COMMENTARY

Are you influential?

June 28, 2013 

The answer is “yes,” whether you realize it or not. Your influence could be negative: “One bad apple spoils the whole barrel.” Or positive, as in”A rising tide lifts all boats.”

In the context of the appearance of your property, your actions affect the whole neighborhood—one way or the other. We’ll set aside the issues relating to loud parties, wandering dogs, unruly children, etc. and focus strictly on the appearance of that space you call home. Your own feelings about your home begin when you drive into the drive; is it neat and welcoming or a nagging reminder that you should be mowing, putting away the Big Wheels, or trimming the shrubs? It’s a lot of work to properly maintain your property, but doing a little each day allows you to keep on top of it. You may want to sell someday, and the inattention could cost you thousands of dollars.

Your property’s appearance affects others, too. It has a demonstrable effect on the value of other properties in the neighborhood; in fact, a recent study by realtors in Engand showed that the appearance of a neighborhood could affect housing values as much as 12 percent. “Relatively minor issues such as maintaining gardens and keeping external paintwork in good condition could increase property values in the area generally, putting money in homeowners’ pockets when they sell,” according to the researchers.

What if you have a problem home in your neighborhood? A Florida man demonstrated exactly what not to do, and that is to go over to your neighbor’s house uninvited, start mowing his lawn, and when asked to leave, refuse. That situation eventually involved the police and tasers!

The place to start is to politely ask the neighbor to do something specific, such as mow once a week. You may learn there’s a hardship involved; perhaps you can organize some help or give your teenager a summer job. If you have a homeowners’ association, that’s the next step, and if not you should call the city’s codes enforcement department at 969-1200.

And as a last resort, follow Robert Frost’s advice that “good fences make good neighbors.”

I hope you’re a positive influencer, such as a lady I met while judging the Lee’s Summit Landscape Contest last week. In a relatively new neighborhood, she not only keeps her own lawn beautiful but also gives cuttings, extra plants and advice to her neighbors. She took responsibility for landscaping a berm that isn’t even on her property; the result is a beautiful oasis that benefits several homes. Her enthusiasm is contagious, and a buyer should be thrilled to become part of her block.

Our influence, good or bad, is inescapable. As Francois de la Rouchefoucault said, “Nothing is so contagious as example; we can never do any great good or evil which does not produce its like.”

Of course, he also famously said, “Old people like to give good advice, since they can no longer set bad examples.”

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Carol Rothwell is a member of the Lee’s Summit Beautification Commission and a Lee’s Summit resident

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