Love thy neighbor

Almost every real estate article I’ve seen talks about choosing a home based on the price, location or amenities. Why doesn’t anyone talk about looking at your neighbors?

According to the very scientific market research show, Family Feud, the top four traits people want in a neighbor are, in order: Quiet, friendly, trustworthy and clean. (The need for the neighbor to be attractive was a distant fifth place.) But I don’t know a lot of people who consider this until after they’ve moved in.

When looking at a single family home, it might be easier to spot telltale signs of quirkiness: the abandoned shopping carts in the driveway, years of overgrown weeds, the crazed 200-pound barking dog whose chain reaches the edge of your yard.

In a condo, though, there’s no easy way to tell what your neighbors are going to be like. If you are thinking of moving into a building or neighborhood and want to get a snapshot of the people sharing your space, take an extra step before you write that check:

  • Ask the realtor. Your realtor may have limited knowledge of the people who live in the building. At the very least, they can tell you a little about the people who have peeked in at open house (who are often nosy neighbors who want to see who’s moving in).
  • Ask the condo manager. They may not be able to tell you exactly who lives there, but they can tell you the demographic makeup of the building residents.
  • See if you already know someone, or ask existing residents. Hopefully you already know someone who lives in the area so they can give you a rundown of the neighborhood dynamics.

I was lucky; I grew up in a tightly-knit neighborhood that spanned a few blocks. When I bought my place, I wanted to replicate that sense of community to ensure satisfaction with my purchase for years to come. It took a long time to get to the place I finally bought, but the tipping point was discovering that I knew at least three people in the building, which gave me a good sense of who else lived there. Since then, thanks in part to social media, I’ve found many more good neighbors in the condo – people who share their home cooking, their pets, even social lives.

On the flip side, I have a friend who was pressured into buying when the market was hot, and settled on a conveniently located condo at a good price. Upon moving in, she realized that none of her neighbors were friendly … to the point where she has made up nicknames for them, since she’ll never get to know them. I’m not sure I’d like to be known as The Gargoyle or The Hoarder.

Anyway, something to think about as you look at your next move. If time is not of the essence, make sure you assess your potential neighbors!