Advice to homebuyers: Beware the neighbour from hell - he can seriously lower the value of your property

Breaking away from his traditional practice of giving advice on the legal, financial and similar matters affecting home values and home buying, Tony Clarke, MD of Rawson Properties, this week took a good-humoured look at a much-underrated factor that can and does influence many home values – the neighbours.

Certain homeowners or occupants can seriously influence the quality of life of those living near them – and any prospective buyer of a property should take care to investigate his future neighbours before agreeing to a home purchase.

“I can talk from personal experience here,” said Clarke. “As a teenager my neighbours’ son stole my girlfriend – I have been wary of neighbours ever since. At various stages I have had neighbours who

  • held rowdy parties late into the night;
  • cut branches off my trees and threw them over my fence;
  • shot my pets with catapults or pellet guns;
  • had dogs that howled at the moon or barked at every passer-by;
  • threw pet’s excrement over the fence, sometimes into the pool;
  • uprooted plants in my garden because they did not like their colour;
  • insulted my domestic workers; and
  • clearly revelled in any chance to add a little zest to their lives by picking a fight on some topic or another.

“If this sort of thing is happening to you,” says Clarke, “call a tribal council and try to negotiate a truce. Some neighbours will respond, others will not – but it is a chance worth taking.

“If, on the other hand, you are seriously considering buying into an area with which you are not familiar, take a stroll around the precinct, start conversations with those who live there and ask how they find their neighbours. If there is a neighbour from hell around, you will probably get to hear about it.”

Certain signs, says Clarke, should ring warning bells: the first is that the house you contemplate buying has changed hands regularly in recent years – ask why this has happened. Then take a look at the neighbours’ properties – unkempt gardens, uncut lawns, neglected maintenance items, green pools, any sign that the property is being neglected, should indicate that this might be a less than desirable tenant.

“If on top of this you find on actually meeting the neighbour that the woman of the house is still in curlers half way through the morning, that the husband appears to be unemployed or that he and the son have old cars awaiting repair in the driveway or the street, take care. This could be the sort of neighbour who will spoil all the enjoyment you get from your home – and will lower its value.”

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