THE BROKEN WINDOW THEORY....A Call To Action For The Real Estate Community!....

By
Real Estate Agent with Douglas Elliman Real Estate 30HA0800896
https://activerain.com/droplet/4tCl

THE BROKEN WINDOW THEORYTHE BROKEN WINDOW THEORY....A Call to Action for the real estate community.....

I read in the Wall street Journal yesterday of the passing of a great conservative thinker and theorist, James Q Wilson. He was the source of a new theory about crime in the early 60's, which offered up an unusual experiment of sorts and something about his legacy and this experiment in particular, left me wondering...Can and does this theory apply more broadly in society? Can and should we apply this sort of thinking in our own profession, within our own communities?....You be the judge:

 

HOMELESS-NESSSETTING THE STAGE.

In the late 1960's and early 1970's people would have to literally climb over garbage piles in New York City--in the 70's I can remember stepping over 3-4 sleeping bodies in the entry-way to my building in Murray Hill. Crime was a way of life in Manhattan as you fought for your right to maneuver  through the streets and subways without being physically accosted or worse yet, mugged on your way to work!

 

THE THEORY. (A broken window changes EVERYTHING!!!)

A car was left abandoned for days on a street in New York City in the early 1960s; the team who intentionally abandoned it, later broke one  of the windows in it and left it for many nights. During the time of abandonment and the window being broken, little attention was paid to the car sitting there unattended. Once the window was broken however, there was a wave of attacks and raids on the car until it sat in utter ruin on the street. Wilson's thinking was that the indication of any criminal activity even in the slightest way, paved the way for an onslaught that could, and did, make a city ungovernable.

This theory was behind the monumental crime fighting efforts  in New York City and for the major clean-up of New York by Mayor Rudy Giuliani in the 70's and 80's; an act that made history in the annals of crime prevention and changed the environment of the city to this day. Police Chief Bratton and Mayor Giuliani were the leaders in this effort and they made history as the crime rates dropped. To this day, major metropolitan areas all over the map have used the same theory and in cleaning up the mess that is part of big city life, crime rates are at all time lows in most major cities in the USA.

OUR OWN BEST ADVOCATESHOW DOES THIS APPLY TO US?

Just how does a minor indication of neglect in a neighborhood really affect that particular market? If someone walks away from their home by choice and leaves it sitting there without any sign of life, how long does it take to affect the houses in close proximity?

Without the help of a very interested party or parties, home abandonment can become the abandoned car in a Manhattan street, waiting for the criminal element to do it's job. It has happened here; yes right here in this bucolic and treasured resort area of the "Rich and Famous"!! And it is projected to be an even bigger event if things aren't handled properly and with great dispatch!

In this roving profession called real estate, I see that we need to become a more diverse collection of social advocates---who better to be made aware of the growing problem of home abandonment that those of us who have chosen this career? We have access to more homes than any other profession and we surely see the signs of abandonment before anyone else does..... 

  • A door, off it's hinges and sitting ajar
  • A window cracked and left in disrepair
  • Grass left to grow long and well beyond other lawns in an area
  • No sign of life; "no one lives here any longer"
  • Newspapers piled and strewn across the property
  • General unkempt appearance
  • A sign posted for "AUCTION"

There-in lies the key to property values, to say nothing of the crime rate in a given area! We all know this, but how muchABANDONED HOUSE of an impact does the neglect really have on a whole community or even a whole city???

I suggest that we, as real estate professionals, need to observe the way in which an area or a neighborhood presents itself--That we, in keeping with our basic Human Nature and our commitment to our clients and customers, make an attempt to let the authorities know when a house has been abandoned. Take the time to report it to the police, to zoning boards, town officials and  to those in charge of city or town clean-up. If we know for a fact that the house next door has been left by the owner and that there is a real possibility of abandonment, let the authorities know right away...All it takes is ONE house to be left abandoned to pull down ALL property values of a street or an area....I have been known to pick up old newspapers piling up on an abandoned doorstep--or clear clutter away on a driveway. It does not take much to help relieve the decrepitude from creeping into a neighborhood!

We are NOT out of the woods yet where foreclosures are concerned and we need to be vigilant like never before---When these abandoned houses first appeared in many neighborhoods, people were taken by surprise! Denial set in and many drove by these houses without even looking at them anymore! We can no longer ignore this fact of life! Now we know that this will happen and we need to be our own best advocates for those areas which we claim to be our areas of expertise!

It IS Human Nature to want to keep civility in our communities---this is the best way to make sure we all remain civil!

 

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Re-Blogged 4 times:

Re-Blogged By Re-Blogged At
  1. Michelle Francis 03/05/2012 05:01 AM
  2. Diane J. Ebbers 03/05/2012 10:56 PM
  3. Winston Heverly 05/08/2012 03:27 PM
  4. Joy Daniels 10/01/2012 10:43 AM
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Rainmaker
500,719
Paula Hathaway, REALTOR, LBA
Douglas Elliman Real Estate - Southampton, NY
...A Local Expert in all The Hamptons

John: Good for you! Obviously it makes a difference if there is attention being paid to a property--keeping the place looking like it is lived in is over half the battle! Glad you kept on top of it !

