People Buy for the House, But Leave Due to Difficult Neighbors

dogcatIt shouldn’t surprise us, but this quote from Rhonda Duffy, an Atlanta real estate agent who has sold more than 17,000 homes, is a bit of a bombshell nonetheless:

“The No. 1 reason people move – besides downsizing or upsizing — is because they don’t like their neighbors.” (See “Check neighborhood before buying house,” by Marni Jameson, June 29, 2015.)

Her phrase “don’t like” is probably an understatement. Ask any homeowner about relations with neighbors. For every tale of casseroles and newfound bookclub comrades, there will be at least one about a vendetta, civil restraining order, or all-around craziness. I know someone whose mentally ill neighbor delivered a live cat to her front doorstep in a box, telling her that it was her “daughter” and she needed to start taking care of it.

A number of the neighbor-related Q&As you’ll find on Nolo’s website come from actual, real-life fact patterns. Check out these doozies, for instance, “My neighbor shot my dog for trespassing. What can I do?,” “What should I do if I think my neighbor is stealing my Wi-Fi?,” and “Can I file a small claims court action against a neighbor who trespassed on and damaged my property?“.

The possibility for neighbor disputes is approximately the last thing anyone wants to think about during the excitement of homebuying. As if it weren’t enough to make sure that the home passes inspection, appraises for the right amount, and is within one’s financial means.

But there’s obviously a reason that at least one state includes a “neighborhood review contingency” in its standard real estate contract. A homeowner is at relatively close quarters with neighbors, and might see them every day. If said neighbors are dealing drugs, making noise, leaving piles of garbage or junk out, and so on, it’s going to directly affect your enjoyment of life.

Fortunately, even without a clause in your purchase contract, prospective homebuyers can do a lot to research neighbor issues before buying. Driving and walking around the neighborhood at different hours of the day or night is a good start, as is chatting with as many neighbors as possible in the vicinity of the home you hope to buy.

We also suggest asking the seller about neighbor issues, as described in Nolo’s (free!) “Questions for Seller” worksheet. And for more tips on this and other aspects of choosing a home, see Nolo’s Essential Guide to Buying Your First Home.