I am about to make an offer on a house. However, this past weekend, unrelated to the property, a teenager died in a car crash that began some yards away and ended on the driveway. I’ve driven past the property several times now, and there is always a small crowd of people, and a roadside memorial is developing (balloons, stuffed animals, candles, crosses, etc.). I have sympathy for this teen’s family and friends, but I find these memorials to be tacky and inappropriate, especially on private property, and I don’t want one at the entrance to my home. My agent thinks it will lessen with time, and I’m sure she’s eager for the sale to happen. I understand what these memorials mean for the grief-stricken, but my own view is that this is what cemeteries are for. Should I go back to square one on the house-hunt, or am I being an irredeemable grouch?
—Get Off My Lawn
The aesthetics of a roadside memorial aside, I don’t think there’s anything inappropriate about commemorating the site of a recent, tragic death. That’s where someone died, and that’s where her friends and family want to acknowledge her passing—it’s not as if she died of old age in a hospital. Her life was cut dramatically short on a public road, and it makes sense that friends and family would acknowledge it outside of a cemetery. It’s only been a few days since the accident; most roadside memorials don’t stay up longer than a few weeks, and there’s no guarantee that if you bought a house elsewhere, no one would ever die in front of it, with all the attendant candles and balloons that might ensue.
Your question, fundamentally, is “Should I buy another house because there are some balloons out front that remind me of death?” I don’t think that’s necessary. I also don’t think you should try to have any of the commemorative objects removed (you don’t ask if you should, but something tells me you would at the least consider doing so). If you were to buy that house, and the memorial remained on the edge of your property for a few days or weeks, you might have the right and the ability to have it removed, but just because you can do something doesn’t always mean you should.