Why Should Air Quality Be A Factor When Choosing A New Neighborhood?

Why Should Air Quality Be A Factor When Choosing A New Neighborhood?

When picking a new place to live, there are a number of factors to consider before deciding that a place is the right one for you. Of course, you may have already thought about how efficient the public transportation is in this new neighborhood, how close your favorite amenities are, and if there are parks, schools, and public libraries close by. You may have made a list of all the most important factors, but you may be forgetting one crucial one: air quality.

You may be asking: why should air quality be a factor when choosing a new neighborhood?

Of course, it may be obvious: you want you and your family to breathe clean, fresh air. You may even be considering moving to the suburbs to ensure that you’re breathing in the least amount of pollution possible. But whether you’re moving to a new neighborhood in the city, in the suburbs, or in the countryside, air quality matters.

Suffering from allergies or asthma?

Millions of people suffer from respiratory ailments or illnesses such as asthma, and even more people suffer from seasonal allergies. Regardless of the severity of your breathing issues, research or measure the quality of the air in several areas in your new potential neighborhood: you may uncover surprisingly high pollen levels, for example, or a high number of car and trucks that pass by that may affect your breathing.  

Inside your new home

You may also want to check the air quality inside your new home before you move in. Based on your findings, you may want to invest in tools like a humidifier or an air purifier to make it a healthier place.

If there’s a freeway or a highway nearby…

This may severely affect your breathing and the quality of the air you breathe. Continuous exposure to exhaust can cause shortness of breath, bronchitis symptoms, and other negative health outcomes, especially in the very young and the elderly.

But air quality affects more than just the air.

Of course, the air affects your breathing and, overall, your health. But it can contribute to the good or bad health of everything else around you: if you eat locally, the pollutants in the air can contaminate the soil in which your food grows. Additionally, you may be drinking water contaminated by air pollutants, or you may be touching similarly affected soil and dust.

While one person may not be able to control the air quality in their area, a collective effort can make a sizeable difference in the long run. There are many ways you and your neighbors can help improve air quality, too: use public transportation or carpool, conserve energy by turning off lights, computers, and electric appliances when not in use, and use energy efficient light bulbs and appliances. These are just a few ways you can take immediate action — and there are so many more!

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Want To Organize A Successful Neighborhood Cleanup? Here Are The Steps To Take

Want To Organize A Successful Neighborhood Cleanup? Here Are The Steps To Take

If you love your neighborhood and the people who live there, you want it to be the best possible place to live. That means keeping it safe, fun, and clean! But you can’t stop trash from piling up in some places, or from being strewn on the sidewalk by neglectful passersby. We can all do our part to clean up every once in a while, but a community-wide effort can help improve the overall appearance of your neighborhood. If you think it’s time to organize a cleanup with your neighbors, here are a few steps to take that may help you do that.

1- Pick a project.

A “cleanup” is a catch-all to refer to a number of different projects you can take on. Litter pick-up is just one option, but your choice may depend on the state of your neighborhood or what you think needs work. Does your community need a green space? Plant a garden. Does a local playground need to be spruced up? Organize a painting project. Is there a body of water, like a small lake or pond, that needs some refreshing? Set up a time for trash removal from these places. It’s up to you and your neighbors!

2- Create a plan and set up the basics.  

Beyond the time, date, place, and type of project you’re taking on, there are a few details you may want to iron out before getting people to commit to your volunteering opportunity.

  • If the location isn’t well-known, find an easier-to-find meeting spot.
  • Set a target number of volunteers.
  • Outline the day, the kind of work that needs to be done, and the number of people needed in each task group (if applicable).
  • Make a list of supplies you need, including a first aid kit.
  • Make a list or organizations or government bodies you need to contact in order to get permission, permits, or licenses for your project, if necessary.
  • Prepare waivers and have a plan in the event of an emergency.
  • Outline any events that may occur after the clean-up.

3- Pick a captain.

