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Q:  Marsha, I want to purchase a home in a quiet area. I’ve had some neighbor issues at previous residences. How do I avoid this problem? Are sellers required to disclose problem neighbors or worrisome situations? 

A:  You are asking me how to avoid encounters with your fellow nearby residents? You can’t. Neighbors are part of living around other people. If you have a neighbor dilemma the best solution is communication. 

When you have a difference with next-door neighbors who are tenants, appeal to the owner of the house. If the owner chooses he can attempt to rein in their bad neighbor behavior. 

For the most part disagreeable nearby residents aren’t “the neighbors from hell” we think they are. They are usually “neighbors from heck”. Common points of contention are trees; view blocking, leaves dropping or roots, barking dogs, cats who do their business in your yard, drug dealers, noisy or fighting people, adjacent folks who encroach on your land, front yard hoarders, red light activity, etc. The list is as varied as all the disagreements people routinely encounter. 

Communication is vital. For example, a friend who lives in a lovely Santa Barbara neighborhood, had an issue. One of the street’s residents was not keeping her house or lawn in repair. There were weeds, an overgrown lawn along with old rusting cars in the driveway. Residents were concerned these conditions devalued their property. There were meetings and discussions. Finally they spoke with the owner. They learned she was ill and financially unable to maintain the house. She gratefully accepted their offer to clean up her yard. 

There are, however, neighbors who really are crazy and impossible. Some friends of mine who live in an expensive Santa Barbara neighborhood were in a contentious dispute with their next-door neighbor. No matter how much they attempted to resolve their issues the neighbor refused to communicate and filed a lawsuit against them.  The neighbor’s boyfriend spent his days aggressively taunting my friends. For several years they lived under constant stress and threat. When the horrid neighbor lost her frivolous lawsuit, the situation quickly unraveled. 

One night while they were out the boyfriend went on a murderous rampage with a machete. He entered their home, destroying artwork, furniture, and all he could.   There is nothing you can do to stop crazy.  Luckily this episode is noteworthy because it is so unusual. Bad neighbor relations rarely become this extreme. 

Once you find a home and an area you like, research the neighborhood yourself. Walk the area and talk to neighbors. Tell them you are considering a purchase and ask, point blank, what you need to know. Neighbors love to share, and you’ll know in a short time if this is the right location for you. Happy house hunting and I want to hear how it goes.

Marsha Gray has worked in Santa Barbara real estate for more than 25 years. She works at Allyn & Associates, where she helps her clients buy and sell homes and with lending services. To read more of Marsha’s Q&A articles, visit Contact Marsha at (805) 252-7093 or

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