PAULA'S SOUTHAMPTON BLOG: THE BROKEN WINDOW THEORY....A Call To Action For The Real Estate Community!....

THE BROKEN WINDOW THEORY....A Call To Action For The Real Estate Community!....

THE BROKEN WINDOW THEORYTHE BROKEN WINDOW THEORY....A Call to Action for the real estate community.....

I read in the Wall street Journal yesterday of the passing of a great conservative thinker and theorist, James Q Wilson. He was the source of a new theory about crime in the early 60's, which offered up an unusual experiment of sorts and something about his legacy and this experiment in particular, left me wondering...Can and does this theory apply more broadly in society? Can and should we apply this sort of thinking in our own profession, within our own communities?....You be the judge:



In the late 1960's and early 1970's people would have to literally climb over garbage piles in New York City--in the 70's I can remember stepping over 3-4 sleeping bodies in the entry-way to my building in Murray Hill. Crime was a way of life in Manhattan as you fought for your right to maneuver  through the streets and subways without being physically accosted or worse yet, mugged on your way to work!


THE THEORY. (A broken window changes EVERYTHING!!!)

A car was left abandoned for days on a street in New York City in the early 1960s; the team who intentionally abandoned it, later broke one  of the windows in it and left it for many nights. During the time of abandonment and the window being broken, little attention was paid to the car sitting there unattended. Once the window was broken however, there was a wave of attacks and raids on the car until it sat in utter ruin on the street. Wilson's thinking was that the indication of any criminal activity even in the slightest way, paved the way for an onslaught that could, and did, make a city ungovernable.

This theory was behind the monumental crime fighting efforts  in New York City and for the major clean-up of New York by Mayor Rudy Giuliani in the 70's and 80's; an act that made history in the annals of crime prevention and changed the environment of the city to this day. Police Chief Bratton and Mayor Giuliani were the leaders in this effort and they made history as the crime rates dropped. To this day, major metropolitan areas all over the map have used the same theory and in cleaning up the mess that is part of big city life, crime rates are at all time lows in most major cities in the USA.


Just how does a minor indication of neglect in a neighborhood really affect that particular market? If someone walks away from their home by choice and leaves it sitting there without any sign of life, how long does it take to affect the houses in close proximity?

Without the help of a very interested party or parties, home abandonment can become the abandoned car in a Manhattan street, waiting for the criminal element to do it's job. It has happened here; yes right here in this bucolic and treasured resort area of the "Rich and Famous"!! And it is projected to be an even bigger event if things aren't handled properly and with great dispatch!

In this roving profession called real estate, I see that we need to become a more diverse collection of social advocates---who better to be made aware of the growing problem of home abandonment that those of us who have chosen this career? We have access to more homes than any other profession and we surely see the signs of abandonment before anyone else does..... 

  • A door, off it's hinges and sitting ajar
  • A window cracked and left in disrepair
  • Grass left to grow long and well beyond other lawns in an area
  • No sign of life; "no one lives here any longer"
  • Newspapers piled and strewn across the property
  • General unkempt appearance
  • A sign posted for "AUCTION"

There-in lies the key to property values, to say nothing of the crime rate in a given area! We all know this, but how muchABANDONED HOUSE of an impact does the neglect really have on a whole community or even a whole city???

I suggest that we, as real estate professionals, need to observe the way in which an area or a neighborhood presents itself--That we, in keeping with our basic Human Nature and our commitment to our clients and customers, make an attempt to let the authorities know when a house has been abandoned. Take the time to report it to the police, to zoning boards, town officials and  to those in charge of city or town clean-up. If we know for a fact that the house next door has been left by the owner and that there is a real possibility of abandonment, let the authorities know right away...All it takes is ONE house to be left abandoned to pull down ALL property values of a street or an area....I have been known to pick up old newspapers piling up on an abandoned doorstep--or clear clutter away on a driveway. It does not take much to help relieve the decrepitude from creeping into a neighborhood!

We are NOT out of the woods yet where foreclosures are concerned and we need to be vigilant like never before---When these abandoned houses first appeared in many neighborhoods, people were taken by surprise! Denial set in and many drove by these houses without even looking at them anymore! We can no longer ignore this fact of life! Now we know that this will happen and we need to be our own best advocates for those areas which we claim to be our areas of expertise!

It IS Human Nature to want to keep civility in our communities---this is the best way to make sure we all remain civil!




                                     **ALL INFORMATION AND CONTENT IN THIS BLOG IS ORIGINAL TO PAULA I. HATHAWAY.  The views expressed herein are my personal views and do not reflect the views of Douglas Elliman Real Estate


Paula I. Hathaway, Senior Broker Associate, Douglas Elliman Real Estate

Southamtpon Village Real Estate Specialist since 1995;  Also Specializes in North Sea, Noyac, Water Mill and Bridgehampton, New York

Diamond , Gold and Chairman's Circle Awards; Top Producer since 2005


Click here to see my Hampton's website to see all my listings; please email me or call me for all your real estate needs in Southampton, Bridgehampton and Watermill:



Comment balloon 81 commentsPaula Hathaway, REALTOR, LBA • March 05 2012 10:02AM


Paula, I loved your article, which is something that I have said for many years. However, one slices this, living in S. Florida and having the element of a few ethnic races finding their way here, you just wonder if they ever had soap and water where they came from. Personally, I don't think this mindset will ever change and if it does it may take a few more generations. 

