Almost every neighborhood has a “bad neighbor” or two.  Nearby residents, and especially home owners, roll their eyes, mutter quietly and often say nothing to the offender so as to avoid a blowout with the “problem neighbor”.

If you’re buying a home, or moving into a new neighborhood, you may not know about these bad apples and their nuisances.  But sometimes there are clues – things right out in front that are hard to miss.  Even where there aren’t any hints of trouble, you can always knock on doors and ask about the area.  Problems can be visual, auditory, olfactory or other. Ask – people will talk! A list of things which annoy the neighbors and possibly lower home & property values follows below.

A list of “bad neighbor” behaviors: bad sounds, bad sights, bad smells top the list

  1. Junky cars and RVs – especially if there are a lot of them!
  2. Remodeling work that is visible from the street and takes excessively long to complete (more than a few months)
  3. Gaudy paint colors or decor on your house (some schemes that work on a Victorian don’t work on a ranch style home – neighbors won’t appreciate a bubble-gum pink, turquoise or baby blue ranch style house)
  4. Regularly leaving garbage cans out too long (more than 24 hours)
  5. Honking (car horns are for emergency only, not a clue that it’s time to go to school etc.), especially if it’s early in the day
  6. Frequently parking in front of someone’s house other than your own (a pet peeve for some people)
  7. Shouting (neighbors don’t want to hear your disputes or have you try to carry on a conversation from 100 feet away)
  8. Loud parties that go past midnight
  9. Smoking (if you live in a condo or townhouse and smoke in your yard or front porch, your neighbors will have to smell it – but don’t want to – it’s even worse if it’s pot vs regular tobacco)
  10. Pods or storage containers that stay in your driveway more than a couple of days
  11. Frequent garage sales (in many places, twice a year is allowed and beyond that you need a permit)
  12. Dogs that bark excessively or at all hours of the night
  13. Loud or smelly pets (could include goats and chickens)
  14. Neglected yard, especially in front. Grass and weeds that are 12 inches tall or a completely dead yard hurts home values nearby.
  15. Trees that you should trim, but don’t (and drop leaves, sap or needles on the neighbors’ yards or cause them to fear your tree’s limb breaking and hurting their property)
  16. Constantly keeping your garage door open, especially if it’s a mess. (Some home owner’s associations even have rules against this.)
  17. Not picking up after your dog, or allowing your cats or dogs to roam free in the neighborhood (defecating wherever they will)
  18. Not helping to pay to replace a shared fence when it needs to be done
  19. Building something too close to the property line, especially if it’s an eyesore
  20. Using the lawn area as extra parking

This list is not fully comprehensive and I may add to it later, but these are some very common issues.  Most neighborhoods have one or more of these issues – it is extremely hard to find an area with no problem neighbors whatsoever.  But hopefully you don’t have to rent or buy directly next to one of them!

How much do bad neighbors impact resale value of homes nearby?

If the home for sale is adjacent to a property with an issue, the impact can be huge and can literally drive buyers off.  A few months ago I showed a townhouse for sale in Santa Clara.  The unit I showed was a nice end unit.  While we were arriving to view it, the next door neighbor stepped onto her front porch, with a very yappy dog, and began to smoke.  My clients saw the townhouse but ended up eliminating it based on the smoking neighbor with the barking pooch (two strikes!).

A lot of time the impact depends on how pervasive the issue is.  Junky cars? Huge problem – they are a constant eyesore.  Ditto that for the remodel that takes 10 years to complete. Who wants to look at that every day?  The occasional late party – not so much.  Garbage cans – annoying but in the greater scheme of things, not so terrible. A yelling, honking neighbor? Big issue.

In a nutshell, if the bad neighbor has multiple negative issues going on, the impact can be huge – perhaps 10% of market value – for homes closest to the offending property. This is even more true if there are several bad homes on the street that are offensive.  One’s usually forgivable, but if there are several, buyers will skip the whole street.  I see this the most with motor homes and boats parked in driveways out in front of the house. Many home buyers don’t want to live next to a trailer or RV.  Some streets have no RVs, some look like an RV storage lot.

What can you do about bad neighbors?

If possible, ideally you (or perhaps whoever is closest to them in the area) have a frank talk with them about the upsetting behavior.  Sometimes this can work, but of course, sometimes it backfires too, so use your best judgement. Some people are simply dangerously ill tempered and it may not be possible to reason with them safely, so don’t take any chances.  If you have hostile neighbors, and the issue is a code violation or otherwise illegal behavior, you may consider talking to the code compliance department or police non-emergency line of your city, town or county.  If you are in a home owner’s association, you can probably mediate through that group.  If it’s a small issue, you might want to just leave it be and humor the annoying neighbor.  Sometimes peace in the neighborhood is worth more than a well kept yard, a horn-free zone or other ideal conditions.