Updated: 10/11/2011 10:26 PM ET|
Neighbors hurt your home's value?
If you're trying to sell your home, a run-down or messy house nearby can cost you some serious money. Here's what you can do about it.
Bad neighbors aren't just annoying. They can cost you real money when it's time to sell your home.
A nearby property's overgrown yard, peeling paint and clutter can easily knock 5% to 10% off the sale price of your home, said Joe Magdziarz, the president of the Appraisal Institute and a real-estate appraiser with 40 years of experience. A true disaster -- a junky home in deplorable condition and a yard packed with debris -- could cost you even more.
"In reality, there's so much supply right now that people are just going to pass," Magdziarz said. "It might make your home unmarketable."
Magdziarz has personal experience with how a bad neighbor can hurt a home seller's chances. A few years ago, he and his wife were house hunting and found a property they really liked -- until they looked next door.
"He was a hoarder. There was junk all over the yard," Magdziarz said. "The last thing I want to see when I get home is a junkyard."
Even when real-estate markets were in better shape, messy neighbors caused problems. Kamie Dowen put her Harrisburg, Pa., home on the market five years ago but had problems selling because of a nearby property.
Toys littered the lawn, even in winter. The porch sported "a pumpkin that was two years past due," Dowen said. A garage door, damaged after the owner ran into it with his car, was never fixed.
"After I moved out and staged my home, it still took me over a year to get rid of it," Dowen said. "I had to sell it at my cost."
So what can you do?
Frustration can lead to guerrilla tactics. Jeanine Brydges Watt of Windsor, Ontario, got so fed up with her neighbors' yard that she waited until they went on vacation, then mowed the lawn and threw out the trash, which included old diapers and split-open bags of garbage.
Watt said she wasn't worried about being arrested for trespassing. The messy neighbors were renters and probably thought their landlord had done it, she said. And Watt's other neighbors were thrilled.
"If they had been asked, none of the other neighbors would have ratted me out," she said. "They were happy we cleaned up the eyesore."
You may not be willing to risk arrest, but there are other tactics you can try if a neighbor's property is hurting your home's value.
If your neighbor is elderly or disabled and simply not able to maintain her property, for example, you may be able to help her find free or low-cost services that can help. Habitat for Humanity's A Brush With Kindness program offers exterior painting, landscaping, weatherstripping and minor repairs to low-income homeowners who can't care for their homes because of age, disability or family circumstances.
Many local governments offer similar programs. Los Angeles, for example, provides free minor home repairs through its Handy Worker Program. Or you can check with the Eldercare Locator to find other resources for home maintenance in your area.
4 strategies for getting the mess cleaned up
If your neighbor is simply messy or indifferent, you might want to try these strategies:
Start with a conversation. If your neighbor is a drug dealer, owns dangerous dogs or is otherwise belligerent, you won't want to risk knocking on the door. Otherwise, approaching your neighbor in a friendly, low-key manner can be a good start.
The script could go something like this: "We're going to be putting our house on the market soon, and we really want it to show well. But we're afraid that people who don't know what nice neighbors you are might be a little put off by the condition of your yard right now. It's so hard to keep up with everything, isn't it? We'd be more than happy to help you tidy up a bit if you'd like."
Find the owner. If your sloppy neighbors are tenants and the direct approach doesn't work, or if the home is vacant, you'll want to track down the owner. A real-estate agent can help you, or you can visit your county property-tax assessor's office.
Then send a letter to the landlord or lender, complete with photos of the problem, and request action in getting the property cleaned up, says Ilyce Glink, the author of several books on real estate, including "Buy, Close, Move In!" If you get no response, consider giving the contact information to other fed-up neighbors and ask that they send letters as well.
"If a property has been foreclosed on, you can complain -- loudly -- to the lender to take care of the property. Go all the way to the top of the food chain, to the chief executive officer, and ask for assistance," Glink said. "You should also complain to your state mortgage regulator as well to the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency, if it is a big national bank."
