It helps to think back to your own experiences when trying to help others find that right spot to live.
We have been through a number of significant moves in our lives. The ones that I remember the most were when we went from Halifax, NS to Columbia, Maryland and from Columbia to Roanoke, Va.
Our moves were focused around our three children. We left Canada so our children could spend more time with their grandparents, and so they would have a better chance at finding good jobs. We could have gone to Toronto or Alberta for the jobs, but the grandparents were firmly entrenched in North Carolina.
While Columbia was a beautiful place and had many advantages, it did not fit our family. Columbia was planned to create real neighborhoods, but many of the kids in our neighborhood went to private schools. The local news was Washington, DC. On top of that the grandparents were still six hours away.
It was late summer 1987 when the family finally caught up with me in Columbia. We had gone there because I was working for Apple and had found a job in the US with Apple in Columbia. Within just a few months we realized that Columbia was probably a mistake for us.
By the summer of 1988 I was moving into another job at Apple which had me traveling to Va. Tech in Southwest Virginia for extended periods of time. I had the luxury of investigating the area thoroughly. It was also less than two hours away from our home turf of Mount Airy, NC.
It did not take me long to figure out that Roanoke might be a really good fit for our family. It was cheaper for Apple to move me than to pay travel expenses. I took the proposed move to the family, and we all sat down and made lists of the positives and negatives of the move. If we went ahead with the move, it would be the third one in five years. Finally we all agreed that moving was a sound idea.
I made one promise to our children. I would do everything in my power to keep us from having to move again until they were all out of high school.
While the deliberations had been going on, my trips to the Roanoke area had continued. Finally in May of 1989, we listed our home on Sweet Hours Way in Columbia and celebrated with a family trip to the Roanoke area. It was Festival in the Park weekend. We managed to hit some area high spot like the Mountain Lake Hotel, the Roanoke Farmer's Market, and the Mill Mountain Star.
Once we got to Roanoke, our children gave me a hard time because I kept talking about the importance of being in a real neighborhood.
They might not have appreciated the value of a neighborhood then, but they all do now. Being out on their own makes it a little easier to see things.
Yesterday as I was driving a client around and showing him different areas, he immediately picked up on one of my favorite ways of telling a real neighborhood. I look for people outside their home talking to each or at least walking or biking the streets near where they live.
Most people want to be able to live in a place where they can connect with other people. There are people who want to live where no one will bother them, but I think they are in the minority. They tend to live in spots where there is little to draw people together.
I can still remember our Roanoke neighborhood when we moved to the area. We had subdivision holiday parties complete with caroling. There were plenty of cul de sac parties, and everyone watched out for the children of the neighbor. The children knew it too. I can still remember being called by the daughter of someone we knew. She couldn't find her parents and her car had died on her on a lonely road. I immediately got in the car and rescued her.
My wife used to talk about the mommy network which she claimed to be one of the world pre-emminent intelligence gathering networks. It must have worked fairly well, because all our children survived to their 21st birthdays.
Our home in Roanoke on the side of Twelve O'Clock Knob mountain will always have a lot of memories for us. It is a great house. From the master bedroom we could see the sun rise over the mountains behind downtown Roanoke. Over our 21 years there, I took thousands of sunrise pictures.
I also wrote a few thousand blog posts. I managed to keep my promise to the kids, but it meant that I have a lot of miles on me. My job for many years required me to leave on Monday morning and drive to Northern Virginia.
So as I drive clients around here along NC's Crystal Coast, I am always looking for that clue that makes a particular neighborhood special. Over time I have formed my own opinions, but I like for my clients to come to their own conclusions. I might present the evidence, but I try to let them make up their own minds.
Twenty one years after moving to Roanoke, we have decided to cut our ties and move on to the next adventure. Just a couple of weeks ago we listed our home which rightfully can claim the title of being the home base of my longest running blog, View from the Mountain.
We picked the base for our next adventure in 2006 and have been splitting time between the two places since then. We went through the selection process with the same care that we did when we moved to Roanoke.
As you can see from the attached photo of our two year old granddaughter walking into the sunset on the beach at Emerald Isle, that seems to be working. I am looking forward to many more Crystal Coast kind of days which will let our family continue to grow closer together.
My goal with every buyer client is to help them find their own special spot where their roots will grow as deep and strong as ours did in Roanoke. Since we have just finish three months of work to get our house on the market, I suspect that I might be able to relate a little better to sellers after that intense experience.