If you have a bad neighbor, then you’ve likely already started to imagine a scenario in which they ruin your chances of a successful home sale. Bad neighbors can without a doubt become a huge blocker in selling your home, but before you jot off a passive aggressive note to leave on their doorstep, keep reading.
We’ve compiled a list of the most common issues around dealing with bad neighbors and the best strategies to handle them, so that you can get back to what really matters: The sale of your home.
How Do You Define A “Bad Neighbor”?
When you think of your neighbor, is it really an issue you personally have with them or does it have more to do with something else? Maybe it’s their home (which is in total disrepair), or their dog (which never stops barking and digging holes) or their newly found love of loud and obnoxious projects. Whatever the issue is, there are ways of handling a bad neighbor, and all of them start with better communication.
Communication is Key
In fact, Nicolas Jonville, a top San Marcos seller’s agent (who ranks in the top 30% of local agents) swears by it saying, “Communication tactics are really key in my opinion— a lot of things can be taken care of with respect and communication.”
How Can A Bad Neighbor Ruin Your Sale?
So what’s the risk of a bad neighbor ruining your sale? Most problems reported by sellers revolve around the things you’d expect: the neighbors are messy, loud, or just generally eccentric and unpleasant personalities. Any and all of these things could turn a buyer’s interest, especially since no one wants to inherit troublesome neighbors.
The trick with bad neighbors isn’t to aggravate these issues, it’s to try and solve them (as much as possible) before the sale. The happier you can make your crazy, messy, noisy neighbor before the buyers arrive, the better chance you have of them being cooperative. And cooperation is key.
There Are 4 Typical Types of Bad Neighbors Putting Home Sales at Risk
Here are some of the most common problems surrounding selling a house with bad neighbors and how you can work to solve them.
Bad Neighbor #1: The (Ugly) Home Next Door
Your street has a lot of curb appeal, but then there’s the one neighbor who seems to have stopped mowing the lawn, parked all their junk out front like a permanent yard sale, and just generally let the house go. Obviously, this isn’t something you want your buyer to see. So what to do?
It’s easy to get mad at a neighbor like this, especially when you’re already knee-deep in the stress of trying to sell your home. But getting mad isn’t going to help, and in fact might be completely uncalled for if you knew the whole back story.
Don’t be too quick to make assumptions as to why your neighbor’s yard is in such a state of disrepair. You never know what’s going on behind closed doors: that overgrown yard next door may be that way because someone is ill, depressed, or otherwise falling on hard times. By visiting your neighbor in person you’ll quickly be able to tell what’s going on, and if it’s an issue of sloppiness or a recent tragedy.
While it’s a problem that your neighbors are leaving their home in a state of disrepair, it’s important to remember they might not be doing this by choice, and they’re definitely not doing it to upset you.
One of the best solutions in a situation like this is to simply offer your assistance in a respectful way. You’re signaling to your neighbor that you care about the appearance of the neighborhood, and you’re on their side when it comes to improving the community and raising property values.
Says Jonville, “The bad neighbor who’s not really bad [is one] that doesn’t take care of their home and it looks awful. If the seller is willing to speak to their neighbor, maybe something can be done to the house— a split of cost to have the front of the house repainted or to improve the front yard. As a realtor I’ve chipped in to get a client’s neighbor’s yard cleaned up if they couldn’t afford it or didn’t want to.”
Find out the most affordable way to clean up your neighbor’s house or yard and make a plan. Hire a kid in the neighborhood to help, or even spend a few hours doing it yourself. Showing compassion will go a long way in earning your neighbor’s respect, and securing their loyalty and cooperation will help ensure a smooth sale.
Bad Neighbor #2: The Noisy Neighbor
Barking dogs, obnoxious music, construction projects, and things that sound like they might be bomb-testing in the backyard, anything that disturbs your daily peace and quiet won’t go unnoticed by a buyer. Whatever the noise scenario that’s happening in your neighborhood, try and find a way to chat with your neighbor about it before the open house.
You should also be strategic in your timing. Don’t approach your neighbor with a noise complaint when it’s happening. Choose a calm time to approach the subject in an empathetic way. Show that you care about them and hopefully, they’ll start to care about you once the conflict situation is past.
One way to do this is to first offer up an apology for any noise you might be making that’s disturbing them. Noise complaints often arise when people are on different schedules, so it might be that they find your morning rituals as annoying as you find their late-night ones. Find a way to bring these things up at a good time in a non-aggressive way.
Bad Neighbor #3: The Invasive Neighbor
Although this type of neighbor is still incredibly annoying, they’re fortunately not as likely to raise a red flag with buyers. The details you know about them encroaching on your property lines— a fence post here or a tree branch there (or even a pet that likes to dig holes), aren’t problematic enough to make buyers run away screaming the way a mess or noise will be. If you notice something that’s infringing on your property, talk to your neighbor (before the sale) about what you can both do to resolve it.
Again, the same tactics apply here as with the ugly home nextdoor: Offer a helping hand to get tasks done— even if the responsibility should technically fall on your neighbor. Help them to remove a tree branch that’s hanging in your yard or mend a falling fence. Extending the metaphorical olive branch to your neighbor gives you the best chance that they’ll do the same.
If your neighbor isn’t seeing the problem, ask to get together with your surveys and walk the property lines together. Do this right and you’ll both see the same issues, and (hopefully) you’ll be able to come up with a solution together.
Bad Neighbor #4: The Nightmare Neighbor
It happens. A weird or crazy neighbor that seems to check off all of the worst possible scenarios in the book. Maybe they throw outlandish parties, or just happen to be incredibly rude during every interaction. One thing you can do, is watch this (it’s short and guaranteed to make you feel better).
But really, the thing to remember is that just like the encroaching neighbor, this type of neighbor only becomes a problem if they’re doing these things during your open house events. So be strategic. If they’re more active at night, throw a morning event. If it’s a truly bad neighbor, and the previously mentioned communication tactics aren’t going to work, then it’s better to try and avoid any possibility of your buyer ever running into them.
Get Your Neighbor On Board
Whoever your neighbor is, and whatever the offense they’ve committed, always try to start with direct communication. One of the best ways to approach your issues is to pay the neighbor a visit and simply inform them (as a courtesy) that you’re moving.
“You can try and engage them and make them part of the team,” says Jonville “and then they don’t want to be working against the sale, they’re respectful because they’re being asked if they want to pick their neighbor.”
Try to keep the lines of communication open throughout the sale process as well. Work with your neighbor to resolve issues, butter them up with a homemade treat, and keep them informed of days you’ll be having open house events. Frame this last part as if you’re apologizing for any inconvenience, then slip in a request that they keep their dog inside or keep the noise down.
Of course there will always be situations in which perfect communication can’t happen, and if this is the case you should be prepared to seek legal help. Just know that you won’t earn a friend in your neighbor by calling in a lawyer, the town, or the police. This should be used only as a last resort and temporary solution. Do your best to keep things as friendly as possible before the sale. You’ll be gone soon enough, so what’s a few more weeks of pleasantries?