Do I Have To Tell About the Neighbors?

Real Estate Agent with Coldwell Banker Residential Brokerage BRE#01732313

Woman with Hand Over Her MouthWhen speaking with prospective sellers about selling their homes, the topic of disclosures of course always comes up. "Do I have to tell about the neighbors? And while most people have great relationships with others on their block, there are some who have minor annoyances they share, such as:

  • Too many cars parked in front 
  • Unkept yards
  • Garbage cans left out in front of the house 
  • Christmas light left up all year long 
  • RV parking that obstructs a neighbor's view 
  • Trees that overhang into a neighboring yard 
  • Loud parties Barking dogs 

Now some of these things will be apparent to prospective buyers, but others not as much. If something is a material fact about the property it must be disclosed to the buyer. Many a seller has found themselves In a pickle after the fact for failure to disclose. Say for instance that your neighbor has a huge tree with branches that encroach into your yard, and they refuse to properly trim it so that it doesn't create a fire hazard next to your chimney. A buyer would want to know that they either have to work out a satisfactory arrangement with the neighbor, or will have to maintain the tree on their side of the property. (I know of one case where the neighbors had actually been to small claims court to deal with the problem.)

Neighbors are apt to have better relationships if they understand how the things they do affect each others property values. Someday when you are ready to sell your home, what your neighbor does or does not do, can affect the perceived or real value of your home. and if you see that your neighbor has put their home on the market, consider what things you can do to make sure their home is presented in a good light.

After all, one day you may need the same kind of cooperation.


Re-Blogged 3 times:

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  1. Jennifer Spanbauer Brodoway 09/19/2011 10:48 AM
  2. Kathy Schowe 09/19/2011 04:38 PM
  3. Aida Pinto 09/20/2011 07:56 AM
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Karen Crowson
Coldwell Banker Residential Brokerage - Rancho Bernardo, CA
Your Agent for Change

Judi #10 - I find it more apt to occur in first time buyers. They don't necessarily know who is responsible for what.

Rob #11 - hopefully, whatever problem exists with the neighbors can be worked out better with someone new - no bad history to contend with.

Joan #12 - as you are hearing, California seems to be one of the most litigious states, so it's more likely to come up here.

Dave #13 - no disclosure necessary?  The problems will cease when they move!!

Michael #15 - you bet the neighbors will talk. I've heard some horror stories about what buyers learned from the neighbors after they'd moved it.

Jeff #20 - Smart guy that attorney.  Hey, I was just in your neck of the woods today!


Sep 19, 2011 04:58 PM #23
Karen Crowson
Coldwell Banker Residential Brokerage - Rancho Bernardo, CA
Your Agent for Change

John #22 - Ha, forgot about that one. And here I had a son in a garage band once upon a time. But he wasn't the drummer. The drummer gets most of the band practice sessions. We just tried to give his mom a break once in a while :)

Sep 19, 2011 05:00 PM #24
David Gibson CNE, 719-304-4684 ~ Colorado Springs Relocation
Colorado Real Estate Advisers LLC - Colorado Springs, CO
Relocation, Luxury & Lifestyle residential

Karen you are so right that “If something is a material fact about the property it must be disclosed to the buyer.”

So the question becomes what is a fact and what is an opinion?

Some facts are clear cut and everyone will see them as facts.

But some “facts” can be interpreted as opinions and some “opinions” interrupted as facts.

So who gets to decide which is which?

The buyers and anyone who will determine the outcome of a dispute.

In the sellers “opinion,” the neighbors large, scary, foaming at the mouth dog (I love dogs, it is just an example) jumping the fence may be an inconvenience but the buyer may deem it to be dangerous to their own pets or small children. It pays to have an in depth discussion with our sellers because they can’t afford to lose, but they are the most likely to lose.

Sep 19, 2011 05:17 PM #25
Cheryl Ritchie
RE/MAX Leading Edge - Huntingtown, MD
Southern Maryland 301-980-7566
That is a good topic to select. You really covered a lot of important issues.
Sep 19, 2011 05:46 PM #26
Lee Bothast, CRS
Coldwell Banker Residential Brokerage - South Pasadena, CA
2nd Generation Pasadena Area Realtor

I always ask: would you rather disclose now with a few extra lines on a page, or be in a lawsuit later?

Sep 19, 2011 05:46 PM #27
Marge Piwowarski
Phoenix AZ Horse Property - Phoenix, AZ
Phoenix AZ Horse Property, LLC

I bought a home and was advised that one of my neighbors was "that impossible woman".  The longer I listened to the litany, the more I felt the neighbor wasn't the problem.  I proceeded on that assumption and she is a wonderful friend and neighbor. 

Disclosures about the neighbors may not always be material OR factual. 


Sep 19, 2011 05:58 PM #28
Karen Crowson
Coldwell Banker Residential Brokerage - Rancho Bernardo, CA
Your Agent for Change

David, #25 - much wisdom in your remark. And we never know what new nuisance the buyers themselve may bring to the equation.

Marge #28 - you bring up a very good point. This may be as Dave #13 suggests.

Sep 19, 2011 06:30 PM #29
Sandy Acevedo
951-290-8588 - Chino Hills, CA
RE/MAX Masters, Inland Empire Homes for Sale

It has already been said here, and I agree. If you are in doubt whether something needs to be disclosed, then disclose.

Sep 19, 2011 07:02 PM #30
Jon Quist
Tucson's BUYERS ONLY Realtor since 1996

Yep, if the "neighbors" bother or disturb you, there is a really, REALLY good chance they'll also annoy the next owner. Disclose, disclose, disclose.

Sep 19, 2011 08:08 PM #31
Kern Myra
Outside Blog Attended Rain Camp

If the seller is asking the quesiton - then it is apparently an important item, which means it should most likely be disclosed.  After all, the buyers may be able to get the neighbors to work with them, just because they are new.Tera Gold  Cheap RS Gold

Sep 19, 2011 10:25 PM #32
Mike Cooper, GRI
Cornerstone Business Group Inc - Winchester, VA
Your Neighborhood Real Estate Sales Pro

Excellent, Karen.  What neighbors do can definitely kill a deal.  It would be unfortunate to buy a house only to find out the next door neighbor's kids have a death metal band that practices 5 nights a week for three hours.  Ouch!

Sep 20, 2011 12:20 AM #33
Christine Smith
Buyers Brokers Only LLC - - Canton, MA
Exclusive Buyer Agent & Attorney, Canton, MA
Most of that stuff should be obvious to the Buyers. As for the trees, around here if it hangs over your property lined you can cut it yourself ( only the part on your property of course) but that might vary state to state. Sometimes it is mere personality issues in that the current owner did not quite "mesh" with the neighbors too.
Sep 20, 2011 01:33 AM #34
Michael Setunsky
Woodbridge, VA
Your Commercial Real Estate Link to Northern VA

Karen, encroachments should show up on the property survey. Nuisance encroachments should be resolved prior to closing. When in doubt disclose.

Sep 20, 2011 01:51 AM #35
Bryan Robertson
Los Altos, CA

One of the first things I tell my clients is to talk to the neighbors to find out who they'll be living next to.  It helps establish friends and gets them information they couldn't get from any disclosure.

Sep 20, 2011 02:05 AM #36
Melissa Ostrom & Melville Capps Newton MA - The Mel and Mel Team
(617) 388-3151 | Century 21 Commonwealth - Newton, MA

You can only disclose what you know. For example, an agent isn't going to know about neighbors who have loud screaming fights at 1 a.m., but this will probably bother the buyer.

Also, many neighbor issues are subjective. I'm sure that according to one of our neighbors that we are the problem neighbors because we like to feed the birds and squirrels. She hates them.

She even puts out a trap for the squirrels, an act of laughable futility. She complained about the bird feeder near our porch. So, being good neighbors, we moved the feeder to a tree out in the yard. This was after we moved our fire pit in response to her complaint about it. Sigh. Haven't heard anything for a while, so we must have improved.



Sep 20, 2011 02:06 AM #37
Richie Alan Naggar
people first...then business Ran Right Realty - Riverside, CA
agent & author

Yes, you got to spill the the beans every-time and all the time. How you spill may make a difference. Our eyes and ears are what is for sale along with our savvy and promise to protect and take care of our principals. I give people their monies worth even if I don't make anything....If I know something you should will too

Sep 20, 2011 03:25 AM #38
Bob Marsh
Warm Weather Real Estate - Mesa, AZ
Broker,480-529-2936, Warm Weather Real Estate

So does it matter if the neighbors wear Depends? Ha, gotcha!  Just kidding. 

Do you advise your buyers to talk to the neighbors prior to closing?

Sep 20, 2011 05:50 AM #39
Doug Rogers
Bayou Properties - Alexandria, LA
Your Alexandria Louisiana Agent

Nice post! I have had neighbors cost me a deal or two. One kept a refrigerator in his front yard. My listing sold for 10k less than it would have with normal neighbors.

Sep 20, 2011 06:02 AM #40
Sandy Shores FL Realtor®, Melbourne Real Estate
M & M Realty of Brevard Inc. - Melbourne, FL
Brevard County Real Estate, Florida's Space Coast

Karen, Something that cannot be readily observed by a buyer should be disclosed by the seller.

Sep 20, 2011 08:45 AM #41
Karen Crowson
Coldwell Banker Residential Brokerage - Rancho Bernardo, CA
Your Agent for Change

Jon #32 - sometimes it's a personality clash, but err on the side of conservatism.

Mike #34 - that was me! My kids had a metal band, but with strick guidelines. Flyer to all neighbors with our phone number for any noise complaints, and that the garage door had to be shut at all times. No music at all after 10:00 p.m. Thank goodness our houses were very soundproof - in 5 years we had only 1 complaint.

Bryan #37 - I always tell clients to talk to the neighbors. That way there is no bias, just from the sellers point of view.

Melissa #38 - sounds more like your neighbor, rather than you, is intolerant.

Richie #41 - spot on!

Bob #42 - "Depends" on what they want to know. Many times neighbors seal the deal, telling them how nice it is to live in the neighborhood.

Doug #43 - that stinks, but at least the house finally got sold. Poor seller :(

Sandy - agree wholeheartedly.




Sep 20, 2011 03:11 PM #42
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Karen Crowson

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