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How to deal with the 7 kinds of nightmare neighbours

Selling your home is a stressful time. You have finally fixed all the cracks, leaks, and woodwork you had on your to-do list. Plus, you’ve taken care of the lawn and have decided to give the entire outside and inside of the house a new coat of paint! Anyone walking up to your property must be impressed, no doubt.

You’ve even gone through the trouble of getting a home inspection done already, so you know what you’re dealing with once it’s negotiation time!

After all, your house is a true gem and you’re expecting the home selling process to be a quick one.

Hang on – let’s slow it down for a second!

What about your immediate neighbours?

I don’t mean whether they’re friendly people and love to bring over fresh pies every first weekend of the month; I’m actually checking whether they might be considered nightmare neighbours!

Well, we all know the types of neighbours one can have: loud parties every weekend, permanent parking lot on their front lawn, ferocious dogs scaring the life out of you every time you pass there on your jogging route.

While you and your family have learned to live with all of that, does this mean the visiting home buyers to your property will think the same?

Have a look at a number of nightmare neighbours we might be faced with and some of the tips on how to deal with them:

#1 The discontent neighbour

Certain neighbours have this perception of how their reality should look: whether it is how people should behave, how their life should look or how things should be.

Unfortunately, that perception they’ve dreamed up in their minds hasn’t become reality, so the feeling of stress, anxiety or discontent manifests itself.

The grass is now always greener on the other side!

How best can they express their feelings of discontent than by telling everyone them about them. At least, that’s how it is in the mind of a discontent neighbour.

Whereas you might shrug your shoulders as you couldn’t be bothered, as you’ve heard Auntie Julie talk about this for the past decade, the interested buyer visiting your neighbourhood, your street, your home might not!

This inside information received from Auntie Julie might lead the buyer to actually believe that the entire neighbourhood is going to pot, or that certain neighbours across the street are bad elements doing illegal things.

How’s that for a first impression?

It might be in the home seller’s best interest to inform the real estate agent about the presence of Auntie Julie (let’s hope she doesn’t have like-minded girlfriends coming over for their 4pm tea session, right at the time of the buyer viewing).

#2 The nosy neighbournosy neighbour

A close second to Auntie Julie and her discontent neighbouring friends to potentially ruin a home sale, is the nosy neighbour.

They’ve lived next door for many years, and believe me, they’ll know gossip about every single neighbour in the street!

While I’m sure these neighbours will eventually meet the new homeowner one day, let’s postpone that day as far out as we can, shall we?

Having a healthy interest in one’s neighbour is great – who better to look after your property from time-to-time by removing any newspapers or put out the garbage bins while you’re on vacation or gone for those long weekends, than a helpful neighbour?

However, having somebody keeping an eye out at the most abnormal early or late times, just to get the latest scoop on what’s happening around them, is just wrong. Having a nosy neighbour around might not only affect you during your stay at home (which you may or may not have dealt with over the years), but it could now be detrimental to your home selling process as well!

The home seller might need to have a serious chat with the neighbour, explaining how important it is for ONLY the real estate agent to do the talking with the interested buyer. In part, this means that both home seller AND (nosy) neighbour need to be at a distance during viewings.

Then again, there’s only so much a real estate agent can do to keep a distance between his potential home buyer and the nosy neighbour, especially if the latter is waiting next door on the pavement until they’ve finished viewing the house to approach them with the latest batch of questions.

#3 The messy neighbourVoetstoots resize

There’s messy and then there’s MESSY! Have you ever seen an episode of Hoarders (U.S. documentary series which originally debuted on A&E), where people with compulsive hoarding disorders (or pretty darn close to that!) were followed in their day-to-day dealings at home and ended with “interventions” (read: massive clean-ups) by the organisers?

While, I’m not saying every messy neighbour is messy to that extent, it’s not unusual to find collectors around you, who use their front and back garden to “temporarily” store their belongings.

We all know a neighbour or two who likes to work on their “classic cars” which got stranded in their front lawn for weeks, months, or even years.

Once you know you will be selling your home, perhaps the best way forward would be to approach the messy neighbour and explain how you’d like to present your home in the best possible manner; and even though you didn’t mind the cars in front (ahem ahem), it might scare away interested home buyers.

Knowing the situation with your messy neighbour will definitely hurt your bottom line. Decide whether you should spend some money to clean it up yourself (with his permission, of course!) and/or suggest paying for storage, or put everything in a garage where the neighbour can still actively access his cars!

If you have tolerated this behaviour nearby for all this time, calling on any authorities will immediately create bad blood between yourself and your neighbour, which is never a good way to start a home selling process!

With revenge in mind, who knows what this neighbour might be up to next.

#4: The noisy neighbournoisy neighbour

There are many variances on the noisy neighbour: ranging from doing garden work at the crack of dawn on a Sunday morning, to the loud parties the neighbouring teenagers throw every time the parents are gone for the weekend, to working in the garage late at night testing out the latest wood bench drilling tools, and even hearing those “nightly sounds” from the neighbours’ master bedroom (thanks to that window they always forget to shut).

These buyers might not be too impressed with the supposed “peace and quiet” in person vs what’s been described in the marketing brochure!