Georgina: I ask the same thing! Are we going to stand by and watch the disintegration of our world? This is how it starts, by the way...bit by bit, the chipping away of all the surrounding appeal and attractive parts of our neighborhoods and with no one to see to it that the desintegration stops, we can do no more than watch it all slip away..this is a tradgedy unless we stop it in the very beginning.

Mar 06, 2012 04:24 AM #62
Rainmaker
397,947
M.C. Dwyer
Century 21 Showcase REALTORs - Felton, CA
MC Dwyer-Santa Cruz Mountains Property Specialist

Paula - thanks for your idea to call the County Clerk - I'm on it!

Mar 06, 2012 05:53 AM #63
Rainmaker
669,022
Bill Reddington
Re/max By The Sea - Destin, FL
Destin Florida Real Estate

In most instances code enforcement  has no teeth. Live in a small town. The big cities in decay won't change unless like Compton different people move in and start to change the community. I believe it is not an agents job to change the world. Takes the whole community.

Mar 06, 2012 08:27 AM #64
Rainmaker
500,719
Paula Hathaway, REALTOR, LBA
Douglas Elliman Real Estate - Southampton, NY
...A Local Expert in all The Hamptons

Bill: All it takes is one to start the ball rolling!---all it takes is one!

Mar 06, 2012 08:38 AM #65
Rainmaker
1,431,631
Gene Riemenschneider
Home Point Real Estate - Brentwood, CA
Turning Houses into Homes

I have clients ask me if a neighborhood is a "Good Neighborhood" and I always tell them that is subjective, but to look at the rest of the homes on the street and see how well kept they are.  That is s good indication.

Mar 06, 2012 01:13 PM #66
Rainmaker
648,404
DeeDee Riley
Lyon Real Estate - El Dorado Hills CA - El Dorado Hills, CA
Realtor - El Dorado Hills & the Surrounding Areas

Great post, Paula, and you are so right about this.  Thanks for putting it out there and reminding us all to do our parts!

Mar 06, 2012 02:04 PM #67
Rainer
491,059
Kimo Jarrett
WikiWiki Realty - Huntington Beach, CA
Pro Lifestyle Solutions

Great analogy, yet many neighborhoods have insurmountable consequences created by investors and their tenants. Getting tenants or home owners to accept your perspective should be a lesson learned, shouldn't it?

Mar 06, 2012 04:03 PM #68
Rainmaker
848,707
Bob Miller
Keller Williams Cornerstone Realty - Ocala, FL
The Ocala Dream Team

Hi Paula, excellent post!  Very unique and thought provoking.  I will definately look at my neighborhood a little different as I do my morning walk in a few minutes.

Mar 06, 2012 07:10 PM #69
Rainmaker
508,563
Sylvie Stuart
Realty One Group Mountain Desert 928-600-2765 - Flagstaff, AZ
Home Buying, Home Selling and Investment - Flagsta

Fantastic article! What an interesting study, and it totally makes sense. We definitely are more of the eyes out there seeing numerous homes a week.

Mar 06, 2012 09:22 PM #70
Rainmaker
500,719
Paula Hathaway, REALTOR, LBA
Douglas Elliman Real Estate - Southampton, NY
...A Local Expert in all The Hamptons

Gene: It sure is---maybe more than we will ever know under the circumstances. How many times does a buyer move into their new house and  realize there is no one living in the house next door? That the papers are piling up not because the homeowner is on vacation---but because they have left--gone forever! This is happening everywhere now and may increase as the foreclosure pressures build even more.

Dee Dee: The way I look at it is: We are out there opening doors all the time for ourselves, openhouses, customers etc....why not make a mental note of a neighboring house--make a point of checking it out each time you are nearby. This is not too much to ask and it may even give us the boost we need in our professional standing in a community if we are viewed as someone who can keep up or improve an area?

Kimo: All I know is that once it starts, blight is almost impossible to get rid of---so if you see the messy yard, the piles of garbage or newspapers, clean it up or ask someone to do it--how much can that cost? It can be written off for goodness sake. It is contagious by the way; once a yard is cleaned up a window repaired and a general neatness is seen by the surrounding houses--it does encourage the others to do the same.

 

Mar 06, 2012 10:00 PM #71
Rainmaker
500,719
Paula Hathaway, REALTOR, LBA
Douglas Elliman Real Estate - Southampton, NY
...A Local Expert in all The Hamptons

Bob: I will too! In fact, we all should do just that--if every one of us in the real estate profession does this, the changes you will see will be truly remarkable.

