Do Neighborhood Watch Groups Cut Crime and Insurance Costs?


Do Neighborhood Watch Groups Cut Crime and Insurance Costs? By: John Morell Published: November 12, 2010 Your neighborhood watch program isn’t guaranteed to cut crime in your community, but if it does, that can lower insurance costs and raise property values. Some studies report a reduction in crime after a watch starts, while others found… Continue reading Do Neighborhood Watch Groups Cut Crime and Insurance Costs?

Noisy Neighbors: How to Turn Down the Volume


Noisy Neighbors: How to Turn Down the Volume By: Sue Mellen Published: October 13, 2010 Turn down the volume on noisy neighbors by politely ratcheting up the pressure on them to quiet down. Show your noisy neighbors how loud they are. Step one in your noisy neighbor silencing plan is to invite them over to… Continue reading Noisy Neighbors: How to Turn Down the Volume

Got Problem Neighbors? Mediation Might Work


Got Problem Neighbors? Mediation Might Work

By: Sue Mellen

Published: October 13, 2010

If talking with problem neighbors doesn’t resolve your issues, mediation might. If mediation works, you’ll work out a compromise with your problem neighbor and save money by not taking your fight to court.

Volunteers at mediation organizations like the Conflict Resolution Center in Minneapolis listen to both sides of an issue and point out areas of common ground to guide the parties involved in crafting their own win/win solution.

You also can hire a private mediator if you’re willing to part with somewhere between a few hundred and a few thousand dollars, depending on how long you and your problem neighbor take to reach a compromise. The Association for Conflict Resolution can help you find a private mediator in your area.

Cops bring mediation skills to neighborhood disputes

Another source of mediation help: local law enforcement. Increasingly, officers employ mediation techniques, says Frank Hagan, professor of Sociology and Criminal Justice at Mercyhurst College, in Erie, Pa.

“Law enforcement has learned that it’s important to resolve the ‘small’ issues from the start. That’s how you keep a neighborhood from going downhill,” he says.

When mediation fails, hire a lawyer

If you can’t resolve your problem neighbor issue with mediation, you can ratchet the situation up and involve the legal system.

Find an attorney to write a letter to your problem neighbor. The bill for that will likely run $100 to $500, a small sum compared with the time and money you’ll spend taking your problem neighbor to court.
Ask friends which lawyers they like, or find a lawyer through the American Bar Association’s Lawyer Referral Directory.
If money is an issue, ask for help from Legal Services Corporation — they offer free legal help to the poor.
Take your problem neighbor to small claims court

If you file suit against your problem neighbor in small claims court, you can be your own lawyer.

They call it “small claims” because you can only ask for a small amount (if you’re even asking for money at all), typically from $3,000 to $10,000, depending on which state you live in.
Cost to file is usually less than $100.
Hiring an attorney to take your problem neighbor to small claims court will add $1,000 to $3,000 to your tab.
There’s no guarantee you’ll win your court case, and you’ll still have to live near your problem neighbor. So, always opt for a neighborly chat or mediation first.

Boost Your Neighborhood’s Walkability


Boost Your Neighborhood’s Walkability

By: Sacha Cohen

Published: November 18, 2010

You can’t move your neighborhood closer to shops, restaurants, and offices, but if you can improve its walkability, you might make it more valuable.

How much is that walkability worth?

Having shops and gathering spots like schools and restaurants located within a quarter-mile to one-mile from the homes in your neighborhood can add from $4,000 to $34,000 to home values, according to “Walking the Walk,” a study from CEOs for Cities, a nonprofit that works to improve cities. The increases were largest in large cities like San Francisco and Chicago and smaller in smaller cities like Tucson, Ariz., and Fresno, Calif.

What are walkable communities?

Dan Burden, founder of Walkable Communities, defines them with his a 12-step checklist, which includes:

Great public places to get together and socialize
Speed-controlled key streets
Pedestrian-centric design
A town center with a wide variety of shops and businesses
Maybe you’ve been to one of the communities he says has high walkability, like:

Bethesda, Md.
Jackson, Wyo.
Madison, Wis.
Savannah, Ga.
How do I make my neighborhood more walkable?

To have great walkability, you have to have something worth walking to, such as restaurants or parks, and a critical mass of people living around those amenities. To make a difference, get your neighbors together and go talk to local officials. Your group can push the planning and zoning board for changes that make your town more walkable, like putting multifamily housing to the town core or allowing home owners in nearby neighborhoods to build a rental apartment in their home.

All those new residents will want to mingle somewhere. So plan to lobby for more welcoming public spaces where you can mix and socialize (think library, park, coffee shop) to increase your neighborhood’s walkability.

How does walkability affect drivers?

To heighten walkability, make the streets kinder to walkers and, possibly, crueler to drivers. Put these items on your city planning list:

More and wider sidewalks
Lower speed limits
Pedestrian-friendly laws, like New Hampshire’s rule that drivers have to hit the brakes for pedestrians in crosswalks even if the light is green
Try applying peer-pressure power to get drivers to ease up on the gas pedal. Pedestrian safety advocates persuaded 6,000 Atlanta home owners to put up yard signs asking drivers to slow down.

If you’re serious about increasing walkability, gather neighbors and town officials for a walking audit, where the group walks along a particular route and stops periodically to discuss how to improve the walking experience with landscaping, safety improvements, or accessibility improvements.

If mixing it up with politicians and planning committees isn’t your bag, try these much easier tips for improving walkability from John Wetmore, producer of Perils For Pedestrians Television:

Trim shrubbery that’s blocking the sidewalk in front of your house.
Pick up trash and litter as you walk along.
Support initiatives in your town to build new sidewalks and repair existing sidewalks.
Be polite to other drivers and pedestrians when you drive.
And maybe the best walkability tip of all? Just get out and walk.

Fence Etiquette: Tips to Avoid Neighbor Disputes


Fence Etiquette: Tips to Avoid Neighbor Disputes By: Ann Cochran Published: March 23, 2011 If you practice fence etiquette and bone up on local zoning regs, you can avoid neighbor disputes. Must-dos Observe boundaries: Don’t risk having to tear down that fence by going even one inch over your property line. Study your house line… Continue reading Fence Etiquette: Tips to Avoid Neighbor Disputes

New-Home Sales Dip in February


New-Home Sales Dip in February DAILY REAL ESTATE NEWS | MONDAY, MARCH 26, 2012 New-home sales fell in February, declining 1.6 percent compared to the previous month, the Census Bureau reported Friday. Still, new-home sales were 11.4 percent above February 2011 numbers, reaching an annualized pace of 313,000 in February 2012 compared to 2011’s 281,000.… Continue reading New-Home Sales Dip in February