form a bond with coworkers and/or neighbors during your daily commute. Additionally, you can save money on gas, reduce wear-and-tear on your vehicle, lower carbon emissions, and in many cities reduce your commute time by taking advantage of high-occupancy vehicle (HOV) travel lanes.

The success of ridesharing companies like Uber and Lyft has spurred a new wave of carpooling websites and apps that aim to revolutionize the way we commute by making it easier and more convenient to carpool. While many of these are still in their infancy stages, they are expanding into new markets and improving functionality at a rapid pace.

Kangaride Local, Scoop and Waze Carpool are just a few examples, and more are popping up every day. They are currently available in limited markets throughout the United States and Canada, but are becoming prevalent in more cities as residents opt-in. Check to see if any of these are available in your local area.

Alternatively, you can try posting on your neighborhood’s social network to see if one or more of your neighbors are commuting to a nearby location. Take turns driving and start benefiting from all that carpooling has to offer!

 

  1. PARTICIPATE IN WORLD NEIGHBORS DAY

The organizers behind World Neighbors Day promote it as “an invitation to share a moment with your neighbors, to get to know each other better and develop a real sense of community.”

In Canada it’s held on the second Saturday in June, and in the United States it’s held on the third Sunday in September. Participants are encouraged to organize gatherings with their neighbors to build relationships that “form the fabric of our communities.”

You can participate by attending or organizing a gathering in your neighborhood. Examples include: a block party, outdoor movie screening, book exchange, charity bake sale, volleyball game, etc. Anything that brings neighbors together in a fun and relaxed setting is a good choice!

Gatherings can be promoted through your neighborhood’s social media network, blog or listserv, or you can go the old-fashioned route and hand out flyers door-to-door. Whatever you do, be sure to make your gathering inclusive and welcoming to all.

 

BE A GOOD NEIGHBOR

 As with anything in life, you will get out what you put in. It can take time to build lasting and meaningful friendships with your neighbors, but the effort you make is likely to pay off tenfold.

The tried-and-true way to make friends, expand your circle, grow your support system and get engaged in your community? Be a good neighbor yourself.

 

 

What are the best ways you’ve found to meet and engage with your neighbors? Share your success stories or challenges in the comments below!

 

Sources:

  1. Lengacher, L. (2015) Mobile Technology: Its Effect on Face-to-Face Communication and Interpersonal Interaction. Undergraduate Research Journal for the Human Sciences –
    http://www.kon.org/urc/v14/lengacher.html
  2. Putnam, R. (2000) Bowling Alone. New York: Simon & Schuster –
    http://bowlingalone.com/
  3. Bergland, C. (2015 October 5) Face-to-Face Social Contact Reduces Risk of Depression. Psychology Today
    https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/the-athletes-way/201510/face-face-social-contact-reduces-risk-depression

Phoenix Market Update December 2016

Phoenix Market Update courtesy of Craig and Stacey Akers at NextHome Valleywide.  Contact 480-621-6828 or info@nexthomevalleywide.com for a Seller Solution book that will give you selling tips, pricing, and comparable home sales in your area.

 

Listings Under Contract Up 2.6%

Monthly Closed Sales Up 19%

Phoenix Metro Infographic - 2016-12 (1)

For Buyers: There’s both good and bad news for first-time home buyers this month. The good news is that there’s been a 22% increase in single family active listings asking between $175,000- $200,000 over the last 10 weeks, going from 1,065 to 1,295. Current inventory is 10% higher than where it was in week 49 of last year, adding some much needed choice to a high demand price range. The added supply is not universal across the valley; increases have been marked specifically in Buckeye, Surprise, Sun City, Peoria and Mesa. The bad news for home buyers is that supply overall is down 3.7% while the level of competing buyers is remaining seasonally consistent. The Southeast Valley specifically has not seen the typical increase in supply that happens this time of year. This indicates that the area will kick off 2017 with low supply just before the expected increase in buyer activity come February. In this case, the cost of waiting to purchase will be a lack of choice and possibly having to compromise on the condition or location of the property they choose to buy.