If you don’t plan on being the ringleader of such an undertaking, find someone who is willing to be the leader of the project. This person should be lively and able to inspire others to make a difference in their community, no matter how small.

4- Advertise and recruit volunteers.

Once you’ve planned out the timeline of the event, it’s time to take action! Advertise all over your neighborhood with flyers, on online community forums, and on social media. You can even go door-to-door, recruiting people in person! Ask to advertise on school message boards, at the local public library, in local businesses, and the community center. This way, you may encourage kids and adults alike to do their part to help keep their home beautiful!

5- Get supplies.

If possible, ask for donated supplies and funds. If the tools you need can be found in almost any homeowner’s garage, you can also ask volunteers to bring what they already own. You will probably have to spend some money in order to get the project started, but you can limit how much you spend out-of-pocket by estimating costs and asking local businesses to donate the funds or the items themselves in exchange for promotion at the event.

6- Assign responsibility for clean-up.

Once the project is underway, you will surely quickly accumulate trash and debris. Plan for its disposal! Know where you should be discarding your debris according to the material. If possible, get a service to appropriately dispose of the trash. You may also want to contact the local government to see if they can schedule a truck to pick up the debris after the event is over. You can also consider renting a dumpster.

7- Plan a party.

Don’t forget to reward all the people who will come out and make this project such a success! Have some shirts commemorating the project made, or have a pizza party with a raffle giveaway afterward. Volunteers will appreciate you acknowledging their efforts the same way you will appreciate their help beautifying the neighborhood for everyone! Most importantly, it may encourage them to come back as a volunteer the next time you choose to organize another project.

While beautifying and cleaning up your neighborhood is a great initiative to take, the benefits of a clean-up extend far beyond the appearance of your community: it’ll allow you to bond with your neighbors, make new friends, and get to know your home!

Want to know more about your neighborhood? Plug an address into NeighborWho’s property finder and see what you can find!

Want To Improve Your Neighborhood? Here Are 10 Ways You Can Take Action Immediately

Want To Improve Your Neighborhood? Here Are 10 Ways You Can Take Action Immediately

If you’re a homeowner, you may have spent months, even years investing in and improving the look and feel of your house. You’ve turned it into your personal oasis. It has all the amenities you need and want, and all the renovations you’ve made perfectly reflect your personal taste.

Creating the home you want doesn’t just end at your property’s boundaries. Take a look at your neighborhood. Could it use a little sprucing up? Do you think you can make a positive impact on the appearance and safety of your streets, sidewalks, playgrounds, and other public spaces? If you think you can make your neighborhood a better place to live, here are 10 ways you can take action immediately.

1- Pick up litter near your home.

A little cleaning goes a long way. If trash was thrown on the sidewalk that runs by your home, take a few seconds to put it in the garbage. If everyone on your street did this, you would have a clean, trash-free street in no time!

2- Support local businesses.

Supporting local business can help improve the local economy, keeping the neighborhood unique. Thriving small businesses in your area may help boost the desirability of living in that particular area. This may, in turn, increase the value of the properties around it — possibly yours. Supporting local entrepreneurs may also allow you to meet new people, keeping the neighborhood friendly and open to newcomers.

3- Volunteer.

There may be more opportunities to volunteer in your neighborhood than you think, whether it’s at the local public library or in a community garden. All you need to do is ask! Volunteering, whether it’s cleaning up, helping out at an after-school program, or just keeping others company, can benefit the people around you in unseen ways and bring the community closer together.

4- Talk to and help your neighbors.

Even if you prefer keeping to yourself, it’s important to connect with your neighbors — you never know when you may need their help, or if they’ll ever need yours. They can keep an eye on your house and alert you should there ever be some suspicious activity on your property. If you have an elderly neighbor, help them shovel snow in the wintertime. If you have kids, your neighbor may end up being the person you trust the most to keep them safe when you’re away.   

5- Donate.

You don’t have to donate money to improve the quality of life in your neighborhood. If there is a local charity near you, try donating some gently used coats, clothes, and accessories— you never know who among the people around you is secretly struggling. It doesn’t matter who gets your previously owned items — just know that you’re helping them out in a huge way!

