Your home’s curb appeal is incredible, no, even immaculate. You painted your exterior the trendiest colors, replaced all of the trim, bought a brand new front door, and even splurged on those mature Japanese maples. You’ve done everything in your power to craft the perfect curb appeal, but there’s still one problem buyers can’t see past: the junk in your neighbor’s yard.
While your neighbor’s curb appeal (or lack thereof) seems beyond your control, it still influences a buyer’s decision to purchase your home. In fact, according to the Appraisal Institute, a neighbor’s messy yard can lower your property value by as much as 10%; it’s also likely to turn off potential buyers driving up to your home for the first time.
Fortunately, you’ve got options to get out of this sticky situation. We consulted a leading real estate agent and conducted extensive research to find the best ways to deal with junk in your neighbor’s yard during your home sale. With these tips, you’ll have the knowledge you need to eliminate that costly mess next door, or at least mitigate its effect on your home sale.
Start by communicating with your neighbor
For better or worse, most of us spend our entire lives living next to neighbors. But surprisingly, a third of Americans don’t know any of their neighbors by name. Regardless of the relationship, you have with your neighbor, it’s understandable if you’ve hesitated to ask them directly to clean up their yard in fear of an awkward or heated conversation.
However, top real estate agent Shannan Laudet, who has sold over 280 single-family homes in Bremerton, WA, shares that sellers shouldn’t talk themselves out of good old fashion communication. In her experience, most neighbors responded positively when her clients asked them to clean up their yard, especially when the client offered help.
“The most successful approach is going to the neighbor, saying ‘I’m going to be selling my house’ and asking ‘would you be willing to let me help you beautify your house to help us both out?’” advises Laudet.
“I’ve never had a neighbor who said ‘no, don’t hire a crew to help me clean up my yard.’”
While it might feel unfair that you need to help clean up someone else’s mess, the effort will pay off. A yard clean up is relatively inexpensive, typically costing around $500 per quarter acre of land if you choose to hire professionals to tackle the job for you. To put this cost into perspective, $500 is only 0.2% of a $250,000 home. Even if the clean up only increases your property value by 2%, you’ll recoup ten times your investment.
Support your neighbor’s clean up effort by offering supplies or helping hands
There’s a good chance your neighbor has wanted to clean up their yard but just hasn’t had the opportunity to do so. If you plan on renting a dumpster while decluttering your own home, let your neighbor know that they’re welcome to use it to clean up their own yard.
Laudet shares that another common reason behind junk in a neighbor’s yard is that the neighbor is elderly or unable to clean the yard themselves. In these situations, she advises sellers to team up with other neighbors to help clean up the yard. Not only will the cleanup improve all of your property values, but it’ll also strengthen community bonds.
See if you can relocate boats and unsightly vehicles
While they might not exactly qualify as junk, ATVs, dirtbikes, boats, and other motor vehicles in your neighbor’s front yard can detract from your curb appeal.
Ask your neighbor if they’re willing to store these items in their backyard while your home is on the market. You can offer to help them move the items or even help them modify their fence, so it’s easier for them to shift the items between the back and front yards. You can also help your neighbor research short-term storage options and even offer to subsidize the cost during the time your home is on the market.
If moving the vehicle is a no-go, then see if your neighbor is open to investing in a quality cover to reduce the item’s visual impact.
Consider involving an authority as a last resort
Even with all of your generosity and good intentions, some neighbors are just downright stubborn. Nobody wants to get confrontational, but if the two of you cannot reach a reasonable agreement, you should consider reaching out to a local housing authority.
Just over half of homeowners in the United States are part of a homeowner’s association (HOA). If you’re one of them, your HOA may be able to help solve your messy yard woes. HOAs typically require homeowners to agree to a set of rules called “covenants, conditions, and restrictions,” or CC&Rs. To see if you have a case, review your neighborhood’s CC&Rs by contacting your HOA or your county recorder’s office. If the CC&Rs include rules about yard conditions, the HOA can issue your neighbor a fine or even file a lawsuit if they refuse to comply.
If your HOA can’t help, the government might
If your neighborhood doesn’t have an HOA, or if your HOA is unable or unwilling to take action, the next step is to reach out to a local government authority. Start by researching your local and state laws on property disputes between neighbors using Nolo’s helpful directory. In some cities, such as Commerce, CA, the government even has the power to fine homeowners who fail to maintain their property.
Once you’ve researched local government ordinances about messy yards, contact the appropriate government body. If you’re still uncertain where to start, you can contact your local police department with your concerns. Just be sure to call the local station’s 10-digit phone number — 9-1-1 is only for emergencies!
If you can’t clean up the junk in your neighbor’s yard, try to block the view
If you’re getting nowhere with cleaning your neighbor’s yard, you can at least modify your home to help block out the view. Here are some tips to help distract buyers from the mess next door:
- Install mesh shades on windows facing your neighbor’s property: Mesh shades provide privacy while still letting in light. Choose a neutral color that complements your interior’s color palette to obscure unwanted views.
- Plant a row of Cypress trees along the property line: Cypress trees grow tall and thick — perfect for creating a visual barrier between homes. Since a single 6 to 7 foot tall Cypress tree costs around $150, you’ll want to ask your real estate agent if a tree barrier is a good investment for your particular home.
- Build a tall fence between your yard and your neighbors: Laudet shares that neighbors seldom say no to a free fence. Before buying the materials, check your HOA and local building codes for restrictions on fence height.
When all else fails, emphasize the selling points of your home
The neighbor won’t budge. The HOA won’t help. No laws in your jurisdiction govern messy yards. And you just can’t build a fence big enough to block out that horrible yard. It’s time to face facts: Your neighbor’s yard is a negative mark on your home’s pros and cons list.
Take a deep breath. Your home still has plenty of pros going for it. If you want to wow potential buyers, shift their focus toward the best features of your property. Work with your agent to create a list of your home’s best features and create a plan to emphasize these attributes as best as possible. The more you enhance your home’s beauty, the better chance it’ll have at overshadowing the neighboring eyesore.
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