For Sellers: Bad news for buyers usually translates into good news for sellers, especially after positive news reports of Realtor.com ranking Phoenix as the #1 projected real estate market in the country for 2017. However, it’s still not a market to be overpriced regardless of the strong demand for homes. Some price ranges have more competing listings than others, especially in areas such as North Phoenix, Mesa, Gilbert and Peoria where there is competition from new home subdivisions. Permits for single family homes have been on the rise to accommodate the demand. This provides more choice for buyers in those areas, balances out the market and keeps annual appreciation in check. The areas projected to have the highest appreciation rates are those where there is a high level of fix and flip activity along with a more affordable price range under $175,000.

Contact the real estate experts at NextHome Valleywide in Chandler, AZ at 480-621-6828 for more information.  If you are currently looking at buying or selling a home in the Phoenix, Scottsdale or East Valley area and are not sure where to turn, search for homes at ChandlerAreaHomeSearch.com, where you can find single family homes, golf and lakefront properties, 55+ communities, townhomes and much more. Visit our blog at NextHomeValleywide for a monthly Phoenix Market Update.

Commentary written by Tina Tamboer, Senior Real Estate Analyst with The Cromford Report ©2016 Cromford Associates LLC and Tamboer Consulting LLC

Phoenix Market Update Nov 2016

Phoenix Market Update courtesy of Craig and Stacey Akers at NextHome Valleywide.  Contact 480-621-6828 or info@nexthomevalleywide.com for a Seller Solution book that will give you selling tips, pricing, and comparable home sales in your area.

New Listings Under $300,000 Down 10% in October

Average Sales Price per Square Foot Up 8%

 

Phoenix Market Update November 2016

For Buyers: October was a disappointing month for new active listings under $300,000. Normally October is a good month to buy as there is a boost of new listings without an increase in competing buyers. This rang true for new listings between $300,000 and $1,000,000 (up nearly 7%). New listings over $1,000,000 were down by nearly 14%, however this price point has been suffering from oversupply most of the year and the drop only equated to 57 fewer new listings in the past month. More importantly, new listings under $300,000 were down by nearly 10% with 669 fewer new listings than this time last year. For a price range that is already undersupplied for the current demand, this was not good news for buyers. The fact that sales under $300,000 comprised 72% of all sales in the past month tells us to expect prices to continue rising with the current lack of new supply hitting the market.

For Sellers: Undersupply for listings under $300,000 has had a positive effect on sellers. The Monthly Average Sales Price per Square Foot in this price point went up 8.4% from $110.42 last November to $119.72 this November. The $300,000 – $500,000 price range saw this measure go from $146.03 to $151.50, up 3.7%. The $500,000 -$1,000,000 price range increased 1.2% from $196.65 to $199.03; the Over $1,000,000 price range increased by 12.3% from $308.73 to $346.68 (with only 108 sales in this price point, average price measures will fluctuate dramatically from month to month). Average Days on Market is still very good for sellers under $300,000 at 61 days. The measure increases to 91 days within $300,000-$500,000; 142 days within $500,000-$1,000,000; and 191 days Over $1,000,000.

Contact the real estate experts at NextHome Valleywide in Chandler, AZ at 480-621-6828 for more information.  If you are currently looking at buying or selling a home in the Phoenix, Scottsdale or East Valley area and are not sure where to turn, search for homes at ChandlerAreaHomeSearch.com, where you can find single family homes, golf and lakefront properties, 55+ communities, townhomes and much more. Visit our blog at NextHomeValleywide for a monthly Phoenix Market Update.

Commentary written by Tina Tamboer, Senior Real Estate Analyst with The Cromford Report ©2016 Cromford Associates LLC and Tamboer Consulting LLC

How to Amp Up The Resale Value of Your Home

resale valueWhether you’re putting your home on the market this year or in the next five years, it is a smart decision to start building your home’s resale value now.  Here are some ways to create a comfortable home while making it easier to put more money into your bank account on closing day.

Small Maintenance and Repairs

If you think that home maintenance on the weekends waste your time and energy, think again. The small chores you do around your home prevents it from losing value. Neglecting small maintenance and repairs causes 10% of your home’s value to walk out your door and slip through your windows. Most appraisers claim that homes showing little to no preventative maintenance can depreciate from $15,000 to $20,000.