6- Help improve neighborhood safety.

There are so many ways you can help increase neighborhood safety, both on your own and with the help of your neighbors. Less crime in your area means a better quality of life! Check out all the ways you can start keeping you, your family, and your neighbors safe.

7- Plant a tree.

Trees and plants help improve air quality, which may lead to fresher, cleaner air in your neighborhood. Plus, they’re pleasant to look at, and provide shade in the summer months and can improve mental health. Get together with some neighbors and start planting: it’s a win-win situation!

8- Use your car less: bike, walk, or use public transportation.

If you want to improve both your neighborhood and the environment at large, use your car as little as possible. If you can bike or walk to your destination, do so! If everyone made the same effort, there could be less congestion on the streets. Additionally, you’ll get more exercise, and that’s a good thing!

9- Set up an emergency preparedness network and establish an action plan.

If you live in a high-risk area for natural disasters like wildfires, earthquakes, mudslides, hurricanes, and tornadoes (to name a few), communicate with your neighbors: how would you keep each other safe and alive in the event of an emergency? Make plans to check on each other or to help transport groups of people to a safe zone, when necessary. You may also want to have a way to communicate in case phone lines are down.

10- Promote literacy.

One of the greatest advantages of having a home is that you can set up a small, free library on your property. No, it doesn’t mean inviting people into your home — all it takes is a single bookshelf. Homeowners can set up small “give one, take one” book exchanges in front of their houses that allow anyone to do just that: leave a finished book on the shelf while taking out a new one for free. This way, children in the area may have greater access to literature and knowledge. Who knows, you may help them get better scores on tests and do better in school!

These are only a few ways you can help improve your neighborhood, but any small, positive change can make a world of difference in the quality of life of your and your neighbors. Don’t underestimate the power of your actions!

Want to know more about your neighborhood? Plug an address into NeighborWho’s property finder and see what you can find!

Help! A Sex Offender Moved Into My Neighborhood. What Should I Do?

Help! A Sex Offender Moved Into My Neighborhood. What Should I Do?

Disclaimer: The below is solely intended for informational purposes and in no way constitutes legal advice or specific recommendations.

Imagine this scenario: you’ve lived in the same neighborhood for months, even years, and feel quite at home there. You have everything you need in your immediate area and have turned your house into a real home. You love your neighbors and get along with them. Then, one day, you receive an official notice that a sex offender has moved in.

If you live alone or with a significant other, this may frighten you, and you may think of this person as a threat. If you have children you may be particularly frightened. You may be tempted to keep an eye on your family’s every move, accompanying them wherever they go. But even if this news sounds off some alarm bells, here are a few steps you can take to not just help you and your family stay safe, but stay calm too.

Know who’s around you.

If you are concerned that there are unknown sex offenders living in your neighborhood be advised that the federal government requires that all states release information to the public on registered sex offenders. This is “Meghan’s Law,” enacted by President Bill Clinton in 1996. However, it is up to each state to determine how to notify community residents. Law enforcement is, for example, sometimes required to notify residents either via fliers or community notification meetings.

States are required to keep a registry of convicted sex offenders, and there may even be online maps that show where they live. If you live next to a school or park, your neighborhood may not necessarily be clear of sex offenders: every state or jurisdiction has its own laws about where sex offenders can live and how close to places such as schools, parks, playgrounds, and even houses of worship. For greater peace of mind, you may want to check up on these laws with your local government. Often, specific details about a given sex offender’s crimes may even be available.

There is also a national database of sex offenders. The National Sex Offender Public Website (NSOPW) created by the U.S. Department of Justice allows users to search by name, state, zip code, or even address (but only if the state allows the NSOPW to access address information).

Stay calm, alert, and vigilant.

