I love neighborhood BBQs. It’s so nice to mingle with neighbors, sample an array of foods, meet new people and watch the community connect. Thankfully tomorrow I’ll be enjoying a “National Night Out” BBQ with neighbors yet again as my family hosts a get-together for our subdivision.
While I won’t be unpacking the four stages of neighborhood life in conversation as I grill hot dogs (a quick way to make people run), it’ll definitely be something on my mind. It might sound odd to say this, but being aware of how the neighborhood is doing is key to the present and future of the community.
There are four stages of neighborhood life:
Growth: A period during which there are gains in public favor and acceptance. Demand increases.
Stability: A period of equilibrium without marked gains or losses. No real obvious change.
Decline: A period of diminishing demand and acceptance.
Renewal: A period of rejuvenation and rebirth of market demand.
What do these stages really mean? Briefly, the “growth” stage might be a popular new subdivision or a well-established area where buyers literally have to wait for someone to die before moving in (owners just don’t sell often in areas like this). By the way, I like to think of new subdivisions like a honeymoon because all you see is the good (just wait a few years and the perception of the neighborhood may change over time as original owners sell, new buyers can afford the community and problems poke their head out). A neighborhood experiencing stability would be in a place where there is an overall sense of equilibrium without demand increasing or decreasing. When an area experiences the declining stage, things like unkempt lawns, increasing crime, and less owner-occupied properties become commonplace (see “Blight Week” for more on that). Lastly, renewal takes place when a neighborhood in decline experiences a renaissance, maybe from gentrification, political action, grassroots efforts or even governmental stabilization programs directed toward the area.
Why does this matter? When purchasing a property, it’s important to get a sense for the neighborhood and how it’s doing. After all, you don’t just buy a “parcel island” independent of its surroundings, but a community – the good and the bad. Sometimes it’s obvious which stage a neighborhood is in, but other times a community might be on the fence between stages or require some digging around to find out how it’s really doing.
Hope for neighborhoods: Every neighborhood fits somewhere in or between one of the stages above. The good news is that neighborhoods, like people, can change over time (but not without major work sometimes). For instance, “Renewal” can never happen without the efforts of residents and others to reimagine what a neighborhood can be instead of what it has become. What if residents began to see themselves as the solution to some neighborhood problems and then worked together to solve them?
By the way, in case it’s helpful, here are some tips for hosting a community BBQ (I wrote these just after last year’s National Night Out BBQ).
How would you suggest a potential buyer get to know the neighborhood? What resources or websites do you recommend buyers look up before making a purchase?