Talk to the Neighbors


It’s easy to get tunnel vision when you are at work in the field. You show up in a neighboorhood where one of these vacant properties poses an attractive nuisance, and you go to work securing or maintaining or repairing it. Once the job is done, “Buh Bye!”

But, I continue to find that it makes my job more meaningful when I make an effort to meet one of the neighbors in close proximity to this eyesore. I do not pose much of a threat normally, but I can understand how some stranger showing up at the vacant house next door — a house you have probably been concerned about — and makes access. It is becoming more aware of this concern that reminds me how meaningful my work is on the whole. I am not just earning a salary, I’m improving the neighborhood. I’m not just an industry professional. I’m a community service organization.

Sometimes these encounters happen without my help. A curious neighbor will peek over the fence and make a comment about the property. Just yesterday I had a conversation with a man who kept me there long enough to send me away with a cup of coffee. We talked about the problems the vacated individual caused to the look of the street. He said everyone was glad he was gone. Driving away, I had a feeling that I had gained a resource just by taking the time to talk with this man. Now, he will keep an even  more careful eye on the place. He’ll probably call me if he sees anything. Then, I can notify my client.

Then, because I’m a goof, I can also make these meet-the-neighbors encounters happen.

About a month ago, I was taking BPO photos about an hour away from my “office” when it started getting dark on me. I was asked to take interior photos at this house. So, when I made access, I saw the electricity was off and there was not enough light to take adequate photos. Then, it hit me, I didn’t have a flash on my camera. So, I thought, “You dummy — what are you gonna do? Drive an hour back tomorrow I guess.”

Then, I thought, “NO! I’m going to meet a neighbor.” So, I walked across the street and knocked on the door. So, this man comes out without a shirt on.

I asked, “You don’t happen to have a camera with a flash, do you?” He paused for a bit, then said,”Yeah I do.” He invited me in where he had been polishing his gun (no lie). I explained to him who I was working for and what I was doing. He said, “I saw you over there. I was wondering…”

So, he grabbed his iPhone 4G and said, “Why don’t you just take this with you across the street and get the photos you need. It’s got a flash. Then, I can email them to you this evening.” I was both amazed at myself and amazed at how meeting a neighbor opened several opportunities for me.

I took his phone across the street, and several minutes later he showed up (still without his shirt) to watch. He was just curious. So, we talked for a while about the vacated individual and about the neighborhood in general. And, when I was done, I drove away feeling good about making contact with a neighbor.

Warning: If you get too busy in this industry to make contact with one of the neighbors, you could limit your knowledge about the neighborhood in general. Are you a listing agent? Get to know the neighbors. They can tell you how stable the community is. Are you a contractor hired to secure? Get to know the neighbors. They will keep an eye on the place for you. You simply cannot go wrong talking to a neighbor.

One of my favorite parts about working for myself is having the freedom to meet people on a whim. So, I take that opportunity and boost not only my work as a community service person but also my edge in my industry.

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