Enlist help. If you have a homeowners association, make a formal request that it take action. If it's reluctant and you run out of other options, you can sue the homeowners association in small-claims court, Glink said.
Before you do that, however, try to enlist local government officials. Your city or county public-health department may be able to step in, particularly if trash or other unsanitary conditions are attracting vermin. The city or county building department should be notified of other obvious hazards, such as holes in a roof or a collapsing porch.
If you can't get local agencies to help, appeal to your elected representatives at the city or county level. Sometimes these folks can kick the bureaucracy into gear. A real-estate attorney can tell you if you can pursue a lawsuit against the neighbor, but typically these are expensive and can drag on for months if not years, making them impractical for most people trying to sell a home.
Practice mitigation. If your best efforts don't work, a privacy fence or tall hedge, if allowed, could help screen the problem. Otherwise, do what you can to make your own property shine and divert attention from the neighbor's mess.
Peter Anderson of Shakopee, Minn., who runs the Bible Money Matters blog, said he had a "fun time" selling a town house a few years ago because of neighbors across the street who had garbage in their driveway, a truck up on blocks "and a hundred wind chimes hanging from their garage."
"Despite that, it was a nice enough neighborhood," Anderson said, "and we finally were able to sell because we priced our home realistically, we staged our house to make it look like a model, painted, fixed up any problems and just made the home a very nice place to be."
Liz Weston is the Web's most-read personal-finance writer. She is the author of several books, most recently "The 10 Commandments of Money: Survive and Thrive in the New Economy" (find it on Bing). Weston's award-winning columns appear every Monday and Thursday, exclusively on MSN Money. Join the conversation and send in your financial questions on Liz Weston's Facebook fan page.
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I really feel for the folks who have s#*t bums move in next to them, but my story is this:
When our 2nd child was born we decided to buy a fixer upper in a rural area, 5 acres, last lot of six on a dead-end road, pastures on three sides. Great deal and a dream come true for us. First thing I did was build a couple sheds and pour a concrete slab for my camper and boat in the back corner of "MY" property. That was 1993. Around 2004 the owner of the land south of me decided to sell 20 acres to a developer who promptly filled it with 50+ homes and they filled up quickly. So much for my dream location.
So one afternoon I'm piddling with the latest fixer on my upper when the neighbor whose backyard looks on my sheds wanders over and says, "Hey, we're looking for a new place and want to put ours on the market, the realtor told us to see if we can do anything about those sheds and RVs, they don't meet the Homeowners ****. bylaws." To which I promptly laughed (his HA never applied to me) and replied, "Here have a beer because I'm not changing or moving anything on "MY" property so you can sell your home." I did offer to let him paint the backs of my sheds if he wanted. Next thing I know a couple weeks later here's the county inspector. Oh guess what everything was to code (which I knew having done all the work myself) and he complimented me on what a nice place I had. So the next thing my neighbor knew was that I could move my compost pile right next to my sheds where he could clearly see it also.
I guess what I'm saying is if you buy a place knowing what's there. Don't expect people to change for you. If they're breaking an ordinance that's one thing. But if its just because you don't like the car in my / their driveway or the color of my / their shed or believe it or not the cutting height of my / their mower deck. (whole other story) GET OVER YOURSELF and move on.
I noticed several 'landlords' only care about getting money comments'; well I can tell you I will NEVER look at those 'poor tenet' TV shows in the same light again. I have a small house that belonged to my mother in another state. It was cute and I liked it. My job forced me to move, so I rented out my little house.
Well guess what; my house has been completely trashed 3 times now- once to the tune of $30,000 in damages. Some examples: I have had the washer/dryer, and the garage door opener stolen, the garage door smashed in, the toilet removed and placed inside the tub (chipping both in the process) the sprinkler pump ripped out and thrown on the lawn, french doors torn out and a wall built to make an additional bedroom out of a breakfast room- complete with a hole knocked into the wall to place a window ac, the oven broken and the refrigerator door bent on it's hinges (I can't even imagine how much weight that took). The last tenant rented it to someone else, who left it so filled with trash and garbage that the walls, floors and everything in it , were crawling with roaches; I had to have it tented, gutted, and even replace the baseboards, appliances and part of the floor.
