Tuesday, September 4, 2012

The best use of Centerpointe volunteer time

In this recent post, I asserted my viewpoint that, if anyone in Centerpointe feels the urge to devote time to enhancing the neighborhood, that time should not be squandered developing new ways to put the run on pickers. 

Of course, my opinion begs the following question:  What would be a more productive use of a volunteer's time, if they had some extra time to give to devote to subdivision issues?

Those of you who read this blog already know my answerDevelop a neighborhood outreach initiative that encourages residents to establish some friggin' landscaping in their back yards!!

Recall this frightful scene:
View looking between two rows of houses that are several years old now.  In other words, none of these residents planted anything significant in those intervening years.

I can guarantee you that views like this will not help neighborhood property values.
You never hear a prospective buyer say, "Oooooh look, honey!  Absolutely no privacy!  How wonderful!"
And recall my subsequent comparison of the overall "feel" of this to rows of prison cells overlooking a common corridor.  The suburban analog to Alcatraz, in other words. 

Most residents of Centerpointe are not the slightest bit dumb.  They know that a barren-earth back yard will not help their resale values.  However, many of those residents:
  1. Are not from this part of the country.  They moved here because of career transfers.  They simply don't know what plants would grow well here as a result of having no experience in this climate.
  2. Have limited time because they're working hard to pay for their lifestyles.  They can only devote a small amount of time to their yards.
  3. Have limited interest in landscaping.  Everyone without exception is interested in higher property values, but landscaping in itself is very boring for many folks.
Earlier this year, I started trying to help supply some tools that might lead to at least partial resolution of this issue by creating a database of blog posts in which I showcase a bunch of plants that: 
  1. Are immediately available at retailers within two miles of Centerpointe.
  2. Grow well in our climate, including having resistance to both drought and freeze episodes.
  3. Are extremely cost-effective - almost shockingly low-priced. 
  4. Require virtually no maintenance. 
  5. Work well in the tiny back yards that most of us have.  They are scale-appropriate and don't overwhelm our restricted spaces. 
It's about time that I resumed the building of that blog database, for the following reasons:
  1. Fall is a great time to plant many things.  The cooler weather allows landscaping to get its roots established for a few months before having to face the onslaught of summer heat.
  2. YIPPEE!!!  The Houston Garden Center annual 70% off sale is now back on!!
If you just want a plant-it-and-leave-it backyard landscape, there is not much that you would need that is not on this list.
Screengrabbed from http://houstongardencenters.com/ad.php

The answer is no, they don't give me any kickbacks for blogging them.  I refer to them because they have great sales and because they are located about one mile from the Centerpointe front entrance.  It doesn't get any easier than this. 
Just to drive home my point about neighborhood improvement priorities, let's do the following thought experiment

Let's compare potential bang for the volunteer buck.

Let's say that someone puts forth a concerted effort and we eliminate pickers and then I'm proven wrong about theft causality, and petty thefts magically cease. 

Well, let's look at what the likely result of that scenario would be.  In the last six months, Centerpointe residents have collectively lost the following due to petty theft or attempted burglary (as tabulated on the Crime Reports website, exclusive of an alleged wire fraud that was not physically connected to the neighborhood):
  1. One Apple Macbook from an unlocked vehicle.
  2. Items of unstated monetary value from an unlocked vehicle.
  3. One residential pre-hung back door (busted but not entered).
So what are we talking about here??  Perhaps three thousand dollars total collective losses?

OK - in our thought experiment, let's compare that to the estimated property value forfeiture that is occurring because a high percentage of residents have landscaping that is arguably substandard for our price-point.

Let's say that perhaps, on average, we each forfeit 1% of our property value because we either have no landscaping, and/or we're flanked by stark and less-appealing McMansions that have no landscaping and no privacy as a result.

HAR says that Centerpointe's median appraised value is $221,600 and that there are 405 homes here.

Do the math.  Assuming that very reasonable 1% loss, it works out to be a little less than one million dollars that Centerpointers are leaving on their collective property value table. 

Personally I suspect that lack of landscaping causes a much bigger hit to a property value than 1%, but you get the picture.  This is a crude conservative estimate I'm doing simply for illustrative purposes here.  Some accounts say that property values could be increased 10% to 20% by good lanscaping.  Do THAT math and then resume reading this after you've picked yourself up off the floor.

SO, the question then becomes:  If you have time to spare, do you want to devote that time to resolving the conditions that collectively might continue to cost us a few thousand bucks a year, or do you want to resolve the conditions that are effectively costing us a million bucks or more?

To me, this is a total no-brainer.  Stay tuned for additional Centerpointe-centric blog posts about how to improve your landscaping for almost no money. 

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