Reader Question: We need some advice for our son who has been trying to sell his home in an older neighborhood for almost a year. The biggest problem is the neighbors. Since he has left, there seems to be a feud between them. On several occasions, the real estate agent has had a prospective buyer for a showing, and they encounter the police, cars with flat tires, etc. The agent thinks the police calls are interfering. Is there any advice for us? Thanks, Marilyn E.
Monty’s Answer: A risk in homeownership is the inability to control what the neighbors do; an advantage is the freedom to do what you wish on your property. While police calls can happen in any neighborhood, more and more communities today are becoming pro-active developing and enforcing ordinances and codes to help maintain orderly neighborhoods. Go online to the municipality’s website to determine if they have a program in place to help in your neighborhood. It seems unusual that “on several occasions” the listing agent had police there during a showing. You can verify the events as many police departments post incident locations online. If the agent described the scenes accurately, there could be a bad apple in the barrel, but it could be something else.
Check your asking price
First, ask the agent to develop a market report on the neighborhood activity and update the original market analysis. You want to know all real estate activity taking place since January 1, 2014, in an area four blocks surrounding and including the block in which the home is located. New listings, listings that expired unsold, all closed sales and all pending sales. Even in good markets, a sizeable percentage of the listings expire unsold with the current broker. Every home sells. In most circumstances, there is a price at which your home will sell very quickly. You cannot control what your neighbors do, but you can control your price.
Check the agent’s commitment
The agent may resist this idea or may embrace it. If the agent has a good understanding of the MLS system, this data exists and is not difficult to obtain. Has the same agent been on the job for the entire year? Is the agent successful working property in that neighborhood? How cooperative is the agent when asked to help with this work? The answer may be an indicator. Who set the price on the house; your son or the agent? What kind of market analysis did the agent originally prepare? Did it contain comparables that had sold recently or competing properties on the market? Two key questions to ask the agent are: What is the best price we can expect? What is the lowest price we should expect? The agent cannot offer a guarantee but can research the MLS for recent comparable sales in other similar neighborhoods and deliver an answer. You may not choose to sell your home at the lowest price, but the information may be very helpful to have in your knowledge bank. What impact does this updated and additional information have on the asking price? If there is normal market activity, it is very possible that the neighbor’s feud is not a real problem?
Get to the source
If the data suggests sales have been affected, a neighbor or neighbors might be able to identify the source of the problem (there is usually a source). Is your son’s home vacant or rented? If rented, are they cooperative on showings? Are the feuding neighbors homeowners? Or, does your son know the owners of the buildings occupied by the feuding neighbors? Check with the owner(s) to make sure they know. Does your son know what a feud is about? Or, whom in the neighborhood does your son know that he could talk to about the feud? This activity could be hurting everyone in the neighborhood, particularly property owners.
Go to the police, the city ward representative, city social services or other agencies to learn if they offer programs for situations like this. It will take a conversation with interested parties to determine the best plan to implement, and who should be leading the effort.
These calls and visits may sound like a lot of work, but in reality it may not be. Ten hours of research by interested parties may go a long way toward solving the core problem, whether that problem is a bad apple(s), pricing, the agent or something else.