Once you are certain that a sex offender or sexual predator lives in close proximity to you and your family, it is especially important to stay calm yet aware of your surroundings. In addition to keeping an eye on the state or national registries, take steps to learn skills that will help you stay safe. Panicking may ultimately be unproductive. Instead, communicate your knowledge to those around you. With children especially, create the sense that nothing has changed — but prepare them for dangerous situations.

Remember, unfortunately, many sexual predators may not have been caught yet. According to some experts, 95% of new sex crimes are committed by people whose names have not yet been added to the registries. Additionally, three-quarters of sex crimes are believed to be committed by someone familiar to the victim — not a stranger.

Talk to your children, if you have them — but be careful what you say.

Adults can typically comprehend the feelings of anxiety and fear and can generally digest information better than children can, but this doesn’t mean that “little ones” should be kept in the dark. Communicate the severity of the situation, but in gentler terms and in a soothing tone. You don’t have to fully explain the grisly, graphic details of a sex offender’s crime: simply say that that person’s behavior can hurt them, so they should stay away from them. Add that, if the sex offender gets too close, the child should immediately find an adult with whom they feel safe. If you feel that you might benefit or are especially motivated, you could also consider reaching out to local law enforcement or child protective services to determine the best way to communicate this to your children.

If the sex offender is someone you know, or someone who spent time around your child…

While it’s not ideal, sometimes a newly convicted sex offender happens to be someone with whom you’re acquainted. It may be the relative of your or your children’s friend, a next-door neighbor you get along with, or even someone you see almost everyday, like a grocery-store employee.

To ensure your safety and that of your children, you may want to consider cutting ties with that person or perhaps those who work with or live closely to that person. If your child’s friend lives with the sex offender in question, move all play dates to your home instead of letting your child go to their friend’s house — this way, you are the one supervising them and retain some control.

In the event that the offender is a friend of yours, you may want to consider severing ties or limiting contact with that person for the safety of your family.

Whatever the case, you may wish to consider prioritizing safety over the historic relationship you have with the offender or those people who spend much time with them.

Know where your kids are and what they’re doing — even if it means “annoying” them.

More likely than not, kids are more than happy to tell you how “annoying” you are by not giving them their space. Sure, teenagers who want their freedom are likely to lash out at any parent’s attempt to hinder that transition into adulthood. But if you’re a parent of a minor, know that having your child yell at you from time to time is well worth it if it means keeping them safe. Have them check in with you throughout the day, and have them tell you where they are, who they’re with, and what they’re doing. They may not always be telling the truth, but at least you’ll hear from them regularly.

If you’re the parent of a small child, know who is spending time near your kids whether they’re on a playdate, attending an after-school activity, or even on their morning walk to school.

Practice safety techniques with them, and give them knowledge to defend themselves.

Regular practice of safety techniques teach your family how to assess a situation and determine whether or not they are in danger. You can even practice these methods in your own home by simulating how you believe a dangerous person may try and approach your child. For example: you can have your child or teenager learn how to politely reject an accoster, then immediately seek out a safe space where there are other adults.

However, these skills are of little use if you don’t give your child some space. You can gradually increase the amount of independence they have if they’re at an age that they are just now starting to leave home without you to accompany them or absent your direct supervision.

Most importantly, teach your child how to say “no.” This may be the most important tool in the arsenal, as it may protect them against emotional and physical coercion, unsafe games, or inappropriate touching.

Living in the same neighborhood as a sex offender can be scary, especially if you have children, but it doesn’t mean you have to move. By staying informed and alert, you can take steps to better protect and keep you and your family safe! Check out other ways you can help improve neighborhood safety.

Want to know more about your neighborhood? Plug an address into NeighborWho’s property finder and see what you can find!

One City, Two States: Here Are 4 American Towns That Grew Past Their Borders

One City, Two States: Here Are 4 American Towns That Grew Past Their Borders

Borders are tricky: while official laws dictate what they are, they may be contested by the people they divide. Formed by geography, history, and politics, borders are essentially dictated by somewhat arbitrary rules. Perhaps this divide is felt to a lesser extent between states than they may be between countries, where physical walls and checkpoints are oft erected to regulate the flow of not only goods and people, but culture as well. As examples, here are four American towns that have defied their borders to grow past them.