Posted by Winston Heverly, GRI, ABR, SFR, CDPE, CIAS, PA (Winston Realty, Inc.) over 6 years ago

Paula ~ Interesting post! With certain areas of our town, crime is expected. Then there are areas that one would not think of behavior fitting a vandal or a thief. With foreclosures that are posted as such, the values that some individuals have, seem to be diminished when looking upon one. It amazes me how just one incident can lead to a plethora of debauchery. It really is pretty sad.

Posted by Jon Eliason (EXIT Realty Advantage Pagosa, Pagosa Springs, Colorado) over 6 years ago

Winston: It helps if we all pay attention though and even though you can't make someone "wash" you can make sure the neighborhood shines by the way your house looks and by the way you observe and act upon an abandoned property.

Jon: According to the great Jmaes Q Wilson, it is through our own deglect that we realize a higher crime rate---That broken window makes it clear through his experiment, that we all share in the result--good and bad!

Posted by Paula Hathaway, REALTOR, LBA, ...The Most Informed Agent In The Hamptons! (Douglas Elliman Real Estate) over 6 years ago

Hi Paula,

Great post.

The GSEs caught on to this a couple of years ago.

Now, all Freddie Mac, FNMA and HUD homes are to look as neat and clean as the homes around it.

More work of supervision for the realtor, but a better over all result for the foreclosures of these three entities.


Posted by Phil Leng, Phil Leng - Retired (Retired) over 6 years ago

John: Thanks for your "ramblings"--all too true, especially about the mob violence started by the innocuous and quite beautiful mall concerts that were called up on Twitter and facebook at a moments notice!!

Phil: I do believe that we as a profession can be instrumental in keeping the crime at bay around these potential "blight" situations. Even though we are not required to be the "watchers" of the neighborhood---we are by default!

Posted by Paula Hathaway, REALTOR, LBA, ...The Most Informed Agent In The Hamptons! (Douglas Elliman Real Estate) over 6 years ago

Paula, this is a very interesting theory.  There is no fear of authority any more.  I think laws ought to be much tougher...but I'm not running for office just yet. :) I know we had a foreclosure in our neighborhood where the weeds in the yard were getting as high as three feet.  No one wanted to mow it.  People complained to our HOA about it, and somebody (perhaps a nearby neighbor) eventually mowed it once.  If I had lived next door, I definitely would have mowed it it does show NO ONE IS HOME HERE...which can lead to trouble! 

Posted by Sonja Patterson, Texas Monthly 5-Star Realtor Recipient for the Hou (Keller Williams - BV) over 6 years ago

Sonja: You bet! It also allows for homeless vagrants to take possession which is another whole matter that came to light here in Southampton...There was a multifamily house that went into foreclosure in '08, right after the crash and I was told it was for sale so i had a buyer who wanted to be on that street and the place looked well kept so I took him to the property---there were about 6 vagrants living there--no sign of anything except food was cooking away on the stove n the kitchen and even  though there was no power the vagrants had jerry-rigged a way to cook on the stove and they would just disappear from view at a given notice---they were there but were wll hidden--it was frightening to say the least!

Posted by Paula Hathaway, REALTOR, LBA, ...The Most Informed Agent In The Hamptons! (Douglas Elliman Real Estate) over 6 years ago

There is a lot going on in the community and pride of ownership came to mind when I read this post. People who have skin in the game keep a nice lawn, a clean set of stairs, fresh paint and love to sit on their front porches too...In the 1950's, this was a way of life. Now, it appears we have retreated from this. I hope it is temporary becasue the results from the retreat are not good..excellent posting my little Paula

Posted by Richie Alan Naggar, agent & author (people first...then business Ran Right Realty ) over 6 years ago

Paula -- excellent post!  As I show properties or neighborhoods to prospective buyers, I can certainly see as their eyes oh so subtly reflect "perception equals reality".    We in this industry are there in the field with eyes that could easily be focused on improving our cities and towns just one small step at a time.   A very proactive post that could really change our communities and perhaps the perception of our profession.  

Posted by Michael Jacobs, Los Angeles Pasadena Area Real Estate 818.516.4393 (Coldwell Banker Residential Brokerage) over 6 years ago

This post hits close to home. My neighbor's home sat empty for over a year (was not a foreclosure, but was bought by a relocation company). As their grass grew we noticed more pests in our yard. The kicker was the water moccasin that slide across the fence. After repeated calls to the company (and their worthless agent), I started mowing the home myself. Wouldn't you know it, the pest problems went away and the home sold two months later. Although I did not get a commission, we did get some wonderful new neighbors!

Posted by Doug Rogers, Your Alexandria Louisiana Agent (Bayou Properties) over 6 years ago

Very interesting information, I believe it to be very true and on track.  We have neighborhoods in a certain part of town, here in Austin,  that when new owners move in and take pride of ownership.  They start sprucing up the yards, exteriors and the block becomes vibrant and is amazing what a little landscaping and paint will do. 

Posted by Suzanne Gantner, GRI, E-Pro, SRES, SRS, ABR (Sky Realty, Central Texas Real Estate ) over 6 years ago

Richie: I can recall the same thing and I can see how deterioration is beginning in the fringe of the village here as property values continue to fall! These fringe areas were the last best hope for the buyer who wants to buy in the Village but can't afford the high prices in the estate sections. Now, no one wants these houses at any price! It is a very bad commentary on our world right now!

Michael: Thank you and I hope others are as perceptive as you are! We need to keep the neat, clean affects in place other wise we can all roll up our signs and move on to other professions! It is our responsibility to give back I think--what better way to give back then to be a proactive participant in the community?


