So you’ve moved to a new neighborhood: such an exciting experience! There’s nothing like that sense of pride that comes with being a new homeowner and having a place to put down roots. But whether you’ve been there a few months or even a few years, it can take a while to feel like you belong in your new home. What’s the best way to feel at home sooner? Believe it or not, it has less to do with fixing up what’s inside your four walls and more about what surrounds them: your community.
Your community is an extension of your home, and a strong community provides the foundation for you to enjoy your home more and be happy and comfortable there. When you invest in your community, it returns the favor by helping you:
Shape where you live.
Knowing what’s going on in your neighborhood gives you an opportunity to speak up on things that matter to you, like voting on a local ordinance, participating in school board elections, or petitioning for the new dog park you’d love to have. By getting involved, you can help make your community a better place to live.
Protect your property value.
When you join up with others in your community to work for safer and cleaner streets, you make the neighborhood more attractive to people looking for a new home, driving up the area's desirability and boosting property values. A desirable community means you’ll also end up attracting the craft breweries, art galleries, and other cultural hot spots and events that make your neighborhood fun to live in — and worth investing in.
Create stronger social ties.
People are the heart of any community, and when you get to know the neighbors, shopkeepers, and service people around you, you’ll feel like you belong. This can not only lead to lasting friendships, but it also gives you access to support and resources, such as someone to grab your mail while you’re on vacation — or give you a hand up in your business! Knowing you have each other’s backs develops a sense of camaraderie that’ll make you think, “I love living here!”
Want to become a more active member of your community? Here are some ways to branch out.
Meet your neighbors.
Your neighbors are the perfect entry point for getting to know the larger community. If you don’t know them well — or haven’t met them yet — make the first move and say hello. Invite them over for coffee to learn more about them and ask about the various ways they get involved. If you’re having trouble breaking the ice, try a neighborhood app like Nextdoor. You can strike up a conversation online, which can open the door for in-person interaction.
Attend a neighborhood meeting.
A neighborhood association gives you a platform to discuss concerns and improvement opportunities (think park cleanups, street lighting, new bike paths), while also introducing you to key people within the community. Many associations have committees that you can join based on your interests, such as event committees (think 4th of July block parties or spring garden tours), or the neighborhood watch program. If you belong to a homeowners association (HOA), it’s especially important to attend the meetings (or better yet, join the board!) to ensure the fees you pay for the upkeep of your property and shared facilities are used properly.
Your local coffee shop, small grocer, and friendly hardware store are what make your neighborhood unique. Small businesses are at the core of a thriving community, and shopping local ensures the money you spend goes back into keeping your community vibrant. A great way to support this is with your weekly grocery trip. Purchasing local meats and produce has a variety of health, environmental, and economic benefits, so be sure to support your local farmers market if you have one. You could also consider joining a food co-op, which is a member-owned grocery store that gives you access to fresh, local meats and produce.
Take to the Streets.
Anytime there’s an outdoor sporting event or festival, show up! Whether it’s attending a holiday parade, signing up to run in a 5k, or strolling the booths at a street fair, the more you show your face, the more you’ll begin to make social connections through your shared interests.
Volunteer your time.
Giving back through volunteer efforts is personally rewarding and provides a greater sense of ownership in your community. Plan a cleanup event. Sign up for the Parent-Teacher Association (PTA). Organize a food drive for the holidays. Not only will you get to know lots of new people, but you’ll also demonstrate to others that you’re invested in your community.
Join or start a club.
If you’re going to get involved, you might as well have fun while you’re at it. Sports leagues, hobby groups, parent groups, and similar clubs are a great way to meet like-minded people that live near you. Check out sites like meetup.com or citysocializer.com to see what’s out there or to start a group of your own. And don’t be afraid to ask people around your ’hood — your favorite barista, your neighbors, the auto shop owner — for recommendations. Who knows, they might invite you to join a club they’re already involved in!
Investing in your community is really an investment in yourself. When you make the effort, you’ll develop a greater sense of pride and enjoy the broader benefits of being a homeowner.