It wasn’t the house we were walking up to. It was the neighbouring home. There were a couple of cars in the driveway, one on blocks, and at the edge of the driveway near the garage door was a huge mound of dirt. A huge mound of dirt that had obviously been sitting there so long that it was sprouting weeds.
Well, we looked through the home and, really, it wasn’t ideal for them. But without a doubt the neighbour’s “projects” in the driveway were not helping the case.
Fast forward to later in the day, when the listing agent emailed me for feedback. I was pretty candid in my remarks, which for the record I try to be. I’m honest, but I don’t provide vague and meaningless feedback. So I wrote that the home wasn’t quite right for them, but we had also gotten off on the wrong foot due to the conditions at the neighbouring home.
Well, she sure didn’t appreciate my candor. In fact, she wrote to advise me that I was mistaken–that the neighbour was a talented landscape who was just in the middle of a project that would look beautiful upon completion. So there.
I rarely see the point in challenging that kind of response, and didn’t then. But I know what a landscaping project site looks like, and I know what a long-standing heap of dirt looks like. But… okay.
Still, here’s the thing. Neighbours… they’re like family. You don’t get to choose them and, to a large degree, you just have to accept the hand you are dealt. Most buyers understand this, and know that they can’t magically select the world’s best neighbours. But, first impressions on the home-hunt are critically important.
Had the situation been reversed, and had I listed the property, here’s what I might have tried. I’d have started by asking my client what the relations were like between her and the neighbour. If they were friendly, I might have simply gone next door and talked to the landscaper and advised him that I was going to be listing his neighbour’s property, and wanted to let him know about that. Then, I’d find a tactful way to come around the topic of the dirt heap, and I would offer to pay to have it removed. I’d present it as a win-win–if it’s been on his to-do list for a while, I can help him make it go away, and it won’t have a negative impact on his neighbour during her home selling process. Might he be offended? Well, hopefully not, especially if I position the offer in the right way. My goal would be to make both parties happy.
As a listing agent, you are sometimes put in the position of having to deal with tensions between your client and his or her neighbours. From my experience, the best way to resolve these situations is to be up front, to address the issue(s), and to offer a resolution that costs neither party and benefits both. To me, it’s just part of the job, especially if it is something that helps my client present their Guelph home in the best light possible.
Problem neighbours can become a serious barrier to selling your home. In this case, my clients were nervous, and they moved on. Like I said, you can’t choose your neighbours–and sometimes the truest wolves are those in sheep’s clothing. Some of the wackiest people I’ve ever encountered live in picture-perfect homes. Regardless, perception is everything, and many Guelph home buyers will get cold feet at the site of a neighbouring home that shows poor pride of ownership. And, honestly, who can blame them?
Food for thought. Thanks for reading.