Posted by Paula Hathaway, REALTOR, LBA, ...The Most Informed Agent In The Hamptons! (Douglas Elliman Real Estate) over 6 years ago

Doug: Now, That's what I am talking about! It's nothing more than protecting your own investment! If we all took you r position and did the few little things that add up we would be furthere ahead in two ways: more sales of houses that other wise melt into the ground AND our reputation can ony benefit if we can make a neighborhood campaign to clean up decrepit properties!!

Suzanne: And here too! I have seen a new house pull up the value of the other houses in a miraculous way!  Now, we can be really effective in creating a better marketplace by applying that same attitude and doing the small things that will bring this market back to normalcy...thanks for your input!

Posted by Paula Hathaway, REALTOR, LBA, ...The Most Informed Agent In The Hamptons! (Douglas Elliman Real Estate) over 6 years ago

Great post, Paula.  And useful in many angles.  I had never thought of it in quite the "broken window" way, before - but it makes absolute sense.  And I see it in many areas of life - even with the way people who "don't seem to care" about themselves get treated with less respect, and a child who's appearance shows neglect will often receive neglect in school, as well. 

Thanks for the input - and the reminder!

Posted by Jean Singleton, Specializing in Your Special Needs (Keller Williams Capital District) over 6 years ago

Jean: you are more than welcome! I think it benefits all if we are, as surrogates to the homeowners, on our toes and in touch with the many things that can go wrong within a community--that's why a lot of us volunteer and help out in ways unrelated to our business...But in this case it is totally relate-able and therefore it will benefit our profession as well if we kind of look out for problems in our communities.

Posted by Paula Hathaway, REALTOR, LBA, ...The Most Informed Agent In The Hamptons! (Douglas Elliman Real Estate) over 6 years ago
Wow - this really sums up how it doesn't take all that much to swing a neighborhood toward deterioration ....or renewal. I've seen increasing problems with both squatters and rat infestations in abandoned homes. I've been working with an investor whose mission/business plan is buying deteriorating homes, getting his contractor crews in to professionally rehab them, and then renting them out - and making neighbors very happy to have a well-kept house next door again. While that is very rewarding, it's sure a drop in the bucket.
Posted by Nancy Conner, Olympia/Thurston County WA over 6 years ago

Nancy: You are so right...and it only takes one house! I was at a house the other day that I have noted to go back later to check it out to make sure it has not been abandonded. It was scary going into it and while I was there I actually think that a family of racoons were in the atic and I got out of there fast. If there are racoons in there the chances of other vermin in the house are likely and that needs a major clean-up. In that case I will have call the county animal control to go in and get rid of whtaever it is.....

Posted by Paula Hathaway, REALTOR, LBA, ...The Most Informed Agent In The Hamptons! (Douglas Elliman Real Estate) over 6 years ago

I really like the way you apply the broken window theory in our profession. It is important that we work with our eyes open to all such details that can help the society to be more civil and sorted. You can actually sense when any house will be abandoned by a little keen observation, some signs are obvious and some need to sensed. 

Posted by Coldwell Banker Excellence (Coldwell Banker Excellence) over 6 years ago

I think this is a brilliant idea and one that shows a high degree of responsibility on the part of the agents in the area. 




Posted by Bryan Robertson, Broker, Author, Speaker (Intero Real Estate) over 6 years ago

Paula: Neat post!  George Kelling was involved with the "Broken Windows" theory, too- If you're interested, there's a discussion about its implementation in New York in the book The Tipping Point by Malcom Gladwell.  Thanks for sharing!  :)

Posted by Andrew Capelli (Hoover Elementary) over 6 years ago

Bryan: Thank you so much! I feel like it needs to be applied to many professions---even within the banking system: If the banks were on their toes and alert to the "broken windows" in their own neighborhoods, many foreclosures would be avoided perhaps---if big banks used little bank thinking and functioned within a community rather than sitting above it all, we would be through this mess of foreclosures already and moving on to a better tomorrow! Right now they are so far removed that the money that was given to the big banks for the purpose of helping homeowners was just tucked away iin their coffers as if that was goign to be the answer!!! 

Andrew: You are so right! I read Tipping Point and I remember that it was discussed in that book! I lived through those times and even though it is never really talked about any more, the idea changed the whole world of crime fighting---to this day those tecniques of "clean-up" are successfully used to keep the crime rate down---look at Los Angeles with Mr. Bratton out there now. I worked near the Times Square area and the peep shows and other illegal business that were keeping the crime rate so high were prospering....I can remember one of my fellow market reps used to go to lunch and a peep show every day---he was a drug addict and did not last long in the retail business. The clean-up that took place was sweeping and was even a joke to many who thought it would not work---now look at Times Square and those same people would not recognize it today!!

Posted by Paula Hathaway, REALTOR, LBA, ...The Most Informed Agent In The Hamptons! (Douglas Elliman Real Estate) over 6 years ago

Nice, I think diversity has become prevalent in our community, it's important to be tolerant even if the ideals of others aren't yours! This is a great example, thanks for asking others to be tolerant.....GREAT BLOG!

Posted by Jon Kolsky, Licensed California Real Estate Broker (Kolsky Realty & Management) over 6 years ago

Paula, I like how you apply Wilson't Broken Window experiment to our present day home values. Well done!

Posted by Maria Morton, Kansas City Real Estate 816-560-3758 (Chartwell Kansas City Realty) over 6 years ago

I found the Broken Window Theory to be a very compelling one. Great analogy for us, it's a shame what the foreclosures are doing to our communities.

Posted by Karen Fiddler, Broker/Owner, Orange County & Lake Arrowhead, CA (949)510-2395 (Karen Parsons-Fiddler, Broker 949-510-2395) over 6 years ago


Excellent post!  I love the Broken Window theory and find it to be very true.  Sometimes it makes a ton of sense to help your neighbors and keep the value of your own neighborhood.

