Dead-end streets offer the good life But please, call them cul-de-sacs today

August 16, 1992|By James M. Woodard | James M. Woodard,Copley News Service

Cul-de-sac living has its perks. Most families who purchase a home on a cul-de-sac street consider the low traffic flow and quiet environment. But there are more benefits.

Years ago these streets, with only one point of entry and exit, were commonly called "dead-end streets." Later, homebuilders and brokers didn't like the negative connotation of that term so they changed it to "circle drive" in their advertising.

We now simply call them cul-de-sacs -- a French term meaning "bottom of a sack." Webster's New World Dictionary defines the term as a passage or position with only one outlet. Most cul-de-sac homeowners like it that way.

These little enclave communities are particularly appealing to families with small children. It provides a comparatively safe place to play, and cul-de-sac kids tend to become close friends.

In fact, all family members enjoy the cul-de-sac social life in their mini-community. Some hold an annual "block party" -- usually in the summer -- where their cul-de-sac street is blocked off from traffic and families move into the street for a fun bash.

Such a neighborhood social event was recently held on a cul-de-sac near my residence. The street was blocked off from while the families enjoyed a lavish barbecue and community fun time. Everyone brought food and drinks.

Activities at the block party included games and contests -- from volleyball to water balloon fights. The homeowners even had special T-shirts designed for the event.

Block parties of this type, where traffic is stopped, usually must be approved by the city. In some communities, each application is normally reviewed and approved by both the city police department and traffic engineering department. The application also must be signed by a majority of residents on the blocked-off street.

These festive neighborhood social get-togethers are not only fun for children and adults, they also enhance security for area homes. When families know each other well, they're more apt to keep an eye on other homes in the neighborhood and report anything suspicious.

All these special benefits have an impact on home values. A quality cul-de-sac home -- particularly in communities that show solid pride of ownership -- will typically cost more than other comparable homes, and they tend to retain their value better than others.

*

Real estate salespeople often get a bum rap. They're described as overzealous, commission-hungry, hard-sell promoters.

But many do not fall into that category. Consider this example of "above and beyond the call of duty" service:

Elsie Hollis, 86, has been living in her same California home since 1937. Here, she and her husband raised three children. Now a widow, she found it increasingly difficult to take care of the house, so she decided to sell it and live with her daughter and family.

She called on Ken Lawrence, an associate with a real estate firm, to handle the sale of her home. The service she received extended far beyond a home sale.

When the sale entered escrow, Mr. Lawrence started packing her belongings in preparation for the move to her daughter's home.

Mr. Lawrence also repaired a large hole in the closet, mowed the lawn, painted portions of the house, held a garage sale, took trash to the dump and handled other transition chores. He even brought chocolate chip cookies for his client and breakfast for her family during their recent visit.

"Mrs. Hollis has lived in this house for 54 years and was rightfully proud of her home and what she and her husband accomplished since their early dust bowl days," Mr. Lawrence said. "She needed and deserved the extra service."

In a note to the brokerage firm, Mrs. Hollis wrote, "Mr. Lawrence was a tremendous help, with a lot of extra caring. I can't begin to list all the things he did. He went far above and beyond his professional service obligation."

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