A study conducted by researchers at the University of Connecticut and Syracuse University shows that regular maintenance boosts your home value by about 1% per year. However, ongoing maintenance costs offset that value, which means that regular maintenance actually slows down your rate of depreciation. Furthermore, because home buyers generally notice any repairs needed upon buying a new home, proactive maintenance lets the home buyer know that he or she will not have to spend extra money to maintain the basics. This makes your home more attractive, and thus more likely to get higher priced offers.

Maintaining the basics can cost you little money and certainly some effort, but there’s a way to accomplish this very important activity smartly. This article by HouseLogic, for example, shows you how to keep home maintenance below $300 a year. Planning ahead will also help make maintaining your home easier. Most professional appraisers and real estate agents recommend a proactive maintenance schedule that includes:

  • Keeping enough cash on hand to replace systems and materials
  • Creating and following a maintenance schedule
  • Planning a room redo every year
  • Keeping a notebook of all your maintenance and repairs

Landscaping

The Virginia Cooperative Extension at Virginia Tech published a study that shows landscaping can increase a home’s value by 15%. The study claims that a home valued at $150,000 could increase its value between $8,300 and $19,000 with the addition of landscaping. Particular landscape elements add different value. For instance, landscape design can increase your home’s value by 42%, plant size can increase your home’s value by 32%, and diversity in plants can increase your home’s value by 22%.

Replace Entrance DoorsFront-door-orange

If your entry doors are wood, consider switching them out for either fiberglass or steel doors. Steel doors add style and architectural interest to your home while improving security; you can add a deadbolt and electronic keypads to keep out intruders. Unlike wood doors, steel doors do not rot or splinter.

Alternatively, fiberglass doors can be designed to look like wood doors and give your home a modern look. Fiberglass doors conserve more energy than steel doors.

Price wise, a steel door will cost you $1,335 with a 91% return on investment whereas a fiberglass door will cost you $3,126 with an 82.3% return on investment.

Garage Door Replacement

At first, you might not think that your garage door increases the value of your home. However, your garage door distinguishes your home from the other homes on your block. As the largest entryway of a house, garage doors get noticed first because they’re the focal point of your home. If you want to quickly increase the resale value of your home, you need to make the most of this space.

Some interesting things being done with garage doors include:

  • Increased Size: Bigger garage doors help homes stand out more, and homeowners can do more creatively with them.
  • Bold Colors: Bright and bold colors now can complement the color of your home, or you can build a concept around the color of your home.
  • Faux Wood: You can install fiberglass or steel garage doors that look like wood garage doors. This gives your home a new level of sophistication.
  • Windows: Large Windows on your garage door improve the aesthetic of your home, and provide light into your garage so that it’s no longer a dark space.

More importantly, a garage door replacement will cost you $1,652 and add $1,512 to the value of your home; that’s a return on your investment of 91.5%.

Fiberglass Attic Insulation

While energy efficiency is still not the sexiest selling point of your home, installing fiberglass attic insulation saves energy and garners a big payback on your investment. According to Remodeling Magazine’s 2016 Cost vs. Value top trends report, fiberglass attic insulation gained the top return on investment among the 30 projects in this year’s report. Using Remodel/Max as the cost source, a fiberglass attic insulation project cost $1,268 nationwide. Real estate professionals surveyed estimated that the work would boost the price of a home at resale, within a year of its completion, by $1,482. That’s a 116.9% return on investment.

Replacing Windows

Replacing your windows is another way to save energy and increase your home’s resale value. Replacing your old windows with energy saving models will beautify your home, keep it comfortable, and ease the workload of your HVAC system. According to HGTV, you’ll see a reduction in your utility bill by 7% to 15%. However, if you’re selling your home, you could expect a 60% to 70% recoupment of your investment. The two types of replacement windows that fetch the best return are vinyl and wood.

Remodeling Your Kitchen

Kitchen remodeling can get expensive, but small renovations can make your home more bgrey kitchenuyer friendly. Changing your kitchen’s texture and color using a matte finish and neutral colors such as putty or grey enhances your home’s resale value. Because matte finishes have transitional qualities, your potential home buyer can easily match his or her stainless steel or black and white appliances. Also, refinishing cabinetry, or switching to Energy Star™ appliances provide comfort you like and pizzazz buyers adore.