The police call it a 'civil' case, so the only way you can do anything is to try to find them and sue them (except when the renter caused $30 thousand dollars of damages- the insurance company forced the police to do their job) and of course they all quit paying rent when they want to move out as they know it will take you two months to evict.
Now when I watch these landlord/renter TV shows where a tenant says they have no hot water heater, pointing to an empty space where it should be; I think yes, that is where it was before you SOLD it. Unfortunately you can't tell anything by their credit rating or job either; I have heard it all: i.e. 'I'm getting a settlement in X months, or I have a check from XXX agency in X months-could you please wait'? The results are always the same, they live rent free and then trash the place. Landlords getting rich? You have to be kidding. People don't take care of property when they own it, much less when they rent.
My Mom's little house has been trashed and repaired so many times, it is no longer a special little place for me and I'll sell it, when the market improves.I
woops, My Bad, we own a house in the suburbia area, actually the east side of hwy XX is the country portion, where you can keep livestock, and the west side is the true suburbia.
We have a back-yard farm, 50 chickens, you think that's bad?, there are horses just down the street from us, and cattle, and pigs. You name the livestock, its in here someplace.
How did this neighborhood "let" this happen?, well, the farms were here first.
The City devoured what it could all around us. So we have "pole barns", various structures that were their before the neighborhood became a neighborhood of suburbia.
We can burn our own trash, as long as its not plastic, or other textile that can pollute or otherwise endanger our neighbors. So here comes a neighbor from California, tells us he is starting an H.O.A. so a few of these "low rent" farms will be removed, and he wants us on the committee. No Thanks.
Because we refused him, he has targeted us, he goes through other neighbors and sends us comments. This is lame and infantile, while it is true enough we live in America, where we have rights, we all need to keep in mind that everyone has rights, the CA Neighbor has a right to protest any farm he chooses, we have a right to refuse his request, every farmer here has a right to raise whatever they chose, anyone has a right to protest any farm, including the buildings and other structures. The bottom line is that education should have taught us how to do research, investigation of demographics, flood areas, farm areas, schools, gender ratio, and income.
After you do your research, you still get to choose where you want to live and for however long you would enjoy being there. You also get to decide what price you are willing to pay, and later sell for.
Take a close look, humans migrate just like animals, probably not as often, but we do move on to "greener" pastures. All I see is complaints, where is the pride in Americans that we have these choices? regardless of realtors, FYI, you can do all the paperwork yourself, you don't need them.
here is a solution, get educated on the area you intend to move to. Take a long term view, will the migration habits bring low rent or high income? or would you really rather live alone on an island?
Seriously, life is too short to be ignorant, get your wisdom on.
Refineries don't follow the burning laws, people disagree no matter where you go, and in conclusion, until you know why a situation exist, try not to cast the first stone.
FYI, we have roses and many flowering shrubs in our front yard, palms and lilies, a tropical paradise in Texas Gulf Coast area. We just weren't designed to all get along.
On a less aggressive note, we recently bought the maintenance deficient house on the block. It was in a great neighborhood, and we got a really good deal (deferred maint. and cat pee, scared other buyers away I guess). As we have worked on cleaning it up (both inside and out) neighbors come by, introduce themselves, welcome us, and tell us about our new little neighborhood (also offering to loan us tools and help PAINT!).....But mostly they tell us how glad they are that some one came in to "love and care for" the house. Its been great!!! This neighborhood has a number of retired or near retired people, getting ready to downsize and counting on their homes value to help them move comfortably to the next phase of life....I can see where, as much as they personally liked the previous owner, her choices were impacting them negatively.
