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How homeownership fosters community

By Shelley Sines

June 2022

Fun fact, friends: June is National Homeownership Month! In honor of this annual celebration of the benefits that homeownership brings to families, neighborhoods and communities across America, I’ve paused to reflect on my own homeownership journey – and how it’s led to a stronger sense of community and kinship in my family’s life. 

Lessons in being a good neighbor (hint: gifts are a plus!)

When my husband and I moved into our first home, we were clueless about what we were walking into – just a couple of newbie, first-time homebuyers who’d moved into an established and tight-knit neighborhood. We knew the house and yard were nice, loved that the house was located on a court with no through traffic, and thought the location was fantastic for our needs. We had no idea we’d just moved into a court where all the neighbors are friends, and everyone knows about everyone else’s comings and goings.

Our first lesson in being “good neighbors” in the new house came quickly. We had a newborn baby at the time, and our next-door neighbor (who we’d barely met) knit her a cozy hooded towel with embroidered, bright pink owls and daisies. “What did we do to deserve this?” I wondered, mystified at the kind gesture. She didn’t even know us! And the next day, the neighbors on the other side of our house brought us a cheesecake from the local deli and an adorable, hand-crafted onesie. We were thunderstruck, to say the least. Apparently, this is what good neighbors do? We had a lot to learn. 

Now, all of these things can happen to renters who are close with their own neighbors, especially long-term renters in certain markets who live side-by-side with the same people for years. But for my husband and me, this was a brand-new experience after living in student housing during college followed by urban apartments for most of our 20s. 

It takes a village: Building a strong neighborhood and community 

When you’ve invested in a home, you may find yourself suddenly focused on building strong ties within your neighborhood and local community – and your neighbors will probably be doing the same thing. The average homebuyer stays in their home for 13 years, so it makes sense you’d want to connect and strengthen bonds with neighbors you’ll be living near long-term. After all, you’ll often end up turning to them for help when you’re in a pinch, to keep an eye out for your home and family when you’re not home, or to feed your pet when you’re on vacation. 

Growing up, I always assumed I’d like to one day live on a secluded property with lots of privacy, where no one could see in (and I wouldn’t have to deal with looking at my neighbors, either). But after living in a bustling subdivision where backyards bump up against one another and all the families hang out, I’ve decided there are more pros than cons to doing it this way: 

  • I can quickly scan the yards and houses nearby to see where my kids have wandered off to 
  • If the power goes out, we have multiple neighbors stopping by just to see if we need to use their generator 
  • We always have friends around who can take our trash cans to the curb on garbage day if we’re out of town (or take in our mail, or water our plants… you get the idea!) 
  • We live in a neighborhood of families with parents and kids our ages, which means our kids always have friends to play with – and the parents can hang out while watching the kids 
  • We stay busy! We enjoy bonfires in the summer, impromptu hang out sessions all year long, festive holiday celebrations, a monthly book club (ladies only!), and neighborhood-wide rummage sales and block parties 
  • Our Homeowners Association (HOA) is affordable, flexible when it comes to enforcing the "rules," and funds maintenance of our neighborhood playground 

The real value of homeownership 

Owning a home has made my life richer, and not just because of the equity I’m building in my house or from the other wealth-building opportunities that come with homeownership. It’s become fuller and more vibrant because of the strong social ties I’ve forged, and because of the sense of community and belonging my neighbors and I have collectively weaved through our lives.  

Now that I’ve come to appreciate all that goes into being a good neighbor and how that leads to a strong community, I try a little harder. I want to pass my knowledge on to others and to give back – to show any new neighbors what homeownership in our community is all about. I bring new neighbors flower bouquets or homemade casseroles when they move in. I watch the neighborhood kids when their parents need an extra hand, and they do the same for me. For my book club ladies, I make sure I always have an extra bottle of wine lying around (you know, in case of emergencies). And all our families laugh, cry, and play together. 

I don’t just have neighbors or a home of my own – I have good friends I can count on, and a strong community I’m proud to be a part of.

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Shelley Sines has been writing for MGIC since she graduated from college in 2007. Currently raising a sweet little family with her husband in the suburbs of Milwaukee. Happiest when cooking or gardening. Competitive Scrabble player. Enthusiastic about road trips, wine, good TV.
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