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How to deal with pesky neighbors that are hurting your home sale

It happens all the time. You’ve spent a ton of money making improvements to your house and you’re ready to sell. Only one problem — your potential buyers like the house, but not your neighbors.

We reached out to real estate agents and even one real estate attorney to find out just exactly what you can do to fix the problem.

Talk to the neighbors

Believe it or not, David Reischer, Esq., of advises against jumping straight to litigation. “Bringing a lawsuit against a neighbor for sloppy upkeep, loud pets or general bad attitude is the last resort,” he says. “A court will never provide you the remedy you are looking for in a timely manner anyway, and in short — you are barking up the wrong tree.”

Many of our experts echoed his feelings, noting they or their clients had attempted to get remedy through legal means, only to either lose a case they feel they should’ve won or have the courts hold it up so long and cost them so much that reducing the price of the home would’ve been a faster remedy.

When you approach your neighbor, keep it friendly. And let them know in advance if you can.

Also, think of it from their perspective. They don’t see anything wrong with the fence — it may look bad, but it’s doing its job. You’re the one trying to sell, so you may have to offer to foot the bill.

And some may just be unable to do the work. For example, if it’s an elderly person, perhaps they don’t get around well enough to mow the yard when they want to. You don’t want to trespass on their property, but you could offer to do it for them or pay to have someone else do it.

Research local codes and home owners’ association rules

If your neighbors don’t take to the Ms. Nice Gal approach, you may have to step up your game. Glenn S. Phillips, CEO of Lake Homes Realty, says that if the issue you’re having is governed by a zoning law or the HOA regulations, you can reach out to that governing body. For example, if your neighbor is constantly leaving unsightly garbage cans or extra trash on the curb for the whole week and that’s against city, county or HOA regulations, you can go through the proper procedures to report them to that group.

But Phillips cautions, “It may be necessary to be firm with the enforcement entity to be sure they are doing their job and pursuing the matter in a timely manner. But that is one of the most important jobs of these entities, so be sure they hold up their responsibility.”

The last resort: Legal action

If the first two approaches don’t work, legal action may be your only option. As such, as you’re going through the steps above, make sure you’re constantly keeping track of everything that happens. Says Chantay Bridges of Los Angeles Real Estate Now, “Document, document, document. Do everything you can to show sufficient proof of what is happening, speak to a professional, and find out what your options are.”

As you’re going through the steps above, make notes of the dates you take certain actions and jot down notes about what happened during the conversations. These aren’t necessarily evidence by themselves, but they’ll help you keep your facts straight later. And take pictures (being careful not to trespass) of any damage or other issues. Make sure you save the photos in a way you can keep track of the dates you took them.

What’s going to happen next?

If you have to go to court, it may be a while, and you should discuss that (and the charges you’ll incur along the way) with your attorney, then confab with your real estate agent. It may be that it’s cheaper to come down on the cost of your home than to go through the time and headache of legal action.

More on buying a home

How to know you’re buying a home in the right neighborhood
Can buying a haunted house save you money?
7 Things to know before buying a home

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