Want More Real Estate? A Radical Way To Increase Your Yard Space

by Silicon Valley Blogger on 2007-09-2720

When I visit my relatives over in New Jersey and Virginia, I often marvel at the acreage they’ve got over there. When you say you live in suburbia, you’re talking about these houses that are sitting smack on huge parcels of land that are green as far as the eye can see. There’s so much running room and play space in those yards, you wouldn’t need to visit the parks around there.

For those of us out who live in denser areas where we have more house than we do land, we need to make do with our public parks and other facilities to host our barbecues, weddings, birthday parties, picnics and all other get togethers. It’s a choice we make by living in more urban neighborhoods and highly developed areas. But till now, I thought that the only choice we got for increasing our property space was to move: upgrading to a more expensive home or to a lower cost of living area, more typically in those states that have higher property affordability and bigger land parcels.

But I’ve picked up on a novel idea. It may sound like a radical approach especially in this day and age when neighborhoods are built on privacy and securing one’s own personal space. But for those who keep an open mind, there are benefits to trying this idea out.

neighbors and fences

So how can you enjoy more land with the real estate you already have?

What you get: you get more land, more space, more real estate.
The catch: you’ll have to like your neighbors.

Some residents have decided to drop their borders: some have actually taken down the fences that separate them from their next door neighbor. What I had observed in other parts of the nation is that in certain suburban communities, there are NO fences. I’ve found it to be refreshingly and oddly different from where I live. Why is it that some parts of the country have it this way but over here in the Bay Area, we’ve got fences, walls and gates all the way up to our heads? Is it something about having smaller lots and living closer together that make people more comfortable with visible property lines?

Taking down a fence is generally a tough sell. If only we were simply more comfortable with the neighbors to pull something like this. Obviously, it would take a lot of cooperation and planning because by dropping conjugal fences, backyard appearances coalesce and you may need to work on a more communal landscape that flows through more aesthetically.

For all the work this involves, there are these great pluses:

The Advantages Of Tearing Down Our Fences

We build a community.
You’ll be living without borders and you’ll build a community in the process.

We develop tighter relationships with neighbors.
If you like your neighbors, this could be something to consider. Hopefully you’ll like them better even after such a project. To be realistic though, I don’t see this to be an easy change for most people; after all, it’s hard enough to get along within a small family unit that it may be very unwise to enter into a permanent situation like this with others. Then again, if you live next door to your family or best friends, this becomes a very natural idea.

We enjoy more yard space.
Just like when you tear down the walls in the interior of your home, you redefine a space, and everything just seems so much bigger, grander, more spacious.

We can host more parties at home without impacting our house.
When you’ve got a sliver of a lot, your party hosting becomes confined to a tight deck or the interior of your home. When it’s nice and warm, it’s just no fun to hold things indoors.


Doing something like this may be a refreshing thought but can actually be tougher to execute. It would depend on how much you like your neighbors, whether you can agree on the use of your mutual space and if you have similar goals as they do about your surroundings. Yes it’s a wild idea, but some have done it. And if you’re the neighborly type, you may just be able to make it work.

Image Credit: Ovi.ch

Copyright © 2007 The Digerati Life. All Rights Reserved.

{ 12 comments… read them below or add one }

The Happy Rock September 27, 2007 at 9:08 am

If often seems like such a waste to drive through suburbia and see ten houses in a row all with there own playset in the backyard, and a beautiful public playground right down the street.

I am totally not a big fan of the surburbia attitudes, but yes it does require people to be willing the share and have a real community.

plonkee September 27, 2007 at 11:42 am

Given that I can’t imagine this in the UK, I’d say that its because houses are closer together (as they are here). Either that or people in the bay area have issues (as I’m convinced that we do 😉 ).

david September 27, 2007 at 1:10 pm

But for people who have pets, putting down that fence can be chaotic! The whole neighborhood is the pets backyard.

Rebecca Levinson September 27, 2007 at 1:42 pm

It is more than just a tear down of physical fences. It is also a tear down of the walls that we have put up to blockade ourselves from social interaction. When I grew up, my family knew and were even friends with the neighbors. Fastforwarding to the present, it has taken me a move across borders to a town with less than 7k to even begin to get that hometown feeling back again. I can actually let my children ride around the block here.