GG1001 has an excellent point. It's not just about the looks of a house. A dumpy place can be an indication of much worse problems. When we bought our property we didn't even look at the neighbors behind us. Their place is a junkyard, but since we can't see it very well through the trees that's not a big deal. However, the people are a problem. The mother's abusive alcoholic boyfriend, the drug-addicted teen who shoots off rifles in the middle of the night, the vicious dogs that wander the area and have cornered us in our own front yard, the constant screaming...you get the idea. We once called the police because they locked their small child (about 4 years old) outside on a cold night. In retaliation they cut a whole in our fence and let out our dog, who then picked up a parasite. After 12 years of putting up with them they have finally sold the place and moved.
The lesson we learned is this: When buying a property or house, carefully consider the neighbor's on all sides. If a house is a pigsty, the people may have serious issues. And you could end up with more than you bargained for.
yea i have dirt bag neighbors too, i have mowed their lawn, fixed their fences ect... to tell ya the truth, 2 of them have had mortgage work outs so looks like we've helped them with their bills through our taxes.....
I'm all for help thy neighbor, but some people are just f-in ridiculous. I'm actually kinda sick of doing the right thing for myself, struggling with my own issues and they having to deal with theirs.
being part of a neighborhood, there is responsibility on everyone, not just the people who care.
I posted awhile ago but forgot to add that it is quiet in my neighborhood during the day because my non working doped up neighbors are sleep. Yep thats right they have to rest because its hard work partying and raising hell all night. But its bad for me as I got to go to work by 8:00 am. Damn my government for giving the sons a ****** money for not doing a damn thing.
3 acres in rural nevada has turned into a piece of land surrounded by golf courses and mansions. Which resulted in neighbors in the original neighborhood being greedy by adding levels, suburbanizing their acreage with expensive fencing, barns garages and overbuilding. Now with the economy falling they can't sell their homes and it is easier to point at a home that was kept original (without the second and third for "improvements") with it's horse shed whitewashed, natural landscaping, etc as the excuse for their home not selling.
I have had the "she is a drug dealer" rumors, people coming to "take things" or clean up my firewood when I am not home, heck they even took my dog to be fixed when I wasn't home (against my wishes). And yes, she was fully contained on MY PROPERTY. They were mad because THEIR dog would get loose and come to MY DOGS RUN.
For years I would spend days cutting sage, hauling it to the dumps (now 30 a load), removing thrown trash, building fences, painting my homes to please my "Neighbors". While I was spending every week working to please them they would have bbq's and I would hear more nasty rumors with nighttime "neighborhood watch" people wandering on my property.
I have finally stopped trying in any way to please them. I put up camera's with a no trespassing sign. I am putting back up the wind chimes I love that I had taken down, I got a goat to replace the one that went missing in the middle of the night (camera shows neighbor leading it off) , I am looking for a rooster to replace the one they killed and left lying on the ground (camera shows them opening the coop at 545 in the morning). I am looking for a female purebred to bred again. I moved to an area zoned "rural" for a reason to enjoy living closer to the earth.
I have lived here 15 years while they all moved in or got greedy. I will take my trash out each monday. Build my fence lines where they belong despite their sending inspectors, Chop my wood for heat each spring and fall stacking it in the neat pile it goes in. Keep my old metal shed for kindling, whitewash my horse shed every three years or so.... and stay busy doing it for me NOT THEM.
Next time one of them comes on my land in the middle of the night to "fix or look at something" I will have them arrested and fully prosecute. They are LUCKY do not accidently shoot them. After all that is why our country allows us to bear arms. Against a govt run militia. Such as the SS which is exactly for five years how this group of neighbors has acted. Never once face to face. Never a letter requesting a change. Only govt workers mis informed arriving to find "rumor" based untruth had been told performing every inspection known to man. Only night time raids by "do Good" "idiots".
No wonder so many people want to move out to the country, just to get away from nuisance neighbors who don't mind their own business.
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