Your home is a highly personal thing. It’s somewhere you’ve invested time, money, and energy for many years. It’s also a place where you have a lot of memories. So, when it comes time to sell your home, you take great pride in cleaning, strategically setting a fair price, and attempting to convey value to potential buyers.
Having said all of that, one of the more frustrating aspects of selling a house is that there are dozens of external factors in play. One factor that quite literally hits close to home is your next-door neighbor. A good neighbor can be an asset, while a bad neighbor can sabotage the sale of your home quicker than just about anything else.
4 Tips for Dealing With Your Neighbors
Neighbors – love them, hate them, they’re always right there. You can’t get out of their shadow and you’re often affected by their behaviors and tendencies. If they like to play loud music in their backyard at all hours of the night, you have to listen to it. If they let their grass grow out of control in the summer, you have to look at it.
Problems like these may not be yours, directly, but you’re close enough to suffer through them. And when you put your house on the market, potential buyers are going to take note. The last thing they want is to get stuck next to a horrible neighbor, so they’ll be closely analyzing the situation.
Every neighborhood dynamic is different and you’ll have to handle each situation as it plays out, but here are a few tips and best practices for making your neighbors assets – not distractions.
- Build Strong Relationships Over Time
The problem a lot of sellers have is they don’t care about their neighbors until they become a problem. They do whatever they want, selfishly put themselves first, and then suddenly want their neighbors to help them out when it comes time to sell. Unfortunately, it doesn’t really work like this. You need to build strong relationships over time.
If you expect your neighbors to be good, you have to set the example. Always follow the Golden Rule and treat them how you want to be treated. This means keeping noise to a minimum, obeying HOA bylaws, and actually taking the time to interact with your neighbors when you cross paths.
One classic point of contention between neighbors is lawn care. Avoid related issues by addressing your home’s curb appeal.
“A good neighbor is one who maintains the exterior of the house and lawn at the same level as the rest of the neighborhood,” homeowner Debby Mayne explains. “You don’t want your house to be the one on the street that drags down the value of homes. If you can’t mow your own lawn, hire a neighbor’s child or lawn service to keep it tidy.”
- Don’t Blindside Them
Neighbors don’t like to be blindsided. While you don’t technically have to tell anyone you’re selling before putting your house on the market, it’s a good idea to let your neighbors know what’s happening. Not only will this prevent them from being surprised when they suddenly see a sign in your front yard, but it could also give them time to spruce up their own curb appeal.
Be prepared for nosy neighbors, though. You’ll be surprised by all of the questions they ask and you may not be comfortable answering all of them. The nosiest neighbors will even attend your open houses just so they can see what’s inside.
- Offer to Help Out
One of the worst things is when you spend weeks getting your house ready to sell, but the neighbor next door has an overgrown lawn, car parked in the yard, and gutters hanging off the roof. While your first inclination might be to go over and give them a piece of your mind, you need to take a deep breath.
Messy neighbors aren’t always out to get you. Sometimes they don’t know any better or lack the time and money to address simple issues. Without being accusatory or demeaning, politely ask if you can help out. One of three things will happen: (1) they’ll be so embarrassed that they’ll immediately fix the problems themselves, (2) they’ll take you up on your offer, or (3) they’ll get defensive and tell you to buzz off. Even if the last scenario happens, you’re no worse off than you were before.
- Seek Out Help in Tough Situations
Most neighborly disputes are relatively minor and can be handled or ignored between the two parties involved. But every now and then, there are more serious issues that require intervention by a third party.
For example, let’s say your neighbor suddenly decided to paint his shutters neon green and erect an above-ground swimming pool in his front yard, just to spite you. Your homeowner’s association may be able to help. As real estate broker Fred Griffin explains, “Some offenses might be a violation of the community HOA’s deed restrictions. Many HOA’s have the legal authority to place liens on houses that are in violation of the covenants.”
In extreme cases where a neighbor actually vandalizes your property or directly sabotages the sale of your home, you may be able to get law enforcement involved or hire a lawyer and file a lawsuit.
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