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Bad neighbours. How much will they cost you?

July 19, 2019

Bad neighbours. We’ve all had them, but unfortunately not all of them have looked like Zac Efron, even if he did come with a frat house. Still, a frat house would be better than this guy in Tungkillo in the Adelaide hills, who was recently jailed for murdering his neighbour over a long-running fencing dispute.

Concern about substandard neighbours can also be taken too far, as several people on a well-to-do street in New Zealand found out when they received notes in their letterboxes asking them to upgrade their cars as the ones they had were not to the standard expected in that street, something that could potentially impact the sale price of nearby houses.

This story had us at Independent in stitches—not least because some online comments suggested that perhaps the real estate agents selling those houses delivered the notes. The agents have denied all knowledge of the letter, but it got us to wondering:

  1. What are the worst neighbour experiences our staff members have had?
  2. Does it really impact prices? 
  3. What can/should be done about it?

Here at Independent we’ve signed lease agreements that forbid wicker outdoor furniture because it’s not attractive enough, had neighbours with a van that makes Wicked Campers look like a church group, dealt with Smooth Operator playing on repeat every Friday night and had a chap that stood at his gate all day every day and stared down passers-by—we called him Hogar (after the sign nailed to his gate Hogar del Quixote).

To get the lowdown on how agents deal with bad neighbours (and if they’d stoop to snarky letterbox notes) we chat to Independent Sales Agent, Aaron Lewis.

So truth time, what’s the weirdest situation you’ve faced when it comes to neighbours?

Honestly, there was one house where the neighbour had mannequins in their front yard and dressed them up. Every time I went over they’d be wearing something different. It was like the scene out of the movie ‘I am Legend’ when Will Smith was talking to Fred the mannequin. To be fair, I never actually saw them talking to the mannequins.

Were they, perhaps, nice clothes? Could they have been a fashion designer with a really cheap marketing budget?

They were unique and eye catching that’s for sure and I don’t think their marketing strategy to their neighbours was really working.

The Bondi Hoarders case in Sydney is pretty well known. The tons (literally) of rubbish has become a breeding ground for vermin and a health hazard, to the extent that the local council has been forced to come in and clear the rubbish against the will of the owners and the home has almost been sold to cover the costs several times. People trying to sell their homes in that street have really struggled. There’s nothing that bad in Canberra, but how often do you see versions of it?

Hoarders that have excessive rubbish, like cars, white goods and other household items are surprisingly common. I’d love to say that it doesn’t impact house values, but it can have a significant impact. For some buyers it can simply be a deal breaker or lower the amount they’d pay for a property by tens of thousands of dollars. That said, there will be other buyers that don’t care, and it doesn’t impact how much they’d pay at all.

So as an agent, what do you do about that?

I like to ask about neighbours whenever I take on a property, but especially if there is something odd or unattractive in the street. Invariably it’s something the buyers will ask or would like to know about. More often than not the questionable neighbour is in fact as nice as pie, a great person and a great neighbour, but just doesn’t have the same ideas as others when it comes to cleanliness or street appeal, plus they aren’t looking to sell so the presentation of their property isn’t something they are thinking of.

Do you approach them? Do you put a friendly-worded note in their letterbox and hope it doesn’t end up on social media?

Like the New Zealand note? No, that was pretty funny, but not how an agent would go about dealing with this issue—not that there was much of an issue to begin with. Wasn’t the ‘dodgy’ car a 2013 Peugeot?

Yeah I think so—or the gardener’s van.

If I’m facing an issue of rubbish in a nearby yard, the first thing I do is ask about the relationship that exists between the neighbours—if they know them, what their history has been like. Sometimes the owners are happy to knock on their door and tell them they need their help in tidying up as it’s in everyone’s best interest to help increase the sale prices in the area.

There are plenty of owners who find the idea of approaching their neighbour a bit of an awkward or scary situation to deal with, so as their agent I will happily chat with the neighbours to let them know of the upcoming sale and to see if they are able or willing to do the neighbourly thing and tidy up. To help protect the value of our seller’s home we have offered to pay for a gardener or someone to collect the rubbish. That’s often very well received because it’s a win-win for all.

What are your recommendations for vendors in terms of working with their neighbours when they’re trying to sell a property?

Always try to keep the peace with your neighbours. Make an effort, not just in the weeks leading up to the sale but year-round. Your friendliness, community spirit and respect for your neighbours will go a long way and come back to you in added profits when you need it most—at sale time.

So there you have it—a money-making piece of real estate advice that doubles as life lesson. Be nice to each other. Peace Out.