Sylvie: I can bet that if one of us starts the clean-up in an area of an abandoned home, that gets out there in the ether....we benefit from it in so many ways--ways that are subtle and not necessarily seen for a while. This is the sort of "raising the bar" that can happen in our profession and it will change a community for the better--and that is good!...wouldnt it be nice to hear through the grape-vine: "Did you know what agetn so-and-so did? He/she cleaned up the yard of that old run down house down the street---the one in foreclosure!"

Mar 06, 2012 10:05 PM #72
Rainer
151,987
Ranji Singh
Century 21 Heritage Group Ltd. - Newmarket, ON

Hi Paula,

 

This is my first introduction to the Broken Window Theory. I read your blog and thought Wow! How good is this! Great advice for any neighbourhood.

 

Thanks.

Mar 06, 2012 11:10 PM #73
Rainmaker
500,719
Paula Hathaway, REALTOR, LBA
Douglas Elliman Real Estate - Southampton, NY
...A Local Expert in all The Hamptons

Ranji: you are so right! Let's all take the concept to heart in our profession and watch as things get bertter all the way around--including prices! :)

Mar 06, 2012 11:33 PM #74
Rainmaker
500,719
Paula Hathaway, REALTOR, LBA
Douglas Elliman Real Estate - Southampton, NY
...A Local Expert in all The Hamptons

Pamela: You are right--the short sale process is a much "cleaner" one and can make for a better community in general---just be careful that the lawn does get mowed and that the papers do not pile up though---I have seen that happen on short sales....

Chris: you are correct--it applies to many other aspects of life because it is a real visual concept and most people are visual in their ability to comprehend things: If they see it they "get it!"

Marnie: Good luck with that---what a great idea! Taking it to the homeowners association pulls it into the realm of stark reality to all who live there...that should do it!...and Marnie, please let us know what the outcome and the recation is, if you don't mind! That would make a very interesting post too!

Mar 06, 2012 11:46 PM #75
Rainmaker
269,999
Kristen Wheatley
Better Homes & Gardens | The Masiello Group - Brunswick, ME
Supporting Success - Best Job in the World!

Great point.  The same can be said of rooms.  A messy room announces it's permission for others to throw items on the piles, while a clean room is announcing it's intention to stay clean and people are less likely to  toss items on the floor.

We see this in my neighborhood.  The home across the street from me has been vacant for 2 years, with no indication from the bank that they will sell it anytime soon.  A group of neighbors maintain the yard to keep it from looking abandoned.

Mar 07, 2012 02:16 AM #76
Rainmaker
500,719
Paula Hathaway, REALTOR, LBA
Douglas Elliman Real Estate - Southampton, NY
...A Local Expert in all The Hamptons

Kristen: Now that is neighborly! I think they are to be commended for the clean-up...if more people did that there would be less "blight" to deal with and the problematic homes would not negatively effect the others property values...an ideal situtation!

Mar 07, 2012 06:48 AM #77
Rainmaker
541,852
John Mosier
Realty ONE Group Mountain Desert - Prescott, AZ
Prescott's Patriot Agent 928 533-8142

Great post, Paula.  I, too, noticed the tie to Malcolm Gladwell's book The Tipping Point.

In remote areas, one person dumping trash seems to be an invitation to use that spoiled spot as invitation that it is OK to dump more there.

Mar 23, 2012 08:00 PM #78
Ambassador
1,724,988
Jon Zolsky, Daytona Beach, FL
Daytona Condo Realty, 386-405-4408 - Daytona Beach, FL
Buy Daytona condos for heavenly good prices

Paula - not to be negative, but just a note. Mayor Juliani took office 1/1/1994, so it was much later that he started the clean-up process.

I also do not see how the municipalities and other authorities can intervene when there is an abandoned property. Foreclosure has to take its course, and authorities have no authority, at least I can't see one, to do much if anything at all.

May 08, 2012 03:42 PM #79
Ambassador
1,724,988
Jon Zolsky, Daytona Beach, FL
Daytona Condo Realty, 386-405-4408 - Daytona Beach, FL
Buy Daytona condos for heavenly good prices

Paula - I read about this theory. I think we need to be careful not to expand it. The broken window in a car cause activity towards this car, not the buildings around, not to community where the car is.

The abandoned house is not a great sight, but does it really affect the community? In any community here there are avandoned houses, but unless there are many of them, they do not really define the community.

Using the car example, if there is an abandoned house, you may see homeless getting in, but the same homeless would not go in other homes.

May 08, 2012 03:47 PM #80
Rainmaker
760,867
Pete Xavier
Investments to Luxury - Pacific Palisades, CA
Outstanding Agent Referrals-Nationwide

Great blast from the past.

I'll help clean up some of this spam.

Nov 15, 2012 01:01 PM #81
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Rainmaker
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Paula Hathaway, REALTOR, LBA

...A Local Expert in all The Hamptons
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