A Homeowner’s Guide to Living with Neighbors You Didn’t Choose
Moving into a new home is exciting but comes with a lot of unknowns – beyond the inspection and what’s lurking under the leaves in the yard, there are people all around you that you don’t have time to meet before you buy. And frankly, if you love the house, the neighbors are a package deal!
We’ve identified four kinds of neighbors you could find yourself living next to and offered some (hopefully) helpful advice on keeping the peace on your street.
Meet the Kindly Noisemakers
These folks have a healthy, bustling tribe – kids, grandkids, friends, and colleagues. And they have a bunch of raucous interests: shooting guns, working on loud cars, building things in the backyard, barbecues with the music cranked to 11. But they’re also the first ones to mosey down the street and offer help unloading the truck or tell you about the other neighbors. You find yourself in a weird balance of wishing they would keep it down, but appreciating the friendliness they’ve extended in a new place.
photo via Samuel Zeller
Our advice? These folks are the least of your worries. They might even come in handy! Try to see the noise as an expression of fun. But if it goes on late every night for a couple nights in a row, you’ve obviously got a reason to drop by and ask them to turn it down a notch. [Note: If the gun shooting or any activities from the Kindly Noisemakers is dangerous or violates the law, do the right thing and report them.]
Everyone Loves a Dog Lover!
These big-hearted souls have rescued several dogs from terrible situations and dote on them like babies. So what if their grass is a little worn down or there’s poo on the sidewalk? One less euthanized animal! And they’d like to tell you more about themselves, but it’s kind of hard to hear them over all the barking. They settle for waving at your car in the mornings.
photo via Kamila Wk
Here’s our take: Dog lovers are usually pretty laid back. And probably won’t take the trouble to come by (sans dogs) and chat. Learn the dogs’ names and say hi to them every once in a while – you’ll be the Dog Lover’s friend for life. [Note: the rules for Kindly Noisemakers applies here too – if the dogs are unhealthy or their barking is consistently disruptive at awful hours, you may consider reporting them.]
And Then There Are the Yard Yellers
These folks have a habit of collecting too many things to fit into their house, so their treasures spill out to the curb as “yard art.” And sometimes, their personal conflicts spill out to the curb too. They’re guarded around the neighbors, suspicious of people touching their stuff, and yell openly at anyone who drives too fast down your street. They’ve probably been here the longest and had a hard time watching the neighborhood change. The nice thing is, they rarely stray off their own property.
via Shelly Ray
Our advice: This is probably the hardest situation to know what to do. If you see or hear what looks like domestic violence, you should absolutely report it (the police non-emergency line will do). But most of the time, as long as the situation doesn’t escalate out of hand, it’s probably best to just steer clear.
Last But Not Least, the Negligent
It’s hard to guess these folks’ stories. You never see them come out of their houses, you never see anyone come to visit, yard work never seems to get done (unfortunately for you if you live next door), and the house looks like it might be bordering on health code violations. From one angle they’re lovely neighbors – quiet, invisible, not at all nosy. But from the edge of your yard, fighting back their overgrowth, it feels like a very different story.
Here’s what we think: Obviously, as an adult (you do pay a mortgage now!), you should start by trying to contact the residents first about the lawn or the fallen trees or overgrowth. If you don’t get a response, there are a couple avenues to try: most cities have a code enforcement department that is concerned with things like fences in disrepair or trees hanging over public streets – give them a call. If the house or yard are threatening your power lines, cable lines, or utilities, you can also call that utility company and ask them to come inspect the area.
Neighbors are the least predictable thing about buying a house – they can be amazing or they can really bring the tone of your new place down. It’s up to you to find a balance between letting people do their thing and maybe speaking up for all the neighbors when one is particularly annoying. Good luck! And may your neighborhood be quiet and harmonious.