By LESLIE LINSLEY Citizen Columnist
Forget about Facebook, Twitter and for that matter, all electronic social networking and give me a good old-fashioned neighborhood any day. A neighborhood is a geographically, localized community within a larger city, town or suburb with considerable face-to-face interaction among members. We may not have been formally introduced, but we recognize each other from daily routines that take us on the same route. When I meet a new person I often ask, "What's your route?' which tells me a lot about them. Neighborhoods are often places for social networking where face-to-face interactions occur and residents seek to realize common interests and values.
As many of you know and are probably tired of hearing, I've lived in many houses in Key West. I'm telling you this in order to establish street creds when I tell you that this year I'm in a great neighborhood, my favorite for the second time in five years. I love the proximity to town and all important necessities like 5 Brothers, Fausto's Food Palace ( either one of them), The Coffee Mill and the handful of people I know in the neighborhood. Every Monday I see my friend Kenny Weschler who keeps the property next door to me looking beautiful. His house is featured on page 163 of my "Key West" book if you're interested. I pass Carolyn and Al when I ride to exercise class and give a shout out to artist, Lynn Sherman when I pass her house on Asche St. I bump into Bobby Nesbitt walking his dog, Charlie. I cross paths with Mike Mulligan as we bike to class, and have an occasional over the fence exchange with Jeff Leap who's working on Michael Pelkey's house on Grinnell. I have expanded my little piece of Key West. I am a nester and don't venture too far from where I set down my roots for the season. Exchanging pleasantries in the course of getting my morning coffee is enough to satisfy any urge for socializing. Artist, Dawn Wlikins (check out her work at Art @830 on Caroline) lives around the corner and her guy, Rob knows that an open door is an invitation for a front porch chat. If I were looking to buy a house here, this is the neighborhood I'd choose.
When selling or buying a home, neighborhood is as much a factor as the house itself. I know the old saying about "location" but I'm not talking "real estate speak." A neighborhood feels right for different reasons to each of us and it has nothing to do with resale value.
The other day Michael M. and I lingered after class and got to talking about real estate. Michael and Bobby have their house for sale on the most charming and quintessentially Key West lane, Lowe Lane, in my current neighborhood. "The hardest part of selling a house," Mike explained, "is having to keep it neat at all times and be ready to go for a walk at a moment's notice from an agent who wants to show it," Many of you might be in the same situation, "I'm doing all the things everyone has told me," Michael joked. "I've got the requisite orchid on the kitchen table. Personal stuff is stowed away and we never commit the cardinal sin of leaving dirty dishes in the sink." Keeping a house in tip-top shape takes a lot of dedication. Mike and Bobby's house is tasteful inside and out. Best of all it represents to me what is most important, it's part of a neighborhood. Key West is a special place, finding a perfect home in a perfect neighborhood is heaven.
I have helped a lot of people stage their homes to sell, and while this seems kind of fake, as in, styling a room to photograph for a magazine and pretending that this is how the owners live, staging is different. The homeowners are simply showing off their product in the best possible light. I advise homeowners to streamline by putting personal things away so a potential buyer can imagine their things in the rooms. Replace things that are worn or shabby. Ross For Less and Pier I Imports are great places for "props."
Last summer we put a house on the market that we had purchased five years ago in Nantucket as an investment property. I had originally decorated it for short-term rentals and it was completely outfitted for a carefree vacation. I have, after all, learned something about that subject as a perpetual tenant. It was priced right, in perfect condition, good location and being sold completely furnished down to the classy, island- themed towels. It was shown a lot. We did not get any offers. When our last tenant moved out in September we assessed the place. The previous owner was an eighty-year old artist. Her paintings filled the walls, which we thought added to its charm. With fresh eyes we realized the art was fussy and dated the place. We replaced all the paintings with Jon's oversized photographs of island landmarks. The place looked instantly youthful. We got an offer the next day. It was undoubtedly a coincidence but we'll never know. One thing we do know however, the new owners are getting a great neighborhood.