We handle a lot of luxury rental homes as property managers.  We make big efforts to make sure the homes LOOK BETTER than the rest of the neighborhood, as the first thing to get neighbors and HOA's excited is a poorly cared for home that they know is leased!  We take pride in this and now neighbors are no longer leary of having a luxury rental home on their block - it's preferrable than a low sales comparable.

All the best, Michelle

Posted by Michelle Francis, Realtor, Buckhead Atlanta Homes for Sale & Lease (Tim Francis Realty LLC) over 6 years ago

Very interesting read!

Posted by Andrew Mooers | 207.532.6573, Northern Maine Real Estate-Aroostook County Broker (MOOERS REALTY) over 6 years ago

Jon: It is best for all of us to be the "caretakers" of our own communities--especially if we are going to be selling homes there too!

Maria: Glad you can relate to it!

Karen: Isn't that so true? It calls us to go above and beyond the call of duty though, and I for one am on board if that is what is needed!

Michelle: YouI  got it! It makes so much sense that I have rolled up my sleeves and in the Fall I raked the lawn of a house that looked abandoned---sure enough, no one came to the door--no one came home from work. It still sits there!

Andrew: Glad you enjoyed it and let's hope the whole RE community hears it too! (the call, I mean! :)

Posted by Paula Hathaway, REALTOR, LBA, ...The Most Informed Agent In The Hamptons! (Douglas Elliman Real Estate) over 6 years ago

Hey Paula,


Doesn't this tie in with the book Tipping Point by Maclom Gladwell.  I believe he comments on how significant

small things make an bigger effect on society perceptions.



Posted by Val Rensink (HomeSource Lamoreaux Group) over 6 years ago

Great analogy, Paula.  I love the cracked window theory, and it obviously has been proven to be true.  Now, we need to get some other large cities on board with their own clean up.  Definitely a great tie in to real estate.  I think Detroit is a perfect example of how this works in the negative.  When I went through there last year I was stunned at the abandoned neighborhoods, not just houses.  

Posted by Mike Cooper, Your Winchester, VA Real Estate Sales Pro (Cornerstone Business Group Inc) over 6 years ago

Val: Yes I recall a mention of that in his book--it's been many years since I read that one and it may not have seemed as compelling then as it is now; we must take the bull by the horn now or we will suffer unmentionable harm from all of the decrepit houses in run-down neighborhoods...a creeping destruction that is seen only when it is too late to do anything about it!

Mike: ....and Detrioit is a perfect example of what I am talking about---I was born and raised in Michigan and I watched as the malaise of unemployment evolved into the crime ridden streets of Flint and Detroit....nothing can compare to the utter devastation of these 2 cities. Flint has begun the clean-up and it looks to be returning somewhat to it's glory days but in Detroit, they burn buildings for sport and then watch them burn to the ground without so much as a fair-thee-well! There is so much out and out lawlessness there that it looks like a place in Hell, not the largest city in one of the most beautiful states in the Union: "The Great Lakes State"!

Posted by Paula Hathaway, REALTOR, LBA, ...The Most Informed Agent In The Hamptons! (Douglas Elliman Real Estate) over 6 years ago

What an interesting theory and your application of it to real estate and neighborhoods makes perfect sense. A little neighborhood clean up can go a long way to making the entire neighborhood successful.


Posted by Mel Ahrens, MBA, Kelly Right Real Estate, Customized Choices for your Real Estate Needs (Kelly Right Real Estate) over 6 years ago

Gretchen: It has been done!--that is the beauty of the concept! If we all understood this at some deep level, there would be none of the blight that we are beginning to see in some of the most beautiful cities and communities in America! Have you ever driven through Switzerland or Italy or France? Have you seen blight anywhere in those countries? I am not saying they are perfect people--they are just very conscious of the state of things...and they are forever sweeping the streets and sidewalks! We would be so much further ahead today in our pretty towns and cities if we took that same awreness and applied it to our surroundings....we can all do it...bit by bit!

Posted by Paula Hathaway, REALTOR, LBA, ...The Most Informed Agent In The Hamptons! (Douglas Elliman Real Estate) over 6 years ago

So true! If we report zoning and ordinance violations, and if the city takes action, we can avoid some of this. Long grass, newspapers on the yard and mail overflowing are sure signs the property is abandoned which leads to problems.

Posted by Erica Ramus, MRE, Schuylkill County PA Real Estate (Erica Ramus - Ramus Realty Group - Pottsville, PA ) over 6 years ago

Thank you for the depth of this post.  I am going to bookmark it to read again!

Posted by Joy Daniels (Joy Daniels Real Estate Group, Ltd.) over 6 years ago

Paula - I think it makes a lot of sense that home that become dilapidated become problematic and lead to more to trouble.

Posted by Christine Donovan, Broker/Attorney 714-319-9751 DRE01267479 - Costa M (Donovan Blatt Realty) over 6 years ago

Paula,  If we are not part of the solution then we are part of the problem.  We all have a civic duty to participate in our communities (and in life) in a positive and constructive way.  We can't wait for someone else to take action. It all starts with us.

Posted by Kathleen Daniels, San Jose Homes for Sale-Probate & Trust Specialist (KD Realty - 408.972.1822) over 6 years ago

Paula, so true for a neighborhood as well as an individual home that shows deterioration.  People assume from the existing visual evidence.

Posted by Gabe Sanders, Stuart Florida Real Estate (Real Estate of Florida specializing in Martin County Residential Homes, Condos and Land Sales) over 6 years ago

Erica: You are so right--I have reported things that do not look right on a property over the years so I know that it works. As an example: I saw a flat bed truck  that sat there for several days in front of a neighboring home ---it was so large that cars had to drive into the oncoming lane to avoid running into it. The thing was so obstructive that I reported it to the Village zoning department--just called Village Hall and got in touch with the right party. The truck was removed and the owner of the house was really upset because he used it to transport his race car!!! Never mind what it looked like; never mind that it interfered with everyone elses way of life on his street---he used it for his race car and felt he should be able to do that---He did it again and was fined a huge amount of money and he continued until he finally gave up and moved his race car to a storage unit which allowed him to leave the truck there too. Meanwhile, the neighborhood has improved over the years and this is just one example of how we CAN affect the state and condition of our communities.

Joy: Thank you and I hope you can see your way to get on board too---every ones help is needed now...we must keep on top of the one thing that we can influence int his very difficult market!

Posted by Paula Hathaway, REALTOR, LBA, ...The Most Informed Agent In The Hamptons! (Douglas Elliman Real Estate) over 6 years ago

Christine: It is called "Blight" for a reason---it does bring down an entire area and even a city or town!

Kathleen: Very well said--I can visualize a nationwide campaign beginning: "The Broken Window Campaign" and I can see it on bumpers and building windows and other places that are tipping into the throws of decrepitude. If we all get involved in this movement, we can make a monumental difference in our lives and thus our businesses!

Gabe: You are so right!  Why let that assumption dictate our lively-hoods? I can see it being an effective movement in big cities too---or may I say especially in big cities!

Posted by Paula Hathaway, REALTOR, LBA, ...The Most Informed Agent In The Hamptons! (Douglas Elliman Real Estate) over 6 years ago

Really engaging post and a great segway to applying the Broken Window Theory to our business. It's a brilliant, proven concept and kudos to you for bringing it home to us to apply in our own industry. Thanks!

Posted by Charlie Dresen, Steamboat Springs, CO e-Pro (Steamboat Sotheby's International Realty) over 6 years ago

Charlie: Thank you for your observations---It is really something when we are in this position to be able to affect how our profession evolves. It is also rare when we can actually take a "proven concept" and apply it to our personal lives AND out profession!

Posted by Paula Hathaway, REALTOR, LBA, ...The Most Informed Agent In The Hamptons! (Douglas Elliman Real Estate) over 6 years ago

Paula this theory should be sent to all asset managers and bankers in charge of their reo homes. A home that is not kept up attracts crime. I fully agree with the posting of signs stating bank owned, foreclosure and auction as billboards that attract crime. Have a great Tuesday

Posted by Scott Godzyk, One of Manchester NH's Leading Agents (Godzyk Real Estate Services) over 6 years ago

I am fortunate to work in an area with very few distressed properties, but I agree we need to be "early responders" to neglected homes and eyesores in the communities we represent and reside.

Posted by Norma Toering Broker for Palos Verdes and Beach Cities, Palos Verdes Luxury Homes in L.A. (Charlemagne International Properties) over 6 years ago

Scott: You are right and it is too bad that the "Big Banks" never really see the decreptitude that has begun to sweep nation! Smaller banks do see it and they have the initiative to make sure these negative influences don't overwhelm an area.

Norma: I do too--but that does not mean we won't! Already there is a sign of abandonment on one of the better streets here in the Village and I won't let that affect my home or my property! I will be out there, sleeves rolled up and broom in hand of I have to!

Posted by Paula Hathaway, REALTOR, LBA, ...The Most Informed Agent In The Hamptons! (Douglas Elliman Real Estate) over 6 years ago

Paula what an extraordinary powerful post. Tipping Point has been on my to-read list for a while, but I never heard of the broken window theory. Here on AR I have explored the idea of working to better REO properties with banks and agents, but there was no interest. Maybe now is a better time.

Posted by Marie Graham, Westchester County Interior Decorator, Home Stager (Owner, The Refreshed Home White Plains NY) over 6 years ago

Hi Paula, I took on a short sale listing 2 years ago that closed a month ago. During that time I had the neighbors keep an eye on it and I came by once a day to check things out. Between all of us, we mowed the lawn and shoveled snow. I do the same for another short sale listing I now have UC. It keeps the kids away because vacant homes are a hang out haven for them. Luckily in my area there are not too many abandoned homes.

Posted by Jackie Connelly-Fornuff, "Moving at The Speed of YOU!" (Douglas Elliman Real Estate in Babylon NY) over 6 years ago

Great post Paula.  I too became aware of the broken window theory from Galswell's book.  It is very interesting that we all measure our standards by what is around us.  If the community accepts broken windows and poorly maintained landscaping in one hoase then that becomes acceptable in others.  It is funny how this keepimng up with the Joneses mentality translates into greater propertyvalues for all.  It will be interesting to see what a larger influx of forclosurers will do to this theory.

Posted by Thom Disch, Our Broker Dynamix System generates quality leads (Broker Dynamix) over 6 years ago

Paula, there is truth to the broken window theory. This is why I believe short sales are a better alternative to our mortgage crisis than foreclosures. Although I've seen many bank-owned homes on the market with mowed front yards, new paint and carpet. Kudos to the banks who go the extra mile to make these homes presentable.

Posted by Pamela Seley, Residential Real Estate Agent serving SW RivCo CA (West Coast Realty Division) over 6 years ago

Paula, interesting thoughts.  I can see that this theory applies to many facets of life, as does it corollary, as best described by "Paying it forward"

Posted by Chris Smith, South Simcoe, Caledon, King, Orangeville Real Esta (Re/Max Chay Realty Inc., Brokerage) over 6 years ago

What a fabulous post.  I am going to take the concept to my Neighborhood Association meeting next Monday night and organize a group of people who will do what we can legally to address the homes in our area that need to be tended to.  We had actually discussed this at length at our last meeting but you have put the concept into a reality.  Thanks so much.

Posted by Marnie Matarese, Showing you the best of Sarasota! (DWELL REAL ESTATE) over 6 years ago

Hi Paula,

Very true-great post. The world would be a much better place if everyone would pick up trash anywhere we see it.

Posted by Wayne Jackson, North Idaho Realtor, Serving Coeur dnullAlene and Hayden Lake (Lakeshore Realty 208-714-4109) over 6 years ago

We bought our foreclosure house in a very nice area and nothing looked out of sorts with the house.  We purchased it before we sold our home so we could make some cosmetic changes before we moved in (we gutted one bathroom & added quartz counters in the kitchen with a new sink, etc.).  We started moving some items to the house (helped to declutter the home we lived in).

Unfortunately, we brought some of our extra real estate supplies and stored them in one of the sheds.  This included some of our newer sentrilockboxes.  Some neighborhood kids were "camping out" in our big back yard and got into the shed.  They actually had set up lawn chairs in the shed in a circle.  They took our sentrilockboxes - why - I have no idea as they sure couldn't use them.

Why did this happen in a nice neighborhood?  I think one of the reasons was that the house next to us was a vacant short sale (not many in my area but these two were side by side).  The yards are large and the kids had some privacy in our shed.  The other neighbor most likely didn't hear them at all.

When we saw our signs outside the sheds and realized our lockboxes were missing we put a chain lock on our gate to the back and put a lock on the shed (we should have done that in the beginning, but we didn't think we'd be facing this).  I sometimes wondered if they had ever gotten into the house as the (attached) garage door had missing glass with a board over it when we purchased it.  This cracked window was not visible to the street and maybe at one time during the foreclosure process these kids were partying in the garage and/or house.

Posted by Judy Orr, SW & Near West Chicago suburbs (HomeSmart Realty Group) over 6 years ago

wow, interesting observation/revelation. It's our industry, who better than to police it.


I like it, thanks Paula

Posted by Jack Snyder, Loan Officer, San Clemente, Orange County, Califor (Loan Officer in Orange County for Omni-Fund Inc.) over 6 years ago

This is a great topic and it makes me wonder about my own neighborhood, where a short seller moved out but has left debris piles in their front yard.    There's a big mattress, broken household items, too much for me to do anything about.    A call to the listing agent did no good.    There is no "city" official as we are out in the country.   I'm not sure what to do ... meanwhile my office has a nice home listed right around the corner.

Posted by M.C. Dwyer, Santa Cruz Mountains Property Specialist (Century 21 Showcase REALTORs) over 6 years ago

Great post. I read all the comments and thank you for your very relentless responses. However, I must take issue with Winston's comment:

" living in S. Florida and having the element of a few ethnic races finding their way here, you just wonder if they ever had soap and water where they came from. Personally, I don't think this mindset will ever change and if it does it may take a few more generations."

We've been tracking some interesting trends in Southeast LA's Compton (close to Watts) for the acquisition of some distressed properties recently. This once filth, drug and criminal ridden slum is slowiy being transformed by the Hispanic families who are moving into this once black dominated community. Talk about gentrification! These Hispanic families are taking pride in homeownership and are putting time, money, effort and enthusiasm into improving these communities to the likes of which Compton hasn't seen for decades.

Also one only has to compare the many areas of downtrodden Detroit to the modern day Cityscapes of Tokyo and Hirosima and one would wonder who really suffered from the ravages of a nuclear bomb more.

Here in San Diego we RE professionals don't have to fix the broken windows very often if at all. Most of the communities that have been affected and subjected to high incidents of foreclosure and abandonment seem to be taking care of a great deal of the blight themselves.

I'm often see neighbors watering plants, weeding and even mowing lawns of empty homes in their neihborhoods. Not necessarily true in every neighborhood but there is certainly a fair share of it going on.

Posted by John DL Arendsen, Crest Backyard Homes "ADU" dealer & Contractor (CREST BACKYARD HOMES, ON THE LEVEL GENERAL & FACTORY BUILT HOME CONTRACTOR, TAG REAL ESTATE SALES & INVESTMENTS) over 6 years ago

Marie: I think it is time--the problem with even just one house in a neighborhood that is decrepit is that it elicits a feeling of desparation and once that is evident it is already a crisis.

Jackie: The same thing happened here---after the kids left, a real criminal element moved in and they can do so much damage. Then the house is left to rot into the ground..In 2 cases, no one wanted to buy them and so the town came in and bulldozed them and left them as vacant lots---better than what was there!

Dynamix: It is interesting how the influences will sway a community one way or another!

Judy: Your case is so much like the many homes here that have been taken over by the local workers who don't come form here and can't afford the rents here---they just wait for a house to look like it is vacant and then they move in to it, lay claim to it and there is no way to get them out! "Squatters Rights" is what they claim and there goes the neighborhood!!!

Posted by Paula Hathaway, REALTOR, LBA, ...The Most Informed Agent In The Hamptons! (Douglas Elliman Real Estate) over 6 years ago

I agree that one home in disrepair or neglect can bring down all the surrounding homes. Even if it doesn't lead to crime, it brings down property values because buyers don't want to live near the mess.