Rebecca D. Levinson

Brip Blap September 27, 2007 at 8:05 pm

I live in a condo association where fences surround the whole association, but there are none between homes. I live in New Jersey, and there’s an odd sense of communal living within the community but a harsh and complete separation from the town outside the (gated) community. I think this is just where America is going, and it’s sad. I am lucky to have the community communal park 20 feet from my front door and it’s become my toddler son’s playground – and it’s the way we meet other families, too. I can’t imagine living in a place where we were drastically separated from our neighbors.

Silicon Valley Blogger September 27, 2007 at 10:53 pm

The Happy Rock,
I wonder if owning a playset while the park is next door can be compared to owning exercise equipment when a public gym or work out place is around the corner? I’d only have an issue if the park is constantly crowded, otherwise, it would be *sweet* to have one next door!

My suspicion as well — that houses closer together need some property line boundaries. Or that backyard could be a shared disaster zone… 😉

If all the neighbors turned out to be pet lovers, then wouldn’t that be so much fun! A backyard zoo!

It’s sad how we barely give the neighbors a nod these days. I agree that times have changed so much that we don’t even know who’s next door anymore. I used to live in a suburb where I knew nobody except the grumpy old lady next door who told us to “go back where we came from”. We definitely needed a 10 foot fence between us and them. What a shame. Today I live in much friendlier surroundings but West Coast attitudes are just as hard to knock over.

Brip Blap,
I am definitely a “neighborly” person. It’s very strange to me that I actually have family who are hermits and have put a huge distance between them and the neighbors as their preference. I always wonder: who do we turn to when we have an emergency? If we need to have someone keep an eye on our house when we’re gone? It sure pays to have good relationships with neighbors. The fence is just a symbolic representation of how we all feel inside.

paidtwice September 28, 2007 at 7:22 am

We actually decided not to put up a fence between our yard and our neighbors when we moved in. It really has enabled us to interact with them much more. And my son runs through their yard like a crazy boy. Maybe they’ll be putting up a fence….

Swamproot September 28, 2007 at 11:57 am

I guess I have to be the one to quote Robert Frost: “Good fences make good neighbors”. I agree, and I have a VERY tiny yard.

Patrick October 3, 2007 at 12:49 pm

I have lived in houses with both fenced in yards, and yards open to the neighbors. I think without fences, people tend to get to know each other better.

I currently live in OH, and there are a lot of communities here that only allow short fences (about 3 feet high) that must be of a certain standard material, often similar to a rail fence. It’s enough to differentiate boundaries, but still leaves the yard open to viewing and allows neighbors to interact. I think it is nice.

fatlady October 17, 2007 at 10:26 am

It surely would be neat to encourage more friendliness with the neighbors. On the other hand…

We lived in a historic neighborhood where the houses were NOT snout houses. Everyone had a wall around the backyard, but because we came and went through the front or side doors , we ran into the neighbors naturally. Also, the houses were laid out so that people tended to spend time in the front yard puttering around.

When we moved uptown, we found NO ONE SPOKE TO EACH OTHER! Why? Snobbery? Well, heck…we were all rich snoots together, so I guess that wasn’t the reason. I’m sure it was because everyone had an attached garage, because there were no sidewalks, and because the front elevations were just not designed for hanging out. When you came and went, it was through a door into the house from the garage, where you locked and unlocked the car doors while the garage door was closed. “Outside” meant the backyard, where everyone had a pool.

Now as a free woman I live in a more modest neighborhood. And…uh, frankly, I kinda doubt if I’d like to take down the fences between me and the paranoid schizophrenic neighbor on one side (who had the SWAT team visit when the cops imagined he’d killed his wife) or the Hell’s Angel on the other. My German shepherd would drive the poor guys nuts barking at them. And besides….I happen to like skinny-dipping in my pool. Can’t do that without a fence!

Good fences make good neighbors. 🙂

Pinyo November 21, 2007 at 10:32 am

Good post, but I don’t think I want to do that with my current neighbors. Sound like 3x the yard work for me if this ever happens. Beside my dad use our entire front yard for his vegetable garden.

Lawn Care Service Columbia MO June 16, 2009 at 9:32 am

Hmmm – intriguing idea! We’re very used to our fences though and it may be a tough sell for a lot of people. I’m sure it depends what area of the country you’re in too. I live where lots are large and nobody has a fence – but if I lived in town I’d WANT one for the privacy.

Thanks for opening up this discussion!

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