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Quiet neighbors boost values

By Allen Norwood
Allen Norwood
Allen Norwood writes on Home design, do-it-yourself and real estate for The Charlotte Observer. His column appears each Saturday.

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The late William Trotter was the builder who helped me understand the relationship between old cemeteries and modern subdivisions. Mostly, he said, old graveyards trump new houses. And they make good neighbors.

Now comes Redfin with a study that offers some of the same points – and makes the case that homes near graveyards are worth more, too. (Just in time for Halloween, of course.)

Three decades ago, Mr. Trotter was building a subdivision in Matthews on a tract with old graves in one corner. He said the graves would stay. I thought he was referring to, well, the spooky factor. Some folks might not want to live on a former burial ground. But he said he couldn’t build on the spot because he could never get clear title to the land.

It was an “aha!” moment.

In growing Charlotte back then, you could pretty much count on the rolling fields or shady woods next to your subdivision giving way to more houses or maybe a shopping center. But if Mr. Trotter – a Builder of the Year – couldn’t get title, the next developer probably couldn’t, either.

I said something like, “That means people ought to want to live next to graveyards and cemeteries.”

It has been a long time, but as I remember he said, “Ought to – but sometimes don’t.”

Mr. Trotter passed away last year so I can’t ask what he thinks of the Redfin survey.

The giant technology-powered real estate broker compared sales of homes close to cemeteries with those farther away. Those closest took a little longer to sell – that spooky factor, maybe? – but sold for more per square foot.

On average, houses closest to cemeteries sold for $162 dollars per square foot, while those more than 500 yards away sold for $145. Learn more at

Real estate agents quoted on the Redfin blog make the same points Mr. Trotter made. Cemeteries aren’t likely to be developed, and cemetery residents don’t have barking dogs and loud parties.

Some old family and church plots have been adopted by newcomers and are well tended. The old Smithfield Church Road Cemetery sits just outside the gates of Heydon Hall, off Park Road in southeast Charlotte. It had long been neglected, but now gets regular TLC.

Bill Saint, who was with the former Simonini Builders as the company built Heydon Hall, said he doesn’t remember any buyers saying that the cemetery made them uneasy. There was no mention of that spooky factor, said Saint, now head of Classica Homes.

Good to hear. Those who’ve passed away deserve our respect and, as Mr. Trotter said, really are good neighbors.

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