Neighbours from hell can completely ruin your dreams of a perfect home. When buying your first home, its doubly important to spot bad neighbours and try to avoid them. How do you go about finding out about neighbours when buying a house? We’ve created a comprehensive step-by-step guide to researching your neighbours before buying a house or flat.
How to spot bad neighbours: why is it essential?
Bad neighbours can ruin your life at your new home. The same applies when renting, but when you rented there was always the possibility to easily move out after the fixed term of your tenancy. However, when you buy, it is harder to move out, as it is difficult to sell a property within a year of purchasing, as buyers will see it as a red flag that there is something wrong.
Therefore it is important, before you submit your offer, to do your due diligence and research into your potential neighbours to spot any future issues.
From our years of experience in property purchases and talking to other successful First Time Buyers, here is a list of ten things you do can to spot bad neighbours when buying a property.
1. Read the Seller’s Property Information TA6 Form (SPIF)
All sellers need to fill in a SPIF form for the buyer. This typically takes place after an offer has been agreed, but you can always ