Housing Costs and Neighborhood Connections

Buying a home or even searching for the perfect rental is no easy undertaking: It requires hours of research, recruiting a realtor, saving for a down payment and, sometimes, heading to the bank to negotiate a loan.

In the midst of all the time, money and effort that go into finding a dream home, how often do people stop and consider the folks who’ll be living next door? They could become lifelong friends – or an ever-present nuisance.

In the best of scenarios, the relationships we have with our neighbors can decrease stress and increase happiness. But before you can get to that point, it starts with saying hi. To find out how neighborhood friendships are influenced by location, the cost of living and more, we surveyed 1,000 renters and homeowners. We found that:

  • Renters would pay $225 per month on top of their existing housing expenses to choose the folks who live next door. Homeowners would pay considerably less; averaging $125 when asked what they’d be willing to cough up.
  • People with the lowest rent payments and those who lived in rural areas were the most satisfied with their friendships with their neighbors.
  • If you’re looking up the values of your neighbors’ homes online, you’re not alone. Nearly 2 in 3 suburbanites surveyed admitted to this practice, and people who were dissatisfied with their neighbors were the most likely to stalk their home values online.

Interested to see how the people next door may be influencing your domestic bliss? Read on to find out.

The Ultimate Choice

Average Monthly Amoung People Would Pay To Pick Who Lives Next Door

So let’s imagine you could choose your neighbors. Think about how that might change your perspective on where you live. Might it also impact how much you’re willing to pay for your home?

According to the people surveyed, those who rented their home said they would pay up to $225 more per month to pick their neighbors. Millennials, meanwhile, were willing to pay more than four times what the average baby boomer was prepared to sacrifice. The same was true for those who lived in apartments, duplexes or town houses (i.e., people with close living quarters), as well as city dwellers.

City living is expensive, yet many urbanites surveyed would pay even more if they knew they could pick their neighbors. In some of the most popular U.S. cities to live in, such as Boston or San Francisco, the average rent for even a small studio apartment can be up to $3,000 a month. Imagine adding to that already staggering cost for the luxury of choosing who lives next door! In other cities, the cost of living is notably increasing. In Miami, the costs to live in certain neighborhoods are still increasing exponentially in cost, up to 24% in the last year.

We decide where to live based on social preferences, proximity to work, familial relationships and other factors. Picking your neighbors could help you live nearer to family or friends, bring the party scene closer to home or make day-to-day life easier with more helping hands next door.

Friends Next Door

Level of Satisfaction With Neighbors

If you’re dreaming of a situation just like the ’90s TV show “Friends,” you may not have to look any further than next door. Our survey found that the longer you put down roots, the more likely you become friends with the neighbors or that Americans are more likely to move when they’re unsatisfied. Either way you look at it, people who lived in one place for a longer period, as demonstrated by our respondents, were considerably more likely to be acquainted with the people who lived nearby.

The same is true if you live in a single-family home or have children. Those with children reported a higher rate of satisfaction with their neighbors by 10.9%. Maybe it has to do with the fact that children need strong friendships to thrive, and the neighborhood is the easiest place to find them, apart from school.

The amount of money respondents pay for housing impacts neighbor satisfaction, too. Our survey found that people who paid less rent per month tended to be happier with those living next door. Community Psychology says socioeconomic diversity in neighborhoods can facilitate certain physical and mental health benefits for families on both high and low ends of the spectrum.

But it’s not just about money. People in rural areas reported higher satisfaction with their neighbors than those in urban settings. The Stanford Social Innovation Review says that’s because they see the overall benefit of making local connections and working together for the good of their communities.

Trust Issues

Percentage Who'd Trust a Neighbor to Do the Following, by Residential Area

Would you trust your neighbor to care for your pet or collect your mail while you’re out of town? How about coming over for dinner? If you said no to all of these, don’t feel bad: Those in urban areas were the least likely to trust their neighbors with anything, save for jump-starting their car.

The Pew Research Center echoes our findings, but the causes of these trust gaps vary based on age, location, race, financial standing and educational background. Overall, people who paid the lowest amount of rent per month were the most trusting of their neighbors.

Know Your Values

Discussing and Looking Up Home Values Among Neighbors

Whether you’re renting your home or paying a mortgage, you’re probably curious about home values where you live. But would you find out by doing a quick internet search or asking your neighbor what they pay per month? Renters, on average, were more likely than homeowners to think that discussing housing costs with neighbors was inappropriate. Among the homeowners who were uncomfortable asking their neighbors about mortgage costs or home values, though, they seemed to have few qualms about finding that information online instead.

Wanting to know how your life stacks up against others is normal, though. Called “the comparison trap,” Psychology Today says we are more apt to compare our lives with those on a similar playing field and over the items in life that hold the most value. This may include friends, family and neighbors and things like homes, family status or job success.

More than 40% of people in all groups looked up at least one neighbor’s home value online, so no matter what camp you find yourself in, you’re definitely not alone.

Social Circles

Average Number of Neighbors Met and Percentage Who are Friends

Making friends as an adult can be difficult and take a lot of effort. If you’re lucky, your neighbors could become friends who you see often. According to the people surveyed, the transition between neighbors met and neighbors befriended occurred around 30% of the time. And it appears that the only way to make friends of your neighbors is to go out and meet as many as you can. Baby boomers seemed to understand that principle. Members of that generation met more of their neighbors in the first place and made, on average, more friends than their younger counterparts.

For millennials, the difference in making neighbor friends was between renting and owning a home: Once they settled down, they had a higher likelihood of making next-door connections. And likely to the surprise of none, those with kids and dogs tended to make more friends than those without. Science says pet owners are much more active compared to their peers, so they tend to be out and about and, therefore, have a higher chance of meeting neighbors.

Internet Advantage

Average Number of Neighbors Met and Percentage Who Are Friends, by Social Media Activity

Even if you’re a naturally friendly person, social media could help you get to know your neighbors better. Those internet connections may help bolster friendships if you have any commonalities or mutual interests.

In fact, 1 in 3 respondents said they were social media friends with their neighbors, and those who were reported higher satisfaction with their friendships. Social media may even encourage you to connect on issues like crime or local recommendations.

Stanford Social Innovation Review says the key to socially healthy communities is connection, with social media representing just the most modern form of connection. Based on research stemming from, among other organizations, the Manpower Demonstration Research Corporation, SSIR makes the case that “In stronger communities, local interests find ways to pull together, form networks, share information, take collective action on local issues, and forcefully promote their own understanding of local needs and opportunities to government and outside investors.”

Conclusion

No matter where you live or what your neighborhood circumstances look like, you’ve probably interacted with your neighbors on at least one occasion. And those people may impact your life more than you realize. On average, people were willing to spend more money on rent if they could choose their neighbors and tended to befriend them in higher numbers when age and location were factors.

Baby boomers and those in rural areas were the most likely to meet and eventually welcome a neighbor into their social circle. The internet can be a helpful tool for younger generations and may encourage millennials to reach out when they otherwise would not. At the end of the day, knowing your neighbors can inspire a more friendly community for yourself and those around you.

If you’re moving to a new place, connecting with new friends may be one of the most difficult and rewarding parts. For all of the other aspects of finding your new dream home, we’ve got you covered at rent.com. No matter where you’re planning to move across the United States, let us help you filter through millions of options in to find your perfect rental home.

Methodology

For this study, we surveyed 1,013 people about their neighbors. All were qualified for the survey. We ran this survey on Amazon’s Mechanical Turk.

18.9% of respondents lived in rural areas, 52.4% lived in suburban areas and 28.7% lived in urban areas.

2.8% lived in towns of 1,000 people or less; 25.8% lived in towns of 1,001 to 20,000 people; 28.9% lived in large towns of 20,001 to 100,000 people; 19.7% lived in cities of up to 300,000 people; and 13.5% lived in large cities of up to a million residents. Lastly, 9.3% lived in metropolises of more than a million residents.

25.6% of respondents lived in apartments or condos; 7.6% lived in duplexes or town houses; 63.3% lived in free-standing houses; and 3.5% lived in mobile homes or recreational vehicles.

We eliminated outliers from our data regarding respondents’ number of friends, number of neighbors they’d met, and the number of years they lived in their current homes. Any response greater than three times the standard deviation plus the mean for the population were excluded from the analysis.

This study is based on self-reported survey data. It is based on means alone; therefore, it’s purely exploratory content.

Fair Use Statement

To help create a neighborhood even Mr. Rogers would be proud of, how about sharing this information with your neighbors and getting to know them better? But please don’t forget to link back to this page when sharing it for noncommercial purposes.