Maybe it’s the relaxed attitude or the wide-open spaces. Whatever the cause, Westerners are the most likely people in the country to enjoy their neighbors (72 percent in the West, compared to 67 percent nationally) - despite being the worst about knowing their names.

That’s the word from a recent national survey in which real estate data company Trulia teamed with Harris Interactive to understand how Americans feel about their neighbors. Two-thirds of all Americans say they like their neighbors. That figure jumps to 80 percent among people who are on a first-name basis with them.

Homeowners are more likely than renters to know and like their neigbors (74 percent for owners vs. 58 percent for renters) and Midwesterners top the charts for knowing their neighbors’ names.

While many of us long for the sense of community that comes from developing close relationships with those who live around us, busy schedules and lack of free time can keep us from taking the extra steps necessary to start building friendships. Home builders recognize this challenge and have begun offering floor plan designs that focus on connectivity, with roomy kitchens and great rooms for entertaining and welcoming front porches for socializing.

Front porches aside, if you don’t yet know your neighbors, make a commitment to be more neighborly. Here are a few ideas to help you get started:

• Spend more time out front. If you don’t have a porch, even a bench in the yard will do. Hang out and read a book, watch the kids play or just sip a beverage.  Being out in the open will naturally lead to conversations with passersby or neighbors coming and going from their own homes.

• Invite your neighbors over for an ice cream social or a cold beverage. Hosting a group of strangers for an entire meal can be intimidating – not to mention a lot of work. Keep it simple by serving a couple types of ice cream and toppings or some cold refreshments and snacks.

• Welcome newcomers. Even a small gesture – a plate of cookies, a bunch of flowers from your garden or a note with your contact information – can make a new family feel at home.

Need more ideas? Here’s the easiest tip of all: simply offer a friendly wave and a smile.

(Editor’s Note: Andy Warren is President of Maracay Homes, the Arizona subsidiary of the Weyerhaeuser Real Estate Company. He serves on the Board of Directors for the Home Builders Association of Central Arizona and Greater Phoenix Leadership; as well as the Board of Directors and as an Executive Committee member with the Greater Phoenix Economic Council. He is also an active member of the Urban Land Institute.)

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