Even the most beautiful home in the most serene town can become a nightmare if you live next door to the wrong kind of people. And dealing with nasty neighbors can be enough to drive even the most peaceable person to distraction.
If you find yourself in this situation or would like to do your very best to avoid it, take some of real estate expert Barbara Corcoran's practical advice — here are the five big offenders in the world of nasty neighbors and tips on how to deal with them.
1. The racket maker — screaming moms, fighting spouses, horn honking and tire squealing drivers, loud music fanatics and late-night partiers
2. The property line fanatic — someone who trims boundary trees and sends you the bill
3. The slob, like one who lets the grass grow, puts trash out days in advance, and leaves garbage cans unlocked
4. The careless pet owner who leaves "you know what" around your lawn.
5. The extreme weirdo — drunks, drug dealers, and the neighbor that never says anything
If you don't want to end up with one of the above as your new neighbor, here's what you can do to spot them early.
How to spot them
1. Cruise the neighborhood at night. You'll see the guy next door while he's at home (rather than at work). Most people make the mistake of seeing a home during the day and looking again during the same time a few days later.
2. Talk with the local store owners. They're always the first to tell you who the pains are, who stiffed them, and who's involved in a lawsuit. ("I'm thinking of buying the Smith house. Do you know it? Know the street? What are the neighbors like?")
3. Walk the neighborhood during rush hour. Not just block, but the four blocks surrounding yours. Befriend a few neighbors along the way. ("I'm thinking of buying the Smith House at 12 Maple Avenue. Do you know the neighbors? What are they like?").
4. Look for the signs. Basketball hoops, skateboard ramps, and trampolines are all tell-tale signs of the racket-maker.
5. Watch and listen for the barking and unleashed neighborhood dogs.
6. Poke around the town clerk's office to find out which neighbors have filed for what, like permits for building a house extension over the next 12 months, a noisy new tennis court, or a new pool.
7. Take a cyberspace tour on 'Google Street View' to check out empty lots and backyards that look like a landfill.
8. Check on-line registries for the location of any local sex offenders.
How to handle bad neighbors
If you are already in the situation of having nasty neighbors, here are some fail-safe strategies:
1. Call ahead and pick a time to talk.
2. Meet on the sidewalk or on the property line.
3. Don't accuse; let them know how the problem bothers you and suggest ways to solve it together.
4. If that doesn't work, check out local noise and disturbance ordinances and write a personal letter. Offer a solution.
5. Consult your condo or block association. Ask them to send a standard letter citing the ordinance or by-law. A condominium association's right of first refusal is a little-known clause that can be used to buy your neighbor out.
6. Should that fail, call your local precinct. Keep a record of your complaint.
7. Call in an expert mediator. (To find a mediator, check with your local courthouse, police precinct, or bar association).
8. As a last resort, file a complaint in court.
9. For the property line fanatic, walk the property line together to determine what belongs to whom; consider having the property surveyed to nip the problem in the bud.