The neighbors are dead – The Boston Globe

Bridget Atkins, her husband, Brian Bruso, along 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 is something to be said for not worrying about the neighbors partying or complaining about your dog or the height of your grass.

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

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

Make no bones about it: There are still growing pains about how best to handle the “neighbors.”

Bridget Atkins and her husband, Brian Bruso, sit on a stone wall on their property adjacent to West Sutton Cemetery in Sutton. Carlin Stiehl for The Boston Globe

The Atkins’ home once belonged to the cemetery groundskeeper, and they eventually put up a 6-foot fence to better separate those still of this earth with the, ah, neighborhood’s permanent residents.

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

Bridget Atkins and her husband, Brian Bruso, of Sutton stand against their fence in West Sutton Cemetery.Carlin Stiehl for The Boston Globe

Living next to a cemetery may not be at the top of everyone’s house-hunting wish list, but there are plenty of people who have no qualms about it. It isn’t 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 said has nine graveyards, but counts 73 — had median home values nearly $124,000 more than the typical Boston-area price, according to the report.

While there are plenty of cemetery-rich neighborhoods in the United States where property values are less than their metropolitan area’s average, the Zillow report chalks this up to other factors. The Mission-Garin neighborhood outside San Francisco, in Hayward, Calif., had median home values $339,200 less than the metro as a whole, but that could be due to its greater distance to job centers in Silicon Valley and downtown San Francisco.

But keep in mind: For every home there is a buyer, or so people say.

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

Those interviewed for this story did not appear concerned by the graveyard’s potential impact on their property values. In a hot housing market like New England, it can be hard to be too choosy when it comes to picking out a house.

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

“One part of my house faces are all graves from the 1800s, so it’s almost historic-looking.”

A view from the cemetery toward Michael Panagako’s Montgomery, Vt., home cast in the moonlight.Michael Panagako

Panagako got his swimming hole after purchasing the house a decade ago, and he visits the cemetery daily when he’s there. It features a walking trail that heads into town, is lined with maple trees, and offers views of the mountains.

But there have been creepy 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 if there’s a moon, because there’s such pine tree cover. But then you reach the really beautiful cemetery. It’s almost like a reward at the end of that tunnel, and then people are less freaked out,” Panagako said. “But I think the scariest thing I’ve ever seen up there is another human being at two in the morning. That’s terrifying.”

Moonrise over Montgomery Center Cemetery in Vt.Michael Panagako

He’s not the only one to find the natural beauty in cemetery-adjacent living. Charlie Greener, who owns Perry’s Fine Wine & Liquors in Provincetown with his husband, William Marshall, grew up next to a cemetery in West London and saw it as a cool space, not the stuff of nightmares.

“We used to go biking in it. Basically, it became like an extension of our garden,” Greener said. “There were lots of places to go hide.”

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

Greener and Marshall were later thrown for a loop when they found out a condo they later purchased as a married couple near London’s Borough Market ended up being next to a burial ground — Crossbones Graveyard — for prostitutes dating back to the 1500s.

“Big developments were going on all around us,” Marshall said. “ I loved knowing that we were next to a cemetery because it protected our flat from being infringed upon by those new buildings … and the seances gave us something to giggle about.”

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

Sometimes home prices are the most frightening thing.

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