Talk to Neighbors Before Buying a Home

Neighbors can make or break a real estate sale

Girl peeking over fence
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Do not be afraid of talking with the neighbors before you buy a home. You might wonder why, because you can tell a lot about a neighborhood by driving through it. Manicured lawns and well-kept homes indicate pride of ownership. Junk cars parked on overgrown lawns and overturned mattresses at the curb are signs of neglect. However, if you rely on these indications alone, you could face a rude awakening when you move in.

Not only will meeting the neighbors give you a good idea of whether you will be compatible, but neighbors will disclose material facts that a seller might forget to mention. Sellers can be forgetful about these things and not purposely trying to fail to disclose.

Meeting the Neighbors is Doing Due Diligence

When Gary and Stephen found their dream home, they were ecstatic. It had everything they wanted, location, space, vintage, updates and a quaint yard. The price was right, too. Shortly after signing the contract, the two men drove over to the vacant home to meet the neighbors on both sides. The neighbors on one side told them the basement flooded on a regular basis and seemed bothered that the sump pump in the vacant house drained water into their yard. The seller's disclosures did not mention a wet basement

The neighbors to the east were blatantly hostile. They pointed to the rose bushes that appeared to be growing on the seller's property and said they had planted them.

Although a fence existed between the two homes, the neighbors on the east said the boundaries were in dispute. They also said, "We smoke like chimneys and plan to sit out on our front porch every night smoking," with a smirk, "And there's nothing you can do about it."

It was clear that the neighbors on both sides of this home had a bone to pick with the existing seller, but Gary and Stephen did not believe they should be the recipient of that ongoing battle.

The neighbors' reaction was enough to cause Gary and Stephen to buy a different home in another neighborhood.

Neighbors Can Be Unreasonable

Tom and Susan were at the home they were buying with their home inspector when they met the neighbor from across the street by accident. As their buyer's agent was turning off the lights in the house, she noticed an SUV had parked on the lawn of the million-dollar home. Tom went outside to investigate.

The driver seemed angry. The agent opened the front door to hear the driver scream at Tom, "That's what you get for parking in front of my driveway." Then the neighbor slammed on the gas pedal, sharply turned the wheel and ground out a foot of lawn with the tires.

It wasn't even Tom and Susan's car. It was somebody else's car that had extended about 6 inches over the neighbor's driveway. Needless to say, Tom and Susan were not about to live across the street from the angry neighbor. They canceled the purchase contract immediately.

Questions to Ask Neighbors Before Buying a Home

  • How long have you lived in the neighborhood?
  • What do you like best about living here?
  • What do you like least about the neighborhood?
  • If you could change one thing about this street, what would it be?
  • Do all the neighbors get along with each other?
  • Have you ever noticed anything odd about this house or yours?
  • How quiet is the neighborhood? 

You'll be surprised what the neighbors might tell you and what you could find out. Talking to neighbors before buying could be a lifesaver. Those conversations might save you from making a buying mistake and moving into a neighborhood where you could be miserable down the road.

At the time of writing, Elizabeth Weintraub, CalBRE #00697006, is a Broker-Associate at Lyon Real Estate in Sacramento, California.