Spring will be here before you know it. If you're thinking about selling your home, you need to determine now if any of your neighbors might sabotage your home sale.
Some of the clues are obvious. Do they rake their leaves each fall? Do they shovel the snow off their sidewalk and driveways each winter? Do their holiday decorations resemble the Griswold's? Those decorations might be fun to see during the holidays, but if they stay up past the new year, or your neighbors don't otherwise keep up after their property, it could make your home selling experience impossible this spring.
Here are five signs to look out for, and what you can do now to protect your home sale from being sabotaged.
No. 1: They have an overgrown lawn
Tall, unkempt grass is an eyesore that can attract unwanted critters and repel buyers, says Katie Wethman, a Realtor with Keller Williams Realty in McLean,Va. "Buyers will assume that if a yard isn't kept up now, it won't be kept up later," she says.
If your neighbor's grass is high, address it by first trying to have a friendly conversation with them about their lawn, says Randy Bell, a broker with HomeSmart Realty Group in Denver, Colo.
You could even offer to pay to have a lawn service keep the yard trimmed while your home is listed, he says. It may not seem fair, but it could keep potential buyers from looking elsewhere.
"If they're financially strapped, ask if they have an older child (who could cut the grass), and offer to give the child a gift card if they can take care of the yard," Bell says.
If those options don't work, contact your homeowners association or local municipality to remedy possible code violations, he says.
No. 2: Their home is abandoned
The foreclosure crisis has left many homes vacant and uncared for. It's easy to see how a vacant property could make any buyer hesitant to move in nearby.
If the offending property is a foreclosure, contact your real estate agent and ask them to track down the lender. You and your agent can then contact the bank's foreclosure department to complain, says Bell.
If the home is on the market, contact the listing agent and ask them to do the same. "Approach them and say that you are going to have your own property coming up in the pipeline, and see if there is there is a way to make theirs presentable," he says.
No. 3: They've crossed your property line
A neighbor who doesn't know how to stay within their property can be an instant turnoff for potential buyers . "If you see somebody is building a shed and you think that it crosses your property line, you certainly want to get in touch with your attorney," says Vilas Dhar, a real estate lawyer in Boston.
The attorney could give you advice on how to stop their behavior and discuss next steps for dealing with damages. "There could be court action taken or an injunction to keep them from continuing down the path they're on," he says.
No. 4: They have loud dogs
A neighbor's loud pets are another turnoff that can sabotage a sale, says Wethman. To help resolve the situation, Wethman suggests approaching your neighbor in a polite manner, let them know you plan to put your house up for sale, and ask if there's any way you can work together to solve the barking problem.
She also suggests politely asking neighbors if they can keep their dog indoors during important events, such as an open house.
"Explain that it helps everyone in the neighborhood when a house sells for a high price in the fastest time possible," she says.
No. 5: They badmouth the neighborhood
Few things can drive away a potential buyer faster than having a neighbor say negative things about the neighborhood. If the neighbors don't like where they live, or worse, don't like your property, they may not be too shy to share their thoughts with potential buyer s.
Even friendly conversations could inadvertently sabotage a sale. If a neighbor says they love their quiet street because it doesn't have any children, that could be a turnoff to buyers with children or who want to start a family, says Wethman.
Wethman encourages home sellers to communicate with the neighbors and encourage them to give positive -- but brief -- descriptions of the community if asked.
If you're selling your home, you'll have your hands full trying to clean and stage it so that it shows model-perfect. But don't forget to look around your community and make sure your neighbors are on board, too. Identify problem areas now, so that you can help make sure your home sale is not sabotaged this spring.
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Margarette Burnette is an Atlanta-based freelance writer who specializes in personal finance and real estate topics. In her twelve years of corporate and journalistic experience, she's written for dozens of publications, including Good Housekeeping, American Express, Essence, Black Enterprise and many others.