The homes in our neighborhood, one with sidewalks in disrepair and trees that are 30 or 40 years old (many of them dying), are all worth below $600,000. But the neighborhood is worth much more. Sometimes I wake up early on a winter day and noticed that someone shoveled my walkway. Other days I’ve actually seen a table being moved from one house to another so that someone will have enough seating in their house for Thanksgiving dinner. That lady living by herself, she’s had Christmas breakfast with us. I’ve seen cars being swapped so that something oversized could be brought home rather than pay for delivery. I’ve seen nurses walk over to listen to a congested chest or look at an unsightly bump on the head. A dentist will take a child into their home to look at a mouth injury that just happened after a biking accident. And if you’re stuck in traffic there is usually someone around who will take that child off the bus and give them a snack.
There is no real estate calculation that measures any of this. When you buy a home the real value is in the neighborhood. I live in a million-dollar neighborhood.
Recently a home burned down in this million-dollar neighborhood. Within 24 hours my hallway was filled with gift cards, clothing and shoes. People didn’t just give their junk away. They took the clothing out of their closets that they still wear and donated it. They took the shoes off their feet and gave them away. A rain jacket, still warm with wear no doubt, was handed over. They raided their children’s closets to give clothing and toys to two little ones who no longer had anything to play with.
This is not something that a first time homeowner realizes. It’s that “thing” that’s missing when people decide to start looking for their next house even though they have enough bathrooms and bedrooms to live comfortably. This takes many years to learn. It takes many ups and downs and sometimes tragedies to realize that your $300,000 home is really worth over a million dollars no matter what the town assessor thinks.