Flow is important to any interior design of a home. If you feel that your kitchen hinders a good flow, change it. A small investment to knock out a non-structural wall or remove a kitchen island creates space and provides flow that buyers love.

A minor kitchen remodel can cost you $20,122 while putting $16,716 of resale value into your home; that’s an 83% payback on the project. If you want to do a major kitchen model, this can cost you about $60,000 and put about $39,000 of resale value into your home, which is only about a 65% payback on the project. Therefore, consider a minor kitchen remodel first.

Bathroom Addition or Remodel

Likewise, carefully consider adding a bathroom or remodeling your bathroom. Switching out your frosted glass shower doors for glass doors, cleaning the grout, replacing the shower and floor tiles, switching out your sink or toilet, or replacing your sink and shower fixtures can cost you little money.

Adding a bathroom can get expensive, but it can reduce congestion during hectic times and provide your guests with a bathroom. Consult with your real estate agent or a local appraiser before deciding whether a full remodel or addition is right for your situation. While a bathroom remodel will cost you about $18,000 with a return on investment of about 66%, a bathroom addition will cost you about $42,000 with a return on investment of about 56%. Therefore, it’s best do your due diligence before working on your bathroom.

Your Needs and Buyers’ Wants

On that note, if you need to renovate your home, be sure to consider how those changes will affect its appeal to future buyers. Knowing design trends will give you the opportunity to make changes to your home based on where your needs and your potential buyer’s desires intersect, thus increasing your property’s resale value drastically.

Designers and design websites provide great ideas when you’re brainstorming home renovations. Keep in mind as you research, however, that you don’t want to sacrifice your needs for a comfortable home just for the sake of what you think a future buyer will want!

Therefore, before you begin making any changes to your home, consult a real estate agent. Real estate agents are constantly working with new buyer clients and have insight as to what home buyers are looking for now and in the future. We’ll be able to help you make smart choices when remodeling or renovating your home.

Contact the real estate experts at NextHome Valleywide in Chandler, AZ at 480-621-6828 for more information.  If you are currently looking at buying or selling a home in the Phoenix, Scottsdale or East Valley area and are not sure where to turn, search for homes at ChandlerAreaHomeSearch.com, where you can find single family homes, golf and lakefront properties, 55+ communities, town homes and much more.

Your Retirement Home: Why You Want to Buy Before You Retire

Many people dream of buying their ideal retirement home AFTER their career has come to a conclusion.  However many real estate professionals strongly recommend that their clients find a retirement property

retirement home
Don’t wait til you retire to buy your retirement home!

BEFORE they’re off the payroll. While it may seem like a big time commitment to find a new home while you’re still busy with your work there are several significant financial benefits to purchasing your retirement home before you actually do retire.  Here are our top reasons why.

It Makes Your Mortgage Easy

When you are employed it is easier to get approved for a mortgage. If you wait until after you retire to buy your retirement home, you may not have the income require to qualify for the mortgage that you need. Don’t limit yourself! Buy while you’re still employed to keep your options open.

It Leaves You With More Spending Money

Buying a new home while you have an income provides you with more security with your expenses, such as mortgage payments and planned upgrades or renovations. Having an income can also mitigate financial stress should you run into any unexpected expenses after closing.

It Leaves You Ready For Reality

You may think you can accurately predict the expenses of your new home, but if you buy the property before retiring it gives you time to get to know the true amounts of your monthly payments. This can help ensure that you have enough saved to retire and live comfortably in your new property, with no surprises for your budget. You’ll be in a better position to create a financial plan once you know the reality of owning your new home.

An Added Bonus: It Can Be An Income Property

If you decide to purchase your retirement home before you retire you don’t have to move into it right away. You can rent it out as an income property until you’re ready to settle in, which will not only help cover mortgage payments but will also allow you to see firsthand what the monthly expenses are for the property.  This will also prevent you from having to deal with a move while working; you can wait until you do finally retire before packing up your current home and moving into your new one.

Ready to find the perfect retirement property?  Contact the real estate experts at NextHome Valleywide in Chandler, AZ at 480-621-6828 for more information.  If you are currently looking at buying or selling a home in the Phoenix, Scottsdale or East Valley area and are not sure where to turn, look for homes at ChandlerAreaHomeSearch.com.  Here you can search for golf and lakefront properties, 55+ communities, and much more.