The neighbors are dead

Buying a house

What it’s like to live next to a graveyard… ‘I remember walking through [our] yard, and I was like, ‘Oh my God, am I standing on somebody?’ “

The view from Montgomery Center Cemetery to Michael Panagako’s vacation home in Montgomery, Vt. (Michael Panagako)

Some real estate deals are a dead end, and some are adjacent to a dead end, literally.

People who buy homes next to cemeteries don’t seem to take the proximity of their property to the deceased as a sign to sleep with one eye open or to string garlic to ward off vampires. Instead, many seem to come to terms with living near a cemetery in stride — eventually.

“It took me a while to relax because it was weird. And then when you’re home alone and you hear noises… It’s like, Oh, my God, I’m in “Ghostbusters”, said Bridget Atkins, who lives with her husband, Brian Bruso, next to a cemetery in Sutton. “But now it’s pretty cool. We both really love him.

Two people and two dogs stand next to a barn that adjoins a cemetery. It is autumn and the sky is cloudless.
Bridget Atkins, her husband, Brian Bruso, with their dogs Yeti (left) and Loki (right), on their property adjacent to West Sutton Cemetery in Sutton. – Carlin Stiehl for the Boston Globe

There’s something to be said for not worrying about partying neighbors or complaining about your dog or the height of your grass.

“You don’t really have to worry about neighbors,” Bridget said. “They’re pretty quiet.”

Brian lived in the house for a year before Bridget moved in four years ago.

Don’t worry: there are still growing difficulties in knowing how best to manage the “neighbors”.

Two people sit on a stone wall with their backs to a graveyard in the fall.
Brian Bruso and his wife, Bridget Atkins, sit on a stone wall on their property in Sutton, which is next to West Sutton Cemetery. – Carlin Stiehl for the Boston Globe

The Atkins’ home once belonged to the cemetery groundskeeper, and they eventually erected a 6-foot fence to better separate those who are still of this land from the, uh, permanent residents of the neighborhood.

“There are old headstones that we found while we were cleaning up the yard,” Atkins said. “I remember going through [our] yard, and I was like, Oh, my God, am I standing on someone?

Living next to a cemetery might not be at the top of everyone’s wish list, but there are plenty of people who have no qualms about it. It’s not necessarily a case of “Death Becomes Her” when it comes to property values.

A 2019 Zillow report indicated that homes in Nashville’s Seward Hall neighborhood, which is home to 15 cemeteries, were generally worth at least $320,000 more than the typical median-priced home in the city. West Roxbury — which the Zillow Report has nine cemeteries, but has 73 — had a median home value nearly $124,000 more than the typical Boston-area price, according to the report.

Although there are many cemetery-rich neighborhoods in the United States where property values ​​are below their metro area average, the Zillow Report attributes this to other factors. The Mission-Garin neighborhood outside of San Francisco in Hayward, Calif., had a median home value $339,200 lower than the Metro as a whole, but that could be due to its greater distance from to employment centers in Silicon Valley and downtown San Francisco.

But keep in mind: for every house there is a buyer, people say.

“I’ve found that buyers see a cemetery and either feel connected to or removed from it,” said Wendy Matthews, an agent at Hammond Residential Real Estate who regularly does business in West Roxbury. “For anyone who won’t buy a house adjacent to a cemetery, there are those who will. I find more buyers ask if there has been a death in the home than worry about cemeteries.

Those interviewed for this article did not seem concerned about the cemetery’s potential impact on the value of their properties. In a hot housing market like New England, it can be hard to be too picky when it comes to choosing a home.

“It’s the only house in town with a swimming hole,” Boston-based Michael Panagako said of his vacation home, which sits next to a cemetery in Montgomery, Vermont. . “There were almost blinders on. It wasn’t an inconvenience, and it wasn’t like, Yeah, a cemetery.

“Part of the fronts of my house are all graves from the 1800s, so it’s almost historic.”

The view of the cemetery at night. -Michael Panagako

Panagako got his swimming hole after buying the house ten years ago, and he visits the cemetery every day when he is there. It has a walking path that leads to the town, is bordered by maple trees and offers a view of the mountains.

But there were scary moments.

“You walk through this pine forest to connect the old cemetery to the new cemetery on this ridge, and that walk is pitch black at night, even though there’s a moon, because there’s such a blanket of pine trees . But then you reach the very beautiful cemetery. It’s almost like a reward at the end of that tunnel, and then people are less panicked,” Panagako said. “But I think the scariest thing I’ve never seen up there is another human being at 2 a.m. It’s terrifying.

The moon rises over Montgomery Center Cemetery in Montgomery, Vt. -Michael Panagako

He’s not the only one to find the natural beauty of living next to a cemetery. Charlie Greener, owner of Perry’s Fine Wine & Liquors in Provincetown with her husband, William Marshall, grew up next to a cemetery in west London and saw it as a cool space, not a nightmare.

“We used to cycle there. Basically it became like an extension of our garden,” Greener said. “There were plenty of places to hide.”

Of course, it also came with lessons from parents on where not stand in relation to a tombstone.

Greener and Marshall were then thrown into a loop when they discovered that a flat they later bought as a married couple near London’s Borough Market ended up next to a graveyard – Crossbones Graveyard – for prostitutes dating back to the 1500s.

“Great developments were happening all around us,” Marshall said. “I loved knowing we were next to a graveyard as it protected our apartment from intrusions from these new buildings…and the sessions gave us a laugh. »

However, the cemetery didn’t really deter buyers: The condo’s property value doubled by the time Greener and Marshall sold it in 2014.

Sometimes house prices are the scariest thing.

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