Business & Real Estate

On the Market: The importance of neighbors when choosing a house

In today’s virtual world, one of the most important aspects of a house for sale that is most overlooked is the neighbors. Information on potential neighbors never shows up on the MLS, you can’t really tell from Google Street View and satellite views don’t give you much detail.

Q: Does it really matter what the neighbors are like?
A: Anytime I hear this question, I know the person asking has never had a bad experience with a neighbor. For those of you who have had a bad neighbor, you know exactly what I mean. Bad neighbor relations can be terribly stressful. The stories I hear are frightening – even to the point of getting the police involved. I have had clients move away because of bad neighbors.

Q: What sorts of things can happen between neighbors?
A: The list is endless, but here are a few examples of ways that bad, inconsiderate or self-centered neighbors can impact the quality of life: smoking; barbecues in the backyard; late-night, loud entertaining or parties; lonely, barking dogs; failure to maintain trees or vegetation on shared property lines, blocking views or sun access to solar panels; and parking in inappropriate locations on the street. You get the picture.

Q: What do good neighbors do that is different?
A: Good neighbors are like good friends: They watch over you without being intrusive. When you are out of town, they might pick up a package left at the front door or retrieve your mail. If a delivery truck shows up, they might ping you to confirm. They talk to you before starting any large remodeling projects or before replacing a fence or trimming the trees. They will let you know when they are having a party and give you a phone number to call if it gets too loud or late. And a friendly wave or nod can make one feel part of a larger neighborhood family.

Q: If I am buying a house, how will I know what the neighbors are like?
A: Look at Google Street View and satellite views to see if, by chance, there is anything out of the ordinary. Is there a pool that is a big green mess? Do the trees and fences look well taken care of?

Also, ask the sellers about the neighbors. If you really like a house and are serious about buying it, respectfully ask a neighbor or two while they are out walking their dog or gardening, or even politely knock on a door or two. Ask if they could share a bit about the neighborhood.

Most cities allow you to search for police reports to see if there has been any recent police activity in the will tell you if there are any registered sex offenders in the area, and Nextdoor can sometimes be a valuable source of information.

Owen Halliday is a realtor who manages the Sereno Group office in downtown Los Altos. Email comments, questions and potential column topics to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

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