Bristol, VA, and Bristol, TN

Bristol, Virginia, and Bristol, Tennessee, are legally considered to be separate towns, but the area’s history may suggest otherwise: in 1856, two separate railroad depots served Bristol, Tennessee, and Goodson, Virginia, two towns on the border separating the two states. However, the depot located in Goodson continued to be referred to as Bristol, Virginia. In 1890, the Virginia town took the name Bristol.

Over the years, both towns grew. Now, the state line divides the metropolitan area into two halves, and the downtown area surrounds the line. Visitors often look for and are confused by the division of the town. Plaques and markers are placed throughout the center of the street (called State Street) indicating the Virginia and Tennessee sides.

Though both sides of Bristol have rivaling high school sports teams, together, they are known as the birthplace of country music, a title that was made official by the United States Congress in 1998. They also jointly host the city’s annual music festival, Rhythm & Roots Reunion.  

Essentially, the boundary is so inconsequential to locals that, while there is in fact a Bristol, Virginia, and a Bristol,Tennessee, both are considered to be the same city.

Texarkana, TX, and Texarkana, AK

Texarkana, Texas, and Texarkana, Arkansas are technically twin cities on the Texas-Arkansas border. The cities’ name is also the name of the metropolitan area often referred to when talking about the area as a whole. The Texarkana metropolitan area was first defined in 1960, and the name is a portmanteau of TEXas, ARKansas, and nearby LouisiANA (there are multiple versions of local lore that tell the story of the name’s origin).

Both places could easily be confused as one city: many federal buildings straddle the state line, including the post office. In regards to the law, Arkansas residents whose permanent residence is within the city limits of Texarkana, Arkansas, are exempt from the state’s individual income taxes.

Bluefield, WV and Bluefield, VA

Bluefield, West Virginia, and Bluefield, Virginia, have a tense history: the Virginia town used to be named Graham until 1924, when it decided to rename itself as Bluefield to try to unite the two towns, that had been feuding since before the Civil War. Now, the two cities are at peace, and even have joint statistical data as the Bluefield Metropolitan Area. Isn’t it amazing what renaming can accomplish?

Copperhill, TN, and McCaysville, GA

Unlike the other places on this list, Copperhill, Tennessee, and McCaysville, Georgia, are not named the same on either side of the border, but if you’re visiting, you may notice that the border may not even matter. Differences in name aside, they appear to be one city simply divided by a state line, which is made obvious by blue stripes painted diagonally across Ocoee Street. However, these lines don’t just run up the street, they also intersect the sidewalk and run and up the walls of buildings and houses. A church is even split by the border!

The differences in names are well marked in other places other than the border: at the state line, both the main road and the nearby river change their names from Ocoee (Tennessee) to Toccoa (Georgia).

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These are the Most Common Types of Homes in the United States, and Here’s Where to Find Them

These are the Most Common Types of Homes in the United States, and Here’s Where to Find Them

Homes in the United States come in all shapes, colors, and sizes. But if you look closely, you may find some that resemble each other closely. In fact, the rich history of our country has contributed to the popularity of some architectural trends in certain specific, discernible areas and regions. You may not necessarily know them by name, but you may recognize a few of these styles — and perhaps, your own home’s architecture follows one of these trends! Here are eight of some of the most popular house styles in America.

1- Craftsman Style

Craftsman style homes were most popular from 1905 to the 1930’s. Also called Arts & Crafts homes, the most notable key characteristics of this style include a low-pitched, gable roof, unadorned, massive tapered columns that help support a porch, and exposed rafters. The architectural styles stemmed from a philosophical movement that emphasized handwork and rejected the mass production attributes of the Industrial Revolution. It also rejected the over-decorated aesthetic of the Victorian era. Craftsman style homes can be found all over America, but are most popular in the Western U.S. However, this style has been experiencing a revival since the 1990’s with many homeowners leaning to a minimalistic, simple, and clean design.

