5 Ways to Handle the Eyesore Next Door Before You Sell

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Rundown house , Prince Edward Island , Canada
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By Laura Agadoni

You're almost ready to put your house on the market when you realize it: The neighborhood eyesore is going to pose a problem.

Sure, we know some people might view any attempts to hide an eyesore from view as being underhanded, sneaky, and designed to fool unsuspecting buyers. They might envision unscrupulous sellers and agents who keep their fingers crossed, just hoping no one spots the eyesore next door.

If you feel that way, by all means, point out the junkyard behind you that's worthy of "American Pickers," the yard next door that looks more like a prairie than a lawn, or the bail bonds sign spray-painted on the wall across the street.

For the rest of us, here are five ways to resolve these eyesore neighbor issues so would-be buyers won't be scared off. And who knows? Maybe if you tackle these unsavory sights, you'll decide not to sell your home after all.

1. Ask your neighbor to fix the problem.

This solution can be tricky. There's really no easy way to tell someone that his or her house is the neighborhood eyesore. But there are some methods that might help.

"Just writing a friendly note (dropped off with a bottle of wine or another small gift) can sometimes do the trick," says Ross Anthony, a San Diego real estate agent.

It also can't hurt to mention to your neighbor that the more your home sells for, the more his or her home will be worth.

2. Be neighborly.

You know how people can become desensitized to certain smells? ("How did you know I had a cat?") Well, people can become so accustomed to the condition of their house that they don't notice when it looks run-down.

This sometimes happens with elderly homeowners: Either they haven't realized the condition of their home or they simply can't manage the upkeep. You might think a condo or townhouse situation might better suit your overwhelmed neighbor, but steer clear of that suggestion.

Instead, offer to spruce up the house yourself. "If it is an elderly person, I offer to help," says Sarah Bentley Pearson, an Atlanta real estate agent.

But it's not just elderly neighbors with houses that could benefit from a little TLC -- just think of all the work you did to get your house in selling shape.

Alexander Ruggie of 911 Restoration in Los Angeles says that if the next-door neighbor has a poor paint job, a wobbly fence, or a caved-in garage, there's no reason you can't offer to help fix the problem. "Most people would be surprised how much they can convince people to do when they offer to help do it."

3. Notify your HOA.

If you live in a community with a homeowners association (HOA), let it know about the unkempt house near you. One of the main reasons HOAs exist is to prevent homes in the neighborhood from becoming eyesores that could drive down the value of other homes.

Your HOA might send a letter to the offending neighbor warning him or her to fix the problem or face fines. Or the HOA might take care of the problem and then bill the homeowner.

4. Call the city.

If your neighbor won't mow his or her lawn, get rid of the junk outside, or let you help tidy up, you can always call your local government.

"If there is a really bad problem, like the grass is a foot tall and there are junk cars on the front lawn, your neighbors are probably in violation of local codes and can be forced to clean up," says John Z. Wetmore, producer of the TV show "Perils for Pedestrians."

Do this well in advance of putting your house on the market. The city could give your neighbor up to 90 days to meet housing codes.

Wetmore also suggests that you "walk around the block and pick up any litter along the public streets and sidewalks."

If the house is a bank-owned foreclosure, find out which bank owns the property by checking county title records. Insist the bank maintain the property.

5. Plant view-blocking trees or install a fence.

It might be worth the investment to block an unsavory view. If you plant trees, choose ones that are at least six feet tall to give you an immediate sense of privacy. Privacy fences should also be six feet high.

If your neighbors are noisy, putting in a small water feature can drown out the racket.

"You only have one first impression," says Anthony, the San Diego real estate agent. "You want potential buyers to fall in love with your home before writing it off due to an unkempt neighboring property."

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