Obviously, you do not want to catch your noisy neighbours in the midst of their activities whilst doing a home viewing with potential buyers!

A lot of times, these noisy neighbours might not necessarily realise how much noise they’re making, and having a proper conversation explaining what’s been happening might already defuse the situation completely!

#5 The absent neighbour

Whereas the noisy neighbor is a nuisance to the home selling process, so is the complete opposite of the spectrum: the absent neighbour.

Mostly caused by a bankruptcy or foreclosure, the neighbouring house is now standing empty for months on end; any maintenance of the property is pretty much non-existent, where the front lawn is starting to look like a jungle (last time your dog walked in there, you only saw the dog 24 hours later as he couldn’t find his way back), and you’re starting to worry when vagrants might start to find shelter in the house!

Regardless of how eye-catching your property might be, the interested buyers’ first impression will factor in your absent neighbour’s dire housing state!

In these situations, there always seems to be someone who has a vested interest in keeping that house in somewhat of a tidy condition, whether it be the financial institution or one of the government agencies. A few quick phone calls might get you to the right person who might be involved in a maintenance company to assist.

I’ve seen home sellers in Northcliff not wait that long and do the very basic (exterior) maintenance of their absent neighbour themselves, by mowing the front lawn and making sure any newspapers or advertising folders get cleaned up.

A little effort on your part which might avoid costing you a lot of money by not selling your house!

#6 The snarly neighbourbeware of the dog

Have you ever lived in a neighbourhood where there was that one neighbour who had a couple of these massive dogs, who kept barking day or night? (I’m specifically not mentioning the clichéd pit bull dogs as a lot of other dogs fall into that category.)

You know what I mean, right?

While most of us pet lovers might not necessarily have a problem with neighbours and barking dogs (ours is making a noise too, so who am I to judge), yet at a certain point, these snarly neighbours might become a nuisance!

This constant barking will affect your ability to attract interested buyers as you’ll get the buyers there for the 1st viewing but never hear from them again!

Perhaps it’s time to have a candid chat with your neighbour and express your concerns about how his barking dogs are negatively affecting your home sale?

#7: The nasty neighbouraggressive neighbour

And last, but not least: let’s keep this one short, as we all hope to never deal with this type of neighbour!

There’s a very good chance you’ve already had a run-in with this disturbing neighbour.

While you thought you approached him with a small neighbourly issue in a correct and polite manner, this neighbour made it very clear to you that he will not stand for your “badgering” or “threatening” behaviour!

Even if it means he needs to “fight for his rights”!

If such a nasty neighbour makes you feel uncomfortable, verbally abuses you or threatens to do otherwise, one would be advised to immediately involve your local police. Individual incidences need to be reported to strengthen any potential legal case in the future.

Unfortunately, the interested buyers would need to be informed of this ongoing process, which will more than likely scare them away (unless of course, your home truly is a gem and the buyers don’t care about the neighbours).

How to handle nightmare neighbours

To correctly deal with any of the above nightmare neighbours, the following 4 suggestions might come in handy.

1 Talk to your neighbour

As briefly mentioned on a number of occasions above, the most advisable way to deal with nightmare neighbours is to actually go and talk with them!

I know, it’s not ideal, but with your bottom line in jeopardy now, I’m sure that’ll make you go explain the situation to them!

Surprise, surprise, how far a bit of diplomacy might go!

Heck, some of them might not even be aware of how their behaviour is affecting others! Some people might just have different priorities than others when it comes to things like neat lawns, barking dogs, partying kids etc.

Be sure to give them the benefit of the doubt before taking it to step 2!

2 Homeowners association (HOA)

If you happen to have a HOA in your neighbourhood, it tends to be a love-hate relationship!

Not everyone can be found to be as receptive to the (sometimes) strict rules put forward by the HOA, but when it comes to nightmare neighbours, there’s a good chance the HOA will be your friend – if they haven’t already raised the violation issue before you did!

This avenue does provide you with legal grounds to move against some of the nightmare neighbours’ activities!

3 Local city government

Once you’ve tried the above and were unsuccessful, it might be time to call your local city government (whether it be the department for zoning, environmental management etc).

So, instead of you driving your neighbour crazy, let the city and the “letter of the law” figure out how to deal with him!

Obviously, if they approach your neighbour the day after you tried to reason with him, it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out there might be a connection!

4 Attorney

And finally, we have our last resort: a civil lawsuit. Although timely, costly and emotionally draining, it will eventually result in the outcome you were looking for.

Closing thoughts 

Needless to say, the nightmare neighbours described above can really, REALLY hurt your home selling activity!

Everyone wishes they had the perfect family living next door, but let’s keep in mind that these unfortunate incidences can present themselves across all types of neighbourhoods, regardless of price!

So, don’t jump the gun (pun definitely not intended!) and get in a heated debate right away with your neighbour. These are very sensitive circumstances, which can get out of hand really fast!

In the end, a lot of money can be saved by looking at the bigger picture for you as a home seller! Get yourself some advice (either from your real estate agent or perhaps an attorney) before things escalate!


Xavier de Buck is a real estate agent operating in Northcliff, Johannesburg. Contact him on his site.


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