Since this is a bi-monthly finance column, you are probably asking, “why is he writing about lawns”? The answer is complicated. The short version is that inadvertently the condition of lawns can have a direct financial impact to homeowners, our neighborhoods, and our economy.
Since my arrival in the Imperial Valley nearly five years ago, more often than not, I hear comments about people’s lawns, on and off the job. I hear, “Mr. X keeps a great lawn,” or “family ABC is redoing their lawn”, and “did you notice that their lawn is drying out; I think they are letting the house go”. In fact, real estate investors have shared that they often drive around neighborhoods looking for the first sign of mortgage trouble – an unkempt lawn.
Often, as soon as homeowners start the short sale or foreclosure process, they stop watering lawns, weeding, and mowing. We have witnessed entire neighborhoods overrun with neglected homes and lawns. Homeowners abandoning their homes or their lawns, even while still living in the properties, may believe they are hurting the mortgage lender, but in fact they are mostly hurting their neighbors. And on a bigger scale, they are hurting entire communities, the housing market, and our economy. How? The neglected home becomes less desirable, which means it will sell for less, affecting home prices in the neighborhood, and the local economy. A below market home price tag may welcome unwanted real estate investors who do not have an interest in the neighborhood. Some may say, “what do I care, I’m leaving,” yet they will care when it happens to them and when they feel the effects of a sluggish housing economy.
The negative effect trickles into the national economy, since all local housing economies combined make up our national housing market state. An interesting article I found online at U.S. News entitled “How to Spot Bad Neighbors When Buying a House”, posted June 17, 2011 by Money Crashers. The author, Heather Levin, stated within her article,
“First, look for signs of disrepair and neglect. Make sure you look at all the homes surrounding your potential buy, as well as homes down the street and behind your property. Look for uncut grass, garbage and other clutter left in the yard, and weedy flowerbeds.…If they look like they're hurting for some love and care, that could be a red flag. The neighborhoods in your price range might be full of modest, older homes, but the yards and the exteriors of the homes should indicate pride of ownership.”
This is the advice given to homebuyers and, as you have read, it matters how your lawn looks and how your neighbor’s lawn looks. It can make your neighborhood more desirable, which affects the value of your home and the money in your pockets – and your neighbor’s too. Take pride in your home, and reap the rewards of paying it forward.
Robert “Bob” Hahn is the President and Chief Executive Officer of Community Valley Bank (CMUV.OB) headquartered in El Centro with a branch in Brawley. Bob can be reached at (760) 352-7777 or by email at email@example.com