"I never liked walking in residential neighborhoods until I became a homeowner." That casual comment by my lifelong friend Karen Alexander is but one example of how profoundly our perceptions are altered when we take that huge leap of faith into homeownership. As soon as we get the keys to our first home, we start to take a serious interest in a myriad of topics that previously hadn't caught, much less held, our attention even in the slightest degree. Alexander is my oldest friend: I was five months old when she was born, and we've been friends ever since. She was in town on a weekend stopover of sorts between a business conference in Las Vegas and her home in Metuchen, N.J., a small town an hour's train ride from Manhattan. The weather was fine, spring was in the air, and we'd decided to take a walk through a residential neighborhood in Culver City, another small town on the border of Los Angeles. The houses are mostly 1940s tract homes, though some of the prope...
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