There is an old adage you’ve probably heard:
Great fences make for great neighbors.
Until you run into a less-than-pleasant situation with one of your own neighbor’s, you may not really know what that means. You can scrapbook and Pinterest and cruise around town for months searching for your dream home – even have a home built from scratch to your exact specifications – and still end up feeling like you lost the neighbor lottery. That’s the thing about people – we are an unpredictable lot, and when you put all kinds of us in a blender and pour us out into a neighborhood, a few of the personalities in the mix may not work well together.
So what do you do when you run up against a neighbor who eyeballs you daily from across the street or next door, but you just can’t see eye-to-eye with them? Here are a few tips on how to make a peace treaty (even if you are the only one who knows about it) with the curmudgeons or party animals down the block, across the street or on the other side of the wall.
- Before taking action of any kind, embrace the Golden Rule. Consider how you might feel, and how you would want to be approached, if you were the perpetrator of a neighborhood annoyance. (And consider as well that many “annoying neighbors” have no idea they are offending the rest of us.) If your barking dog woke up your neighbor’s newborn at midnight, would you want a visit from your neighbor with a polite request to control your pup overnight, or a visit from the police? Neither answer is the right choice – but proceed with the choice you’d most appreciate if the shoe was on the other foot.
- Kill ’em with kindness. This is good advice from the moment you move into a neighborhood or any living situation. Before anything unpleasant can mar your neighborly relationship, be the neighbor who stops by to introduce yourself and offer a plate of cookies, or at least your contact information. Invite new neighbors over for coffee or lemonade. If you have pets or children, share about them. If you are established and welcoming a newcomer, let them know what you love best about the neighborhood. Having an established relationship – even a very casual one – can help smooth out wrinkles that pop up later on.
- Communicate often; seek first to understand. If your dog bit a neighbor’s child or you heard through the grapevine that so-and-so was annoyed with the noisy late-night barbecue you hosted last weekend, don’t wait for your neighbor to complain. Address the issue with them as soon as you are aware there is a problem, be open and honest and resist the urge to go on the defensive. This will send a clear message that you are aware of your neighbor’s grievance, and are willing to address the situation.
- Take notes. If you do run into an ongoing situation with your neighbors – whether they have instigated a problem or they see you as the nuisance – record the dates and details of your discussions. Chances are you’ll be able to work out your differences amicably, but if there is a legal complaint filed against you, you’ll want to have a running tally of the incident(s) that have taken place. *Note that I am not a lawyer. If you are in need of legal advice, consult an attorney.
- If necessary, bring in a third party. Contact your Home Owner’s Association (HOA), condo board or a professional mediator if need be. Some issues, like property lines, are straightforward and defined by legal documents such as property surveys. Sometimes the lines surrounding neighborly issues can be blurred, though, and it is wise to mediate an issue through an objective source.
A sense of community is a valuable, fun aspect of owning a home – whether that home is a condo, townhome, or single family home. Practicing the art of neighboring can help ensure you are happy in your new digs for a long time. And when it comes time to borrow an egg, a cup of sugar, or a babysitter for your cat – you’ll be glad you’ve invested in developing these bonds.
Are you searching for the ideal neighborhood to call home? I’m a Colorado native with over 21 years of experience in the Real Estate industry, and I’d love to help.
The Meyers Group