I'd never heard of the broken window theory, but did see it in action once. Someone abandoned a VW Bug on the County road. It sat there for a quite a while, then sustained some damage. Soon, it was a wreck - as if half the people going by had stopped to take a whack at it.

I have no idea why it sat there for so long. Once my car broke down on a Sunday and I had to wait until Monday to get a tow truck. It already had a sticker saying it would be impounded within hours if I didn't move it. (Maybe that was an empty threat?)

Posted by Marte Cliff, Your real estate writer (Marte Cliff Copywriting) over 6 years ago

Jack: I think it will help all of the communities who are suffering so much in this housing market. Here, we have a second home market which means that a house can sit empty just because the owners live elsewhere...but the surrounding properties help to shore up the problematic ones for only a short period of time---then the problems show and the houses literally begins to disintegrate...

M.C.: There is always a county who has responsiblility to handle this sort of thing and I would call the county seat...the person in charge is usually the county clerk and you need to call that individual--if he/she can't help you  they should be able to tell you who will! This is a health issue too don't forget and they usually get involved in sanitation issues--they can be royal pains when it comes to that sort of thing!


Posted by Paula Hathaway, REALTOR, LBA, ...The Most Informed Agent In The Hamptons! (Douglas Elliman Real Estate) over 6 years ago

John: Believe me, it does not take one category of person to make a wreak of a neighborhood--there are all kinds of degredation having NOTHING to do with ethnicity. We are talking here about the crack in the proverbial wall of protection from vermin and a criminal element....It only takes a broken window after all...That is a fact. It is so encouraging to read your reports on the areas near you! I feel a certain pity for the folks who don't "get it"---those who only criticize and do nothing. As far as Detroit goes, the decrepitude has been on-going for so long and the population has diminished so much that the only people left are the fire setters and the drug sad to see that city fade into oblivion.

Marte: Thanks for sharing the VW bug story--I can remember the same thing happening where I grew up only it was a red Nash Rambler at that time. Go figure how the authorities found your car so fast...but it is an indication of a caring community and even though it takes the heavy handedness of the law it does serve a good purpose! :)

Posted by Paula Hathaway, REALTOR, LBA, ...The Most Informed Agent In The Hamptons! (Douglas Elliman Real Estate) over 6 years ago

Paula, very interesting theory, and so true. I have an REO listing in South San Francisco that has had problems from neighborhood gangs in the past. Since I started going there every day to make sure it is secure and all the trash picked up - the problems with the locals have vanished.

Posted by John M. Scott, Broker / Owner San Francisco Bay Area (BRE # 01442690, Scott Keys Properties) over 6 years ago

When I look at pictures from the inner city of Detroit I am shocked to see how far things can sink.  This is happening now and all around us.  What are we going to do about it?

Posted by Georgie Hunter R(S) 58089, Maui Real Estate sales and lifestyle info (Hawai'i Life Real Estate Brokers) over 6 years ago

John: Good for you! Obviously it makes a difference if there is attention being paid to a property--keeping the place looking like it is lived in is over half the battle! Glad you kept on top of it !

Georgina: I ask the same thing! Are we going to stand by and watch the disintegration of our world? This is how it starts, by the way...bit by bit, the chipping away of all the surrounding appeal and attractive parts of our neighborhoods and with no one to see to it that the desintegration stops, we can do no more than watch it all slip away..this is a tradgedy unless we stop it in the very beginning.

Posted by Paula Hathaway, REALTOR, LBA, ...The Most Informed Agent In The Hamptons! (Douglas Elliman Real Estate) over 6 years ago

Paula - thanks for your idea to call the County Clerk - I'm on it!

Posted by M.C. Dwyer, Santa Cruz Mountains Property Specialist (Century 21 Showcase REALTORs) over 6 years ago

In most instances code enforcement  has no teeth. Live in a small town. The big cities in decay won't change unless like Compton different people move in and start to change the community. I believe it is not an agents job to change the world. Takes the whole community.

Posted by Bill Reddington, Destin Florida Real Estate (Re/max Southern Realty) over 6 years ago

Bill: All it takes is one to start the ball rolling!---all it takes is one!

Posted by Paula Hathaway, REALTOR, LBA, ...The Most Informed Agent In The Hamptons! (Douglas Elliman Real Estate) over 6 years ago

I have clients ask me if a neighborhood is a "Good Neighborhood" and I always tell them that is subjective, but to look at the rest of the homes on the street and see how well kept they are.  That is s good indication.

Posted by Gene Riemenschneider, Turning Houses into Homes (Home Point Real Estate) over 6 years ago

Great post, Paula, and you are so right about this.  Thanks for putting it out there and reminding us all to do our parts!

Posted by DeeDee Riley, Realtor - El Dorado Hills & the Surrounding Areas (Lyon Real Estate - El Dorado Hills CA) over 6 years ago

Great analogy, yet many neighborhoods have insurmountable consequences created by investors and their tenants. Getting tenants or home owners to accept your perspective should be a lesson learned, shouldn't it?

Posted by Kimo Jarrett, Pro Lifestyle Solutions (WikiWiki Realty) over 6 years ago

Hi Paula, excellent post!  Very unique and thought provoking.  I will definately look at my neighborhood a little different as I do my morning walk in a few minutes.

Posted by Bob Miller, The Ocala Dream Team (Keller Williams Cornerstone Realty) over 6 years ago

Fantastic article! What an interesting study, and it totally makes sense. We definitely are more of the eyes out there seeing numerous homes a week.

