We all know the importance of neighbours. Good ones make life easy and happy; popping in for a coffee and a friendly chat or to borrow a cup of sugar. Bad neighbours, on the other hand, can be the bain of your life; raucous parties, howling dogs, boundary disputes and snubbed noses – life can become a melodrama of arguments and tiffs. How on earth can would-be homebuyers know whether the house or apartment they’ve fallen head-over-heels in love with borders the goodie, goodie Waltons or the nightmarish Battersbys?
It’s a dilemma, but there are some things that you can do to minimise the surprises.
Visit the neighbourhood at night. During the day your prospective neighbours are probably away at work (drug dealing) and the area might appear calm and tranquil. On a Friday night at 11pm it may well reverberate to the sound of sirens, crazed laughter and Motley Crue.
Make friends with the local dairy owner – they know all of the local gossip. Tell them that you’re thinking of moving into such and such street; what do they think of the place and the neighbours?
Don’t just check out the street that your dream home is in, drive down the neighbouring streets. Dead cars on lawns and unkempt properties surrounded by barbed wire do not augur well for the neighbourhood as a whole. And those Harley Davidsons may well belong to the gang house a block away but the only way they can get to and from there is by rumbling past your place in convoy.
If you are considering buying an apartment, ask the body corporate manager for copies of recent meetings’ minutes. You can be sure that any psycho in the building will have attracted the ire of the residents’ representatives on the management committee. However, the very best way to get the low-down on the building is to politely introduce yourself to one or two residents as they are entering or leaving the premises. Explain that you are thinking about buying an apartment here and can they share their views of the place and the people who live there. You’ll be surprised how willing folks can be to spill the beans on troublesome residents and tyrannical building managers.
Whether it’s a house or an apartment that you are considering buying, one factor that is likely to influence the atmosphere of the neighbourhood or the building is the ratio of owner-occupiers to renters. I’m not having a dig at the renting classes, but it figures that if the place doesn’t actually belong to the people living there and the residents are more transient, then you can reasonably expect for them to demonstrate less consideration to their neighbours than their more permanent counterparts who have saved up for months to lovingly restore their home.
Check out the property file on the house at the local council. For a token fee this will uncover past disputes from neighbours about consents, boundary issues and the like. It should also reveal any planned developments and applications. It’s always nice to know if the person living opposite has applied for a brothel keeper’s license.