Photo: Robbin Cunningham
Photo: Robbin Cunningham

By Yvonne Dick

There’s always a fear that a property you’ve listed for sale is going to be viewed at a lower value because of surrounding properties and their condition, or because of bad neighbours.

When listing a house for sale, it is important to assess the neighbourhood.  Note any potential negatives such as nearby entertainment venues, bars, railway lines and noisy neighbours along the block. Take a look at how the other homeowners keep their yards – is it in line with the look you would like to see in the property you are selling?

“Generally we try and take the path of least resistance” with sellers’ neighbours, says Adam Bendig of Re/Max Connex Realty in Rockwood, Ont. “It’s nice to knock on the door and say hi, or if there is bad blood (with the seller), try to remedy it prior to selling the house. The past issues may be minor but people hold grudges longer than they need to.”

Don’t forget to leave business cards and make sure that everyone you meet has a way to get in contact with you if they have any problems.  Talk with the seller and make a list of any difficulties they ever had with neighbours, paying attention to what and how things are said. You want to clearly understand what the issues are and how serious or minor they may be. Assume nothing and always clarify.



“Sometimes it can be a financial issue – if a property doesn’t look up to par it might just be that they’re not capable of taking care of their house and maybe they need help” cleaning up their yard, says Bendig. He suggests offering to help out with cleaning projects as a way to build better relationships between neighbour and seller.

Privacy walls or fences, large plants or temporary decorative items can help make your property sale smoother by accenting the house rather than drawing the eye to other houses or their occupants.

What if you are considered the bad neighbour? For instance, what if a neighbouring property feels they are being harassed by open houses scheduled during the time they sit down to dinner?

“A gift card can go a long ways toward smoothing things over. We’ve done that with clients as well as neighbours when small issues have arisen,” says Bendig.

Neighbours can be quiet yet deadly – passive aggressive or prone to blow a fuse for unpredictable reasons. While they are in the minority, head it off at the pass with open communication.

“When you leave notes you just don’t get the same response,” he says. “Show them the courtesy of discussing what’s going on and how you’d like to see things. Explain that you are trying to sell the house,” says Bendig. If you feel tensions are escalating during a conversation with the seller’s neighbour, back off and come again another time.

If you think a neighbour is not going to respond well to the seller talking to them, be prepared to step in as a sort of mediator. It takes the personal aspect down a notch because it is now a professional talking to them and not the neighbour that they don’t get along with. Bendig says one of the tools in the sales rep’s kit is being able to show neighbours how what they are doing affects property value. It can benefit the neighbour if they realize others may see their own home as more valuable.

“A lot of people have in their head the worst-case scenario. Nine times out of 10 just talking with people, they are more than willing to work with you.”

Bendig says your last resort is getting local bylaw enforcement officials involved, but if you go that route, “you might stir the pot a little more than you want.”

  • Terri Dick

    Great article for those who have lived with bad neighbours. MYOB is not an option if your best door neighbour does drunken phone calls at 3am on the back deck adjacent to your bedroom or allows his teenage sons to play their music at levels so high everything inside your house is vibrating. Guess you have never had a bad neighbour Bob K.

    • Carolyne L

      At one point I developed a liability disclaimer that I inserted in offers made by those who were my buyers; or, attached to a buyer’s co-op representation and or to the agreement of purchase and sale incoming from a co-op, as a Schedule.

      I had just reached the stage where I felt it was not my responsibility. I could no longer address such topics as to validation, or warrant or guarantee that I had even tried to do such research.

      I decided it was the buyer’s responsibility to do his own checking, if the topic was important. Important or not, I was relieving them of any opportunity to blame me.

      Likewise for legal basement apartments; predicted road widenings, plazas about to be built on nearby vacant land contiguous to subject property.

      Call the city or governing bodies and do your own research to satisfy your needs. Whatever information I might be able to provide is always subject to change, over which I have no ultimate control.

      If a given subject is important enough for a buyer or seller to bring up, then it is important for them to do their own due diligence. We are not and cannot be governors of such.

      My advice to a buyer; get the information as to what applies or what can or cannot be done, in writing, from the appropriate people and make sure they print their signature as well, and date the information provided.

      Often then a different property will be sought out, because getting the kind of research done often takes more work and time consumption than it is worth.

      Quiet enjoyment is a legal term that doesn’t refer to loud neighbour music. The au contraire possibly is the definition of ‘interference.’

      As defined on the Net:
      Quiet Enjoyment: The right of a property owner or tenant to enjoy his or her property without interference.

      Just my personal thoughts, of course. Not discussed in real estate education – how to handle.

      Carolyne L 🍁

  • It is a tough situation, true enough. New Realtors may not want to turn down the chance to get a listing, while on the other hand things might get ugly fast if diplomacy doesn’t work. Who wants a neighbourhood feud after all? (Himself is a herself by the way). While talking to ‘problem’ neighbours may not be an option, sometimes ‘something’ has to be done to get a place sold in an ethical yet expedient manner. It’s far from ideal for those who venture into it.

  • Bob K

    ……sounds like the author has taken it upon himself to be the new neighbourhood psychoanalyst. And thats all good if it works in your lovely town. Why not just put up a lemonade stand with free banana muffins while you vaccuum and paint your hillbilly neighbours squalor. Sorry, Im rambling, but they will come to you, if they wanna open up and share.. in the meantime, if you dont want to end up with a conveinient nail in your new pirelli,s….myob.

  • Ross Kay

    What about the disclosure requirements that are needed because the REALTOR has already determined the neighbour is devaluing the home they are selling?
    Does that require written disclosure or is it the Buyer Agent’s duty to include a clause that ensures no such neighbour exists?
    What happens when the Seller says, “don’t tell anyone looking at the house but their is a known pervert next door whose bedroom window faces the kids room?” and YES I was told versions of this several times over my career.
    This is not an HGTV topic nor one that justifies an HGTV response. You are professionals, treat these circumstances appropriately.

    • Carolyne L

      In the 90’s I declined an opportunity to represent a buyer client who had been a seller client, for this very reason. They wanted to buy a house next door to a past client who had been a school teacher when I sold the house years earlier.

      It was in the papers that he was no longer a teacher and for why. A really nice middle age couple. Of course I had no idea.

      But knowing the newspaper columns reports, I was reluctant to get involved, and as sellers Mrs. Seller was one who knew everything about real estate better than I did and treated me with loads of disrespect.

      Her housekeeping was filthy beyond words, and she treated her husband terribly. Not for me to judge them. Just sayin’ / I didn’t want to represent them in this situation. She surely would have blamed me, no matter what the outcome was. They had a small child. I felt hugely conflicted.

      They bought it privately. If they called me to resell it, I would decline again. Did I do the right thing? I don’t know, but I would do it again. Just a topic best not to get involved in, for me.

      Carolyne L