How Are The Neighbors ... Are They Noisy??

Real Estate Broker/Owner with North Shore Suburbs & Chicago Real Estate

NoisyNeighborHas a buyer client ever asked you this question?  After reading a few recent posts about disclosure of non-material facts, I wondered how this situation might best be handled.  As we all know, problematic neighbors can be a potential liability to the sale of a property.  So, what if a seller is aware that the neighbors tend to be "overly disruptive or excessively inconsiderate?"  Perhaps they repeatedly have loud parties until 4:00 in the morning?  Or, they feel compelled to start their home improvement projects at 11:00 in the evening?  It is my understanding that in most cases, even if the seller has personal knowledge of non-material facts -- such as a neighbor's disorderly conduct -- the seller is not obligated to disclose this information.  However, if a buyer specifically inquires about the issue directly, how is that question best answered?  Or, is this just a matter of Caveat Emptor, or “Let the Buyer Beware?”

I love to do research.  And therefore, when it comes to finding a new home, I am more than happy to do my own homework.  In fact, I have been known to sit in the lobby of a building and interview residents as they leave for work or return home.  I'll ask all sorts of questions about the building, the management company, their personal units, and basically their overall satisfaction (or dissatisfaction) with the building.  And, I must say -- everyone I have ever spoken to has been graciously delighted to provide me with opinions and feedback.  Furthermore, by doing my own research, I get much of the information I need in order to make an informed decision about living in the building itself.  Unfortunately, what I am unable to obtain is information about the civility of my neighbors.

At one time or another, most of us have had the unlucky misfortune of living next door to a “less-than-courteous” neighbor.  If you’ve been in this situation before, you know what I’m talking about.  And, let me tell you -- it can be pretty unpleasant.  Especially if you share a common wall with your neighbor, like in the instances of a condominium or a townhome.  Conflict and acrimony often ensue and then what happens?  Obviously, if you are a renter, you have the option of cutting your ties and moving out.  But, what if you own?  It can get quite complicated.

I know there are no guarantees in life.  And, I also know that situations can change.  For instance, you might have a quiet and respectful neighbor one minute -- and then that neighbor decides to move out.  There could be a host of other variables as well.  But, as a buyer, do you just have to take your chances?  Hope for the best?  I guess I'm feeling a little conflicted -- as I vividly remember a particularly horrific and traumatizing neighbor from my past.  In retrospect, I just wish someone would have given me a heads up.

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carie shapiro

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Erv Fleishman
Realty Associates - Boca Raton, FL
Luxury Prop Specialist Realty Associates

So, what if they ask...Are the neighbors nosy?

Good fences make good neigbors.

This is a subjective question and there is not only no obligation to answer, it would be wrong to answer. 


Feb 03, 2012 12:37 AM #17
Michael Setunsky
Woodbridge, VA
Your Commercial Real Estate Link to Northern VA

Carie, In my opinion this is not an adverse material fact. I believe it is up to the buyer to do their due diligence. The seller who does all the complaining about the neighbor may be the problem neighbor. Sometimes personalities clash. The buyer may find the people next door to be great neighbors.

Feb 03, 2012 12:39 AM #18
Richard and Jean Murphy
Harborview Properties - Portland, ME
(207) 712-4796

I always suggest that a potential buyer ask around the neighborhood or building to get the real story. This way they can ask their own poignant questions and rely on their own investigation. In a vacant building, we encourage someone in the party to go upstairs and walk heavily or next door to yell to test the sound insulation (not always possible in an occupied building).

Feb 03, 2012 12:43 AM #19
Lorraine or Loretta Kratz
Crescent Moon Realty, Inc. & Land N Sea Auctions. - San Marcos, CA
Certified Negotiation Consultants

I had a listing where the seller was selling because the neighbor's air conditioning unit was located right by the master bedroom window and the noise was so excessive that they could not sleep. When the seller ask the neighbor to do something about the noise the neighbor did not want to relocate the unit or fix the problem. It became a disclosure.

Feb 03, 2012 12:52 AM #20
Joni Bailey
101 Main St. Realty - Huntsville, TX
Your Huntsville / Lake Livingston Area REALTOR®

Even with Lorraine or Loretta's scenario, that is subjective. I know folks who can't sleep when the ceiling fan is on because of the noise, and I have slept through a hurricane. It is subjective. I always tell the buyer to  go through the neighborhood several different times and days to get a feel for the neighborhood. Make sure one of those days is on the weekend. Get out and talk to neighbors that are outside and ask them what they love and hate about the neighborhood. Remember that they MAY NOT all speak the truth. So talk to as many as you can so you can get a general feeling. Having said that,  It is always better to over disclose than to under disclose. If it bothers you enough to move, you probably need to disclose it. It will bother someone else, but others could care less!