Posted by Sylvie Stuart, Home Buying, Home Selling and Investment - Flagsta (Realty One Group Mountain Desert 928-600-2765) over 6 years ago

Gene: It sure is---maybe more than we will ever know under the circumstances. How many times does a buyer move into their new house and  realize there is no one living in the house next door? That the papers are piling up not because the homeowner is on vacation---but because they have left--gone forever! This is happening everywhere now and may increase as the foreclosure pressures build even more.

Dee Dee: The way I look at it is: We are out there opening doors all the time for ourselves, openhouses, customers etc....why not make a mental note of a neighboring house--make a point of checking it out each time you are nearby. This is not too much to ask and it may even give us the boost we need in our professional standing in a community if we are viewed as someone who can keep up or improve an area?

Kimo: All I know is that once it starts, blight is almost impossible to get rid of---so if you see the messy yard, the piles of garbage or newspapers, clean it up or ask someone to do it--how much can that cost? It can be written off for goodness sake. It is contagious by the way; once a yard is cleaned up a window repaired and a general neatness is seen by the surrounding houses--it does encourage the others to do the same.


Posted by Paula Hathaway, REALTOR, LBA, ...The Most Informed Agent In The Hamptons! (Douglas Elliman Real Estate) over 6 years ago

Bob: I will too! In fact, we all should do just that--if every one of us in the real estate profession does this, the changes you will see will be truly remarkable.

Sylvie: I can bet that if one of us starts the clean-up in an area of an abandoned home, that gets out there in the ether....we benefit from it in so many ways--ways that are subtle and not necessarily seen for a while. This is the sort of "raising the bar" that can happen in our profession and it will change a community for the better--and that is good!...wouldnt it be nice to hear through the grape-vine: "Did you know what agetn so-and-so did? He/she cleaned up the yard of that old run down house down the street---the one in foreclosure!"

Posted by Paula Hathaway, REALTOR, LBA, ...The Most Informed Agent In The Hamptons! (Douglas Elliman Real Estate) over 6 years ago

Hi Paula,


This is my first introduction to the Broken Window Theory. I read your blog and thought Wow! How good is this! Great advice for any neighbourhood.



Posted by Ranji Singh (Century 21 Heritage Group Ltd.) over 6 years ago

Ranji: you are so right! Let's all take the concept to heart in our profession and watch as things get bertter all the way around--including prices! :)

Posted by Paula Hathaway, REALTOR, LBA, ...The Most Informed Agent In The Hamptons! (Douglas Elliman Real Estate) over 6 years ago

Pamela: You are right--the short sale process is a much "cleaner" one and can make for a better community in general---just be careful that the lawn does get mowed and that the papers do not pile up though---I have seen that happen on short sales....

Chris: you are correct--it applies to many other aspects of life because it is a real visual concept and most people are visual in their ability to comprehend things: If they see it they "get it!"

Marnie: Good luck with that---what a great idea! Taking it to the homeowners association pulls it into the realm of stark reality to all who live there...that should do it!...and Marnie, please let us know what the outcome and the recation is, if you don't mind! That would make a very interesting post too!

Posted by Paula Hathaway, REALTOR, LBA, ...The Most Informed Agent In The Hamptons! (Douglas Elliman Real Estate) over 6 years ago

Great point.  The same can be said of rooms.  A messy room announces it's permission for others to throw items on the piles, while a clean room is announcing it's intention to stay clean and people are less likely to  toss items on the floor.

We see this in my neighborhood.  The home across the street from me has been vacant for 2 years, with no indication from the bank that they will sell it anytime soon.  A group of neighbors maintain the yard to keep it from looking abandoned.

Posted by Kristen Wheatley, Supporting Success - Best Job in the World! (Better Homes & Gardens | The Masiello Group) over 6 years ago

Kristen: Now that is neighborly! I think they are to be commended for the clean-up...if more people did that there would be less "blight" to deal with and the problematic homes would not negatively effect the others property ideal situtation!

Posted by Paula Hathaway, REALTOR, LBA, ...The Most Informed Agent In The Hamptons! (Douglas Elliman Real Estate) over 6 years ago

Great post, Paula.  I, too, noticed the tie to Malcolm Gladwell's book The Tipping Point.

In remote areas, one person dumping trash seems to be an invitation to use that spoiled spot as invitation that it is OK to dump more there.

Posted by John Mosier, Prescott's Patriot Agent 928 533-8142 (Realty ONE Group Mountain Desert) over 6 years ago

Paula - not to be negative, but just a note. Mayor Juliani took office 1/1/1994, so it was much later that he started the clean-up process.

I also do not see how the municipalities and other authorities can intervene when there is an abandoned property. Foreclosure has to take its course, and authorities have no authority, at least I can't see one, to do much if anything at all.

Posted by Jon Zolsky, Daytona Beach, FL, Buy Daytona condos for heavenly good prices (Daytona Condo Realty, 386-405-4408) over 6 years ago

Paula - I read about this theory. I think we need to be careful not to expand it. The broken window in a car cause activity towards this car, not the buildings around, not to community where the car is.

The abandoned house is not a great sight, but does it really affect the community? In any community here there are avandoned houses, but unless there are many of them, they do not really define the community.

Using the car example, if there is an abandoned house, you may see homeless getting in, but the same homeless would not go in other homes.

Posted by Jon Zolsky, Daytona Beach, FL, Buy Daytona condos for heavenly good prices (Daytona Condo Realty, 386-405-4408) over 6 years ago

Great blast from the past.

I'll help clean up some of this spam.

Posted by Pete Xavier, Outstanding Agent Referrals-Nationwide (Investments to Luxury) about 6 years ago