Dealing with an unkept house next door when you're selling your home

It’s an all-too familiar scenario: the home you just put on the market is a jewel, but the messy and noisy neighbors next door are scaring away potential buyers. If you have troublesome neighbors, here are a few tips to keep the peace while you put your home on the market.

Talk to Them

The first step can be the hardest: Knock on their door and talk to them honestly about what’s going on. This requires a delicate touch and a bit of diplomacy. You don’t want to be pushy and you certainly don’t want to insult their home. One strategy is to shift the blame. Tell them you don’t have a problem with their mess, but the realtor suggested the sale might go a little more smoothly if the neighbors cleaned up a little.

Lend a Hand

If they are unwilling to clean up on their own, you can always offer to lend a hand.  Few people will pass up the opportunity to get a bit of landscaping done for free. And all it costs you is an afternoon of mowing and weeding.

Also keep in mind that a neighbor’s messy yard might not be an act of laziness. Maybe there’s a little old lady who lives there and she has trouble maintaining the place. She’d probably appreciate the offer to help out.

Change What You Can

If your neighbor rebuffs your offer to help clean up, your best strategy is to change what you can. For instance, you can repair or repaint a shared fence. If a mess in your neighbor’s backyard is out of control, build a higher fence to block off the offending view.  Or you can trim any tree branches or hedges that extend into your yard, as long as you stay off of your neighbor’s property. It just takes a little creativity to make your neighbor’s mess disappear.

Put Your Home in the Best Light

You can’t always control the people around you, but you can control the time of day that you show the house. If your neighbors are always getting into shouting matches after work, try to show the place during the day. If you think a neighbor’s unsightly yard will scare potential buyers away, stick to showings after dark. Sure it’s a little dishonest to hide a neighbor’s ever-growing trash heap beneath the cover of darkness, but every seller does whatever they can to put the best the place in the best light possible.

Call in the Authorities

If your neighbors’ place has become a serious health hazard and they won’t listen to reason, the last resort is to get city officials involved. Most municipalities have laws on the books enforcing basic standards of upkeep for homeowners. City officials are likely to take action if your neighbor has piles of trash that attract vermin, or rusted out cars that slowly leak oil into the street. The downside of this options is that it can take some time. The wheels of bureaucracy turn slowly, so if you’re looking for a quick sale, diplomacy is probably the way to go.

When No One Lives Next Door

Sometimes the bad neighbor next door is an absentee homeowner. Foreclosed homes often fall into disrepair and the lender that has taken possession fails to keep things looking neat. The first step is to find out who’s responsible. By searching the home on a site like RealtyTrac you can usually find out which company currently owns the property. You can also head to your county assessor’s office, where you can look up ownership information. Once you know who owns the place, it’s time to start making calls. Just like a regular homeowner, a bank has a responsibility to maintain the home. So if they seem unresponsive, you can call in the city, which can force them to clean up their act.