2- Ranch style

A ranch-style home is perhaps one of the most recognizable architectural styles in America thanks to its no-frills, low horizontal profile, typically single-story design (although, there are raised ranch-style homes that are two stories). Other typical characteristics of this style include a U- or L-shaped floor plan and attached garages. They were most popular from the 1930’s to the 1960’s, when there was a notable influx of farmers moving to the suburbs. These new homeowners wanted their houses to reflect the simple, informal lifestyle to which they had become accustomed. This architectural style is the most popular in the Sun Belt region, or the Southern tier of the United States.

3- Mediterranean Revival

Popular in the 1920’s and 30’s, Mediterranean Revival style homes managed to capture the essence of a Mediterranean villa. People were moving toward embracing and valuing leisure time, and nothing screamed opulence, exoticism, and relaxation more than this style. It became a very popular style in warmer states like Florida and California, which were among the first to develop a tourism industry along the coast. These states also shared a Spanish colonial history, which played a key part in forming the aesthetic of the Mediterranean Revival home.Common features of these homes include low-pitched, red-tiled roofs and a stucco and usually white-painted exterior. This style is neither distinctly Spanish nor Italian, but a mix of both.

4- Tudor Revival

Tudor Revival style homes were popular from 1880 to around 1940, and are mainly characterized by steeply pitched, side gable roofs and decorative half-timbering, narrow multi-light casement windows, and walls of stucco or stone. This style stems from an early English form, which came into vogue thanks to wealthy homeowners who could afford to pay for the decorative stone and brickwork. The Tudor Revival home fell out of style after World War II, when there was a resurgence of American patriotism. Homeowners started leaning toward a more distinctly American design, the Colonial Revival style. Tudor Revival homes were most popular on the East Coast and in the Midwest.

5- Colonial Revival

As the name suggests, these homes drew inspiration from the style of the typical colonial homes from the Colonial Era in the United States. They were part of a movement that celebrated an American identity after World War II, though they had been popular from 1880 to 1955. Instead of directly copying the style of those older houses, architects decided to mix and match details from several early styles. Typical characteristics of Colonial Revival style houses include a symmetrical facade, a large accented doorway, and evenly spaced 6-over-6 windows. There are millions of examples of this kind of house all over the country.

6- Cape Cod

Popular from the 1920’s to the 1940’s, Cape Cod style houses are the most popular — as you maybe guessed it — in the Northeast. This architectural style originated with the colonists who came from England to New England, and is typically a one-story cottage with a loft attic space and a symmetrical window placement on either side of a paneled front door. The houses were designed and built to withstand the region’s stormy weather. The term itself was coined in 1800.

7- Queen Anne

The Queen Anne architectural style, sometimes called the Victorian style, is very different from other typically American styles of houses in that it is very ornamental with sculptural shapes. Popular from 1880 to 1910, some key characteristics of the Queen Anne style include the wrap-around front porch (a trait that architects borrowed for other home styles), an asymmetrical facade, bold and unconventional color schemes, classical columns, and round, square, or polygonal towers. Queen Anne homes were a product of the Industrial Age, and ultimately fell out of style with a return to a more simplistic design. A famous example of this kind of house? The Painted Ladies in San Francisco, of course!

8- Neoclassical style

Mostly built from 1895 to 1950, the Neoclassical style pays homage to classical Greek and Roman architecture, and still shows itself to be related to Colonial Revival architecture. It is characterized by tall, massive columns, Corinthian or Composite capitals, a symmetrical facade, elaborate doorways, and evenly spaced windows. The heaviest concentration of the Neoclassical style of building is in the Northeast. It is a popular one for government buildings and universities, but there are many homes built in this style, too: Thomas Jefferson’s Monticello, in Virginia, is a classic example. Primarily, the style served to show the upward social mobility of the home’s residents.

These are only a few of the many styles homes across America are built. Which one does your home have?

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