Feb 03, 2012 01:27 AM #21
Sara Homan
Coldwell Banker Ellison Realty 352-209-4044 - Ocala, FL
Realtor, Homes, Farms & 55+

Simple responses to questions about neighborhoods seem to be the best.

How is the neighborhood?  Response:  I don't know, I don't live here but feel free to go knock on some doors and ask the neighbors themselves.

Are there criminals or pedophiles here?  Check the websites, go to the Sheriff's office and talk to them.

We need to be careful with our responses so it is much easier to refer them to outside sources that have been provided to us that are not a part of the transaction and are objective.

Feb 03, 2012 01:39 AM #22
Elizabeth Weintraub Sacramento Realtor Top 1%
RE/MAX Gold - Sacramento, CA
Put 40 years of experience to work for you

I believe a noisy and disruptive neighbor fits the definition of a material fact. A material fact is something that if a buyer knew it, the buyer would offer a lower price for the property or perhaps not buy it at all.

Now, I might not encourage a seller to write a 3-page document about the neighbor next door who goes to work at 5 AM in the morning on a motorcycle and all of his Hells Angels friends come over on the weekends, but I would suggest the seller disclose the neighbor next door owns a motorcycle.

Feb 03, 2012 02:12 AM #23
Ellie Shorb
Compass Real Estate - Chevy Chase, MD
Realtor DC, MD & VA Luxury Home Expert

I agree with Cindy Edwards, above. If the neighbors' behavior is a potential concern, the buyers need to walk around and meet and greet and get a feel for the flavor of the street... No agent can tell if there will or won't  be problems ahead in this area - it's like schools... one can be a fit for my child but not for yours and vice versa.

Feb 03, 2012 02:13 AM #24
Ron Cooks
The Real Estate Marketplace - Killeen, TX
Texas Real Estate, Ft Hood/Killeen Homes for Sale

Carrie, it's all about the property.  Neighbor issues are relative.  What's noisy to one, may be of comfort to another.  So without knowing the comfort level of the buyer, that question is best left for the buyer to discover.

Feb 03, 2012 03:10 AM #25
Carie Shapiro
North Shore Suburbs & Chicago Real Estate - Evanston, IL

Evelyn:  Good information, thanks!

Brian:  Interesting and very informative response!  As you said, it sounds like you've had some experience with this in your career -- so I thank you for sharing your method of addressing the issue.

Cheryl:  Doing your own homework is always a good idea!

Pacita:  Sounds like a dreadful situation for your buyers.  Disheartening, for sure.

Larry & Sheila:  You're right ... it's not always easy.  But, I guess some homework is better than no homework, yes?

Wayne & Jean:  I agree ... doing some due diligence is always an educational experience.

K.C.:  Good advice for your buyers!  Get as much information ahead of time to make a better informed decision.

Cindy:  Yes, we always hope the sellers will be as honest as possible.  And, as you said, it's always a good idea to spend some time exploring.

Bill:  You will find that most every resident you meet is happy to talk with you and answer your questions.  It has definitely been a great learning tool for me.  Good luck -- and I would be curious to know how that works for you!

Andrew:  You're absolutely right ... no drama if no neighbor :)




Feb 03, 2012 03:23 AM #26
Jaime Herrera
LION - El Paso, TX

I do not sell homes or condos, but if I did, I would always tell the buyer everything I knew about the neighbors and EXACTLY what he is up against. I would also advice him to drive by the property during late hours - that's when most bad things happen. Walking on eggshells is not for me and never will be.

Feb 03, 2012 03:38 AM #27
Carie Shapiro
North Shore Suburbs & Chicago Real Estate - Evanston, IL

Mike:  Yes, it's always better to find out everything sooner rather than later.  I wouldn't want buyers cursing me in the night either :)

Brian:  Thank you ... that is good information!

Richard:  I guess that is part of the issue -- whether excessively disruptive neighbors are considered a latent adverse material defect.

Erv:  Yes, there seem to be many sides to this issue.

Michael:  I am a big believer in doing my due diligence.  You sure get a good education and a lot of important information in the process.

Richard & Jean:  It sounds like you have several good, investigational practices and procedures in place!

Lorraine & Loretta:  Thank you for sharing that example of neighbor noise and disclosure :)

Joni:  You're right ... this can be a very subjective issue.  And, I totally agree with you when you say "It is always better to over disclose than to under disclose.  If it bothers you enough to move, you probably need to disclose it."  Well said :)

Sara:  The KISS method does seem to work well in many situations!

Elizabeth:  It seems that the definition of "material fact" is part of the issue.  And, the example you gave of how you might address the situation is a great illustration of disclosure under those circumstances!

Feb 03, 2012 03:51 AM #28
Carie Shapiro
North Shore Suburbs & Chicago Real Estate - Evanston, IL

Ellie:  You're right ... no guarantees.  So, doing your own homework helps, and is always beneficial and a definite learning experience.

Ron:  Yes, comfort levels can be subjective.  Exploring and getting as much information ahead of time is always a good idea.

Jaime:  I agree ... most bad things happen in the late hours.  And, that is one of the reasons why discovery is more difficult.  Sometimes you have to live it to know it.  This is where disclosure is helpful for the buyer! Thanks for stopping by :)

Feb 03, 2012 04:01 AM #29
Connie Harvey
Pilkerton Realtors - Brentwood, TN
Realtor - Nashville TN Real Estate

Carie, we sold our beachhouse in 2008 because the neighbor was so bad. Totally took the enjoyment out of relaxing down there.

Feb 03, 2012 07:36 AM #30
Bryan Robertson
Los Altos, CA

In California, it's actually required to disclose any such neighborhood noise.  When I meet with a client who wants to list, I make sure we talk about neighborhood noise and neighbors just to make sure we've covered issues like this.

Feb 03, 2012 09:18 AM #31
Donne Knudsen
Los Angeles & Ventura Counties in CA - Simi Valley, CA
CalState Realty Services

Carie - WOW!!!  What a timely topic!  Just this afternoon, I was with a client at an appt only listing where the listing agent was showing us the property.  The listing agent mentioned that they just lived down the street and that they had sold several properties on the street. 

Simultaneously, my client and I asked about the neighbors and LA was nice enough to give us the rundown on all of the neighbors for the properties he sold as well as one particular neighbor that all of his former clients made no secret of complaining about.

As it turned out, the property wasn't high on my clients list of potential properties to write on but they did mention that the thought of living next door to a neighbor from #%!! was also a consideration as well.

Feb 03, 2012 02:00 PM #33
Sandy Acevedo
951-290-8588 - Chino Hills, CA
RE/MAX Masters, Inland Empire Homes for Sale

Hi Carie, Great post! But what if the seller discloses that the neighbors are less than stellar, they know they will face a big hurdle in selling. And is this a subjective viewpoint, is it spreading rumors? Maybe the new neighbors will not have the same problems as they sellers did. Nice discussion!

Feb 03, 2012 05:22 PM #34
Carie Shapiro
North Shore Suburbs & Chicago Real Estate - Evanston, IL

Connie:  I'm so sorry to hear this.  It's really sad when a bad neighbor situation affects your quality of life.  I know ... I've been there too.

Bryan:  Interesting ... didn't know that about CA.  Sounds like you make sure to get all the required information up front.  No surprises :)

Erica:  I agree ... nobody can predict the future.  However, if there is a situation happening -- it would be nice to know something upfront.

Donne:  Yes, it sure sounds like this was a timely post!  Thank you for sharing that story.  Knowing about a neighbor from @*#% ahead of time is priceless :)

Sandy:  You're right ... there are so many variables and viewpoints in a situation like this.  And, I agree with you ... it's been an interesting discussion :)

Feb 04, 2012 03:44 AM #35
Marge Piwowarski
Phoenix AZ Horse Property - Phoenix, AZ
Phoenix AZ Horse Property, LLC

I encourage my buyers to meet the neighbors, once we have decided on making an offer  I  take them to meet the neighbors.  Nothing can prevent a bad neighbor from moving in,  but  my buyers have usually started a relationship with the existing families. 

Feb 05, 2012 05:50 AM #36
Carie Shapiro
North Shore Suburbs & Chicago Real Estate - Evanston, IL

Marge:  Encouraging buyers to meet the neighbors is a great practice.  Having a good relationship with the neighbors is awesome too :)

Feb 05, 2012 07:24 AM #37
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