When you’re shopping for a new place to call home, the neighborhood is just as important as the house itself. The perfect rancher in a college town could mean frat-star neighbors, while a quaint little two-story in a retirement community could bring noise complaints or boundary wars. We’ve broken down the worst of the worst bad neighbors for you, and ways to help you spot them.
The Frat Star
Regardless of whether or not he’s still in college, the Frat Star still lives the collegiate life. And he’s unabashedly unashamed of it. You graduated ten years ago, Jimmy. Time to let the dream die.
Telltale signs: At least one, maybe multiple roommates; garage band practice at ungodly hours; slack maintenance, an overgrown yard, excessive trash; empty beer cans in the yard.
How to deal: The frat star probably doesn’t have a care in the world, except that you’ll shut him down. Before you move in, think about the neighborhood — are you in the minority, or is he? If the area is near a college and ripe with tenants with the same mindset, consider a different neighborhood. After you move in, try getting to know him and communicating why what he’s doing is bothering you. See if you can work out a compromise. You can blast your music as loud and as late as you want on Fridays and Saturdays, but Sunday through Thursday are off limits
The Ross and Rachel
You know how Ross and Rachel never seemed to be able to get along for longer than one episode? That’s this couple. And whether or not you want to know the gritty details, they’ll share them. I don’t care what your husband did now, Marsha. I really don’t!
Telltale signs: Loud, often public disagreements; closets dumped on the front lawn; trash bags of broken plates, shards of wine glasses and anything else that can be hurled in a rage.
How to deal: Unfortunately, these neighbors are hard to spot before you move in. But if you’re worried they might live near your potential new home, ask around. Talk to the other neighbors and look at public records to see if any domestic disputes have been filed. If they have, you probably have a problem on your hands and might want to consider a different street for your new abode. If you don’t spot them before you move in, don’t get involved in their disputes, and keep track of disturbances that truly affect your family. If they have loud shouting matches past the noise curfew of your neighborhood on the reg, document them, and consider getting the authorities involved.The Hoodlums
Kids are well and good, and if you’ve got youngsters yourself, you probably want to find a neighborhood where your brood can make friends. But beware of the family with more kids than they can handle, who are always getting into things. Oh, Kevin and Kyle popped their eardrums playing with Q-tips one day. That’s normal.
Telltale signs: A van that looks like it was purchased when Bush (the first one) was still president; permanent bags under Mom’s eyes; popped soccer balls in the front lawn; a basketball hoop hanging by a thread.
How to deal: Before you move in, get a feel for the neighborhood. Ask teachers at your kids’ new school about the neighborhood crew, and see what they have to say. Talk to the other parents on the block, ask about the bus stop and get a feel for the vibe. Once you’ve settled into your new house, open communication from parent to parent will help immensely. Befriend the parents, and create a relationship where you can speak honestly and openly with one another. If trouble persists, document any misgivings you have before involving the authorities. And of course, call the professionals as soon as trouble crosses the line into law breaking — vandalism, breaking and entering, or worse.
Every neighborhood needs a good ghostly neighbor to catch the kids’ attention and keep them in check. After all, what would Scout and Jem have done without Boo Radley? The Sandlot kids without Mr. Mertle? But when crotchety crosses over into rude, you have a problem. I swear, Mr. Smith, those leaves aren’t from my trees!
Telltale signs: The constant hum of his leaf blower and an immaculate yard while yours looks like a thousand trees died overnight; the creaking of his rocking chair as he stares down everyone in the neighborhood; kids who take the long way home just to leave a wide berth around the house.
How to deal: A mean neighbor isn’t usually the be-all and end-all of bad neighbors. He’s more likely to be a pain in your you-know-what, but occasionally, the line is crossed into dangerous. Before you move in, be sure to check out national registries to make sure the scary neighbor is just that — a ghost story — and not something more. Once you’ve moved in, try to maintain a good relationship by communicating, and learning what makes him tick. Is it just that he doesn’t like kids? Keep them off his lawn. Is he really just sad because his wife passed away? Invite him to spend time with your family. The more you know, the easier it will be to deal with this neighbor.
The Sugar Sharer
If you’ve always wanted to live in a neighborhood where you truly can borrow a cup of sugar from your neighbor, you’re not alone. But it gets dicey when your sugar sharer neighbor gets too comfortable. No, Susan, just because we’re neighbors does NOT mean you’re invited to breakfast every morning.
Telltale signs: Subtle hints that she can’t wait for you to move in because she just knows you’ll be the best of friends; a general Patty Simcox attitude; uninvited visits, often with no announcement of her presence; yard tools or kitchen utensils that suddenly go missing; mail that’s “accidentally” opened.
How to deal: Like the McQuarrelsomes, this neighbor can be hard to spot before you move in. Often, her boundary-crossing is confined to a few people, and not everyone has had the same experience with her. Try asking around to see if anyone has experienced anything off-putting. Once you’re neighbors, put a stop to her unwelcome drop-bys with firm, open communication, and if all else fails, locks on the doors. Don’t share confidential information like your garage door or alarm codes, and find another neighbor to check on Mittens while you’re out of town. Set clear boundaries, and document those she crosses.
Neighborhood dogs are great — they can provide you all the puppy lovin’ you’ll ever need without having to commit to a Fido of your own. But beware of the terrible pet owner. Yes, I realize there are squirrels. No, I don’t want to hear Buster barking. Normal people have to work in the morning!
Telltale signs: Uncontrolled barking late into the night; swarms of flies and little gifts adorning the yards of the neighbors, right near the street; chewed up dog toys littering the yard.
How to deal: Poor pet owners can be touchy when the subject of their pet care comes up. Before you move in, drive through the neighborhood at night to see if Fido and his friends have an open dialogue past normal bedtimes. Ask around to see what Mr. Responsible has to say about his pet disturbing the neighborhood. If Fido starts up his poor behavior after you’ve moved in, try talking to his human to see if you can reach a compromise. Like the frat star, Fidon’t just wants to live his life in peace, so communication is key.
Green grass next door definitely helps the resale value of your own place but these overachievers feel the need to start the lawn mower, weed whacker or leaf blower at 7am on Saturday. Saturday is my ONE day to sleep in. MY ONE DAY, DOUG. YOUR LAWN CAN WAIT UNTIL A CIVILIZED TIME OF DAY!
Telltale signs: Mowing, whacking, blowing, weeding, painting, hammering and nailing every weekend, at the CRACK. OF. DAWN.; a house that looks like it came straight off of HGTV; a lawn that Mother Nature herself is jealous of; a crazy, overly-caffeinated look in their eyes.
How to deal: Mr. and Mrs. Overachiever will benefit from a little extra TLC. Get to know them, understand what makes them tick — and why they’re up before the birds mowing their lawn. Maybe they have really stressful jobs and lawncare calms them down. Once you’ve established a relationship, see if you can come to a resolution that works for all of you. If you don’t start ‘til 9 a.m., I’ll let you mow my lawn, too. I know, I know, I’m too kind.
The Bottom Line
Before you buy a home, do your research — talk to the neighbors, scout out the house at different times of day (and night), drive by on the weekends, and look up reports to see if any complaints have been filed. It never hurts to check online registries as well, to ensure your new dream neighborhood isn’t harboring any registered offenders. And once you’ve settled in, be wary that you don’t become the problem — if you want a good neighbor, start with yourself.