Dealing With Bad Neighbors in Real Estate
It’s amazing if you’re close with your neighbors, it’s solid if you both just do your own thing, but dealing with bad neighbors is the worst. Things get even more complicated when you’re trying to sell your house.
At this point, it’s not just a nuisance — bad neighbors can reduce your home’s value up to 10 percent. Luckily, there are several things you can do to hopefully leverage the system (and get the best possible deal for your home).
How to Avoid Buying Next to Bad Neighbors
The best offense is a good defense. Ideally, you won’t ever have to deal with bad neighbors by doing as much research as possible.
Scope out the area.
Drive around (or park and walk around) the neighborhood where you’re hoping to buy. Ideally, try to go at a time when people are out and about — either on the weekend or after work during the weekdays. Make sure you’re not trespassing or loitering, but see if you can get a sense for the neighborhood before you decide to move forward with buying.
Buying out of the city, state or country? Use Google Maps and look up the property with the street view option.
Be extra vigilant about racism and other forms of discrimination.
This is a tough one to look out for because racism is as abhorrent as it is pervasive. As Black, Indigenous, Latinx, Muslim, and Asian folx are already well too aware, not every racist neighbor is going to fly a Confederate flag in their yard. Not every homophobic or transphobic neighbor is going to have bumper stickers that reflect their views on their car (though both situations are definitely telling).
Countless neighborhoods in the US are seemingly innocuous, then a Black family moves in and the microaggressions or outright violent behavior from white neighbors ensues. Trust your gut above all else, but here are some things that could also help:
- Work with a real estate agent you trust. Find someone who is honest, transparent, knows the area, and ideally, has insights on what racism looks like here.
On the flip side of this: some real estate agents are corrupt and just as racist as the hypothetical future bad neighbors. If you feel like your agent is steering you away from (or toward) certain areas or preventing you from purchasing, record all of this and report it to the HUD. This could be a violation of the Fair Housing Act.
- Try to access county census data. See if there are any instances of BIPOC families who moved in but didn’t stay for more than a few years.
- Ask the sellers. Keep in mind, they very well might try to gloss things over for the sake of their sale, but a lot can be gleaned in how they respond.
We at RealtyHive hope that no one ever has to deal with racism or discrimination in their neighborhood, but we recognize that racism and discrimination are deeply, historically entrenched in the world of real estate.
If you do end up in a bad situation, document every incident that occurs. Try to get videos and witnesses if you can. Take it up with a lawyer and a judge will determine the level of harassment. This could result in a restraining order or even an arrest, depending on the situation.
Check yards and house exteriors.
An unkempt yard, a tree with huge limbs reaching over to the house you’re looking at, a dog that’s constantly outside and constantly barking, overflowing trash — these are all signs that could point to a bigger problem. If the house exterior has peeling paint and looks rundown, same thing.
It’s not a guarantee that there’s an issue, but homeowners usually try to stay on top of their home. You don’t have to pass on your dream house if the neighbors’ house is struggling, but it’s still good to keep in mind. Again, if other houses are in rough shape, it could ultimately affect your own home’s value.
How to Deal With Bad Neighbors When Trying to Sell
Get some scoop.
If you’re on good enough terms to talk to your neighbors, try to figure out how long they plan on staying in the area. It can be a selling point if you’re up front with potential home buyers and tell them that so-and-so are trying to move in the next year or two.
Reach out and/or find resources when appropriate.
It can be stressful to live next to neighbors who frequently get into shouting matches. While you obviously want to respect their privacy, you should also be on the lookout. Sometimes a “bad neighbor who yells a lot” is actually involved in an issue of domestic violence. If you overhear or witness something dangerous (or the potential to turn physically dangerous), call the police or non-emergency line.
Reflect on whether your neighbors are actually bad.
Are your neighbors too loud or do they just have three kids who love to play? Is it that much of a deal if some of their apples fall off their tree and into your yard (if so, kindly and respectfully talk to them about it)? Are you carrying any biases that make you view your neighbors in a more negative light than they deserve?
Some neighbors are truly bad neighbors, but sometimes the roles of who’s actually bad are reversed. Write out your grievances, reflect on if there’s anything you could do differently or if there’s a way to reconcile an issue. Be ready to hear how you could be a problem, too!
Make your house more sellable (and maybe even more “neighbor-proof”).
You’ve done everything you can but there’s no denying it: you just have bad neighbors. At this point, you can cut your losses and consider lowering your home price. Or, you can try some things that could create more perceived distance from your neighbors and increase home value.
- Look into soundproofing materials.
- Install blackout curtains.
- Consider adding solar or privacy screens to your windows.
- Invest in a higher fence.
- Consult with a landscaper for hedges, trees or shrubs that could add more of a barrier.
- Connect with a real estate agent — with their experience, it’s likely they’ve encountered similar situations and have good advice.
If you’re really concerned that your house isn’t going to sell, look into listing with RealtyHive. Our time-limited events connect you with motivated buyers and can get your property sold faster (and potentially at a higher price than you ask for). Learn about the benefits of selling with RH today!