The cemetery next door: Quiet neighbors

Gravestones in the historic Baptist Cemetery sit quietly

Gravestones in the historic Baptist Cemetery sit quietly next to a house for sale at 64 Orchard St. in Oyster Bay. (Oct. 16, 2012) (Credit: Newsday / Karen Wiles Stabile)

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It may send a ghostly shiver up your spine to imagine the dead residing right next door. But house hunters shouldn't make the grave mistake of crossing a home off the list just because it's next to a cemetery. Quite the contrary: The dearly departed make frightfully good neighbors, says Jose Martinez, who is selling a home bordering a cemetery in Brentwood.

"I would prefer living next to a cemetery than next to a nosy neighbor," Martinez says.

This is just about the only exception to the old saw that you can't pick your neighbors. In this instance, you can pick them, and they'll be the only ones guaranteed never to play loud music, steal your parking spot or sell the property to someone ghastly.

And there's another nightmarish scenario that neighbors of the deceased aren't afraid of, adds Patricia Harper of Port Washington -- development of the surrounding areas, and the potential for increased noise, congestion and traffic, disturbing the peace and threatening property values.

"I know my investment is protected, because they're not going to put up a Home Depot or 7-Eleven. No suburban blight. We're kind of insulated from that, which is so nice."

Harper is confident that there's little chance of such a disruptive neighbor moving in behind her home: The property backs up to Nassau Knolls Cemetery and Memorial Park in Port Washington. While strictly speaking, it's not impossible that a cemetery could be relocated for development, it's highly unlikely in the case of an active cemetery, says Robert Guerriero, cemetery president of Rockville Cemetery in Lynbrook. "If you'll excuse the pun, it would be a major undertaking," he says.

These five homes on the market boast the quietest neighbors in town:

 

PRICED DIRT CHEAP

Oyster Bay

$259,000

You can't beat the convenience of this 1817 Colonial, says listing agent Jacques Beauchamp of Harbortown Real Estate in Oyster Bay (516-624-2000). "The house is a really just steps from the center of the village, steps to the train station. . . . You really don't need a car." It's also mighty close to the Baptist Church Cemetery, which was deeded to the church in 1720. In fact, the right of way to enter the cemetery divides the property into two sections: One lot is 24 by 58 feet and the other is 33 by 37 feet.

There's one last perk about having tombstones for neighbors, says Beauchamp: "It is most excellent for Halloween parties."

 

DROP-DEAD GORGEOUS

Port Washington

$849,000

This .17-acre property borders the Nassau Knolls Cemetery and Memorial Park, creating a pretty view -- not a scary scene. "It's more of an arboretum for us," says seller Patricia Harper. "The landscape changes with the seasons." Harper says she's very impressed with the well-tended grounds of the cemetery, which was incorporated in 1900. "They do everything beautifully," she says.

The four-bedroom, three-bathroom split-level in the Salem section has a perk that's uncommon for the area: "The house itself is quite different," says listing agent Laura Lough of Daniel Gale Sotheby's International Realty (516-883-2900). "The original owners had several sons. So they bumped the house up so that there is a master suite on the upper level. They now have two masters."

The home is in the Port Washington school district. Annual taxes are $16,831.

 

QUIET AS A TOMB

Port Jefferson

$570,000

Beyond the backyard of this three-bedroom, 21 / 2-bathroom condo lies the almost-30-acre Cedar Hill Cemetery -- but you'd never know it, says listing agent Lisa Jaeger of Prudential Douglas Elliman Real Estate in East Setauket (631-828-9630). "I don't think you can see the graveyard anymore. A lot of greenery has grown." This makes for a peaceful setting, she says. "It's private, it's secluded. . . . It's a natural buffer."

The unit features upgrades such as crown moldings and a custom kitchen. A $500 monthly common charge includes the exterior maintenance, pool, tennis courts, a gym and a clubhouse. Annual taxes are $7,196 for the condo, which is in the Port Jefferson school district.

 

HAUNTED? HARDLY

Lynbrook

$335,000

This 50-by-130-foot property backs up to the Rockville Cemetery in Lynbrook, which dates back to the early 1700s. The almost 14-acre cemetery makes for bright and airy environs, says listing agent Mary Murray of Ed McNulty Realty (516-442-2770). "You have a lot of fresh air, with nothing blocking the sun or the air. They don't have large headstones, so you really just see flowers that people put there," she says. The vibe is peaceful, not spooky, she adds. "It's not anything creepy or eerie, just open space."

The 1922 Colonial boasts Brazilian cherry hardwood floors throughout the house. There are three bedrooms, 11 / 2 bathrooms and a home office.

Annual taxes are $11,182 for the property, which is in the Malverne school district.

 

 

BROUGHT BACK FROM THE DEAD

Brentwood

$269,000

Jose Martinez and his company, Power Team Realty Corp. (631-231- 8000), performed something of a resurrection on this 1955 ranch, which was damaged in a fire. The three-bedroom, two-bathroom home has been completely renovated, he says. The roof, windows and siding and driveway are all new. The interior has had an overhaul as well. "The walls got relocated, we added a dining room. We even moved the front door to clear space for a formal dining room and a living room."

The 80-by-150-foot property is next to the Brentwood Cemetery, where locals have been burying their deceased since long before it was incorporated in the late 1800s. The location is bound to give some buyers goose bumps, Martinez acknowledges. "A lot of people believe different things. People believe in ghosts." His advice to the next owners? "If you can see a ghost saying hi to you, just close the window," he jokes.

The home is in the Brentwood school district, and annual taxes are $6,383.

 

How an appraiser sees it

 

Real estate appraiser Michael Esposito of All Island Valuation Services, LLC, in Centereach says there are home buyers who could never be comfortable living close to a cemetery. Some have concerns that a cemetery could invite mischief or crime at night; others may be opposed to the location due to religious beliefs, he says. There is also the matter of resale value -- even if you're not afraid, the next buyer might be.

Esposito says that real estate appraisers do look at "surrounding, external things that could affect the value of the property," and that would include cemeteries. Esposito says an appraiser would do a comparison of past sale prices of homes near the cemetery to identical homes in the same neighborhood that are not near the cemetery.

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