Kirsty McLuckie: Is it possible to enhance the value of your house by being nice to your neighbours?

Homeowners have long been instructed in the art of adding value to their property, whether it is a major building overhaul or just a sprucing up to add kerb appeal.

But as the property market dips due to economic pressures, which homeowners can do little about, in the season of goodwill and cheer, is it possible to enhance the value of your house by being nice to your neighbours?

Rightmove’s annual Happy at Home Index, published this month, ranks towns and cities on the satisfaction residents have about their surroundings.

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The survey asked residents how they feel about where they live, ranking ten happiness factors, including how much they feel a sense of belonging to their area.

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The results found that this sense of belonging is the number-one factor that contributes to someone feeling happy where they live.

Community spirit and how comfortable residents feel to be themselves all contribute to the attractiveness of a location to potential buyers.

St Ives in Cornwall topped the list, but second was Scottish Borders town Galashiels, where residents scored particularly highly on the friendliness and politeness of the people – and it came top overall in this area across the UK.

Compared to St Ives, it is also highly affordable. The Cornish town has an average house price of £523,731, while Gala’s average is £153,546. There is an equal disparity in rental prices, St Ives average is £1,152 a month, while Galashiels is about half that at £530.

Community spirit is a difficult thing to rate – it is perhaps more noticeable when it is absent.

Much as we were all amused by the shenanigans at Cheshire’s Handforth Parish Council during lockdown, thanks to the viral clip of Jackie Weaver’s meeting with councillors trading insults and the chairman being booted from the call, it can’t have done much for the general feeling of wellbeing in the area.

And individual neighbour disputes can have a disastrous effect when it comes time to sell your home, as you are required to divulge any official complaint.

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My own village has had its fair share of neighbourly discord – complaints to the community council about dog mess and potholes, questions raised about development trust projects and objections to planning applications.

But lockdown did seem to reignite a sense of community and a willingness to help out the elderly, the vulnerable and the less well-off.

A thriving village or town hall with weekly activities such as car boot sales, exercise classes or crafting sessions can reinvigorate the population in terms of inclusiveness and can be a boost to the attractiveness of living there.

And if a sense of community adds value to house prices, perhaps organising a soup-and-sandwich charity lunch is a more profitable way to spend your time than upgrading your bathroom.

To paraphrase President JFK, ask not what your community can do for you, but what you can do for your community’s property values...

A resulting boost for everyone’s house price would surely just be the icing on the charity Christmas cake sale?

- Kirsty McLuckie is property editor at The Scotsman