I’ve lived in a dense inner city, I’ve lived in the edge of a city, I’ve lived in suburbia and I’ve lived out in the middle of nowhere. With the possible exception of my childhood in Queens, I don’t really believe we (me) had any meaningful relationships with more than one or two of our neighbors. One of the oft-repeated lamentations about suburban living is that no one speaks to their neighbors.
The longer I think about this the more I am puzzled by it. When asked what is important in their lives, people would respond typically with, “family, friends, … and then a few other things.” Maybe neighbors make that list somewhere after a hobby or a charity, but they most certainly do not get near the top 3 of that list. I have seen some people make concerted efforts to locate in the same neighborhood as their family members – anyone with Italian Catholic parents understands the guilt trip you’d be sent on if you moved away – but how come we do not see much (if any) effort by people to coordinate locational decisions with their friends?
Real estate markets seem to be liquid enough and the possibility for contractual arrangements seems easy enough to make it very possible for friends to locate on the same block, or very close to each other. So how come we do not see much of it? An even starker example would be to ask how come we don’t regularly see friends “chipping in” on vacation properties? After all, few people spend lots of time on vacation – and given the high cost of a vacation property it makes financial sense to split the check because of all of the foregone surplus that would exist with the house being empty for 50 weeks of the year.
So my question is, aside from the obvious transactions costs, what are other potential explanations for why we do not actively cooperate with friends on real estate locational decisions? Could it be that the number of people that we truly feel are close friends is so small that it would be a rare coincidence of life circumstances allowed for collaborating on location? If we had lots of friends, then surely there would be some people who were in similar life circumstances.
Or does living close to someone alter the nature of a relationship? Does it foster envy and resentment? Does it create a substitute for other leisure time that you prefer more than “hanging out” with friends? For example, I’d rather spend an afternoon hiking than throwing back a few beers in my backyard.
I am genuinely interested. Any thoughts on why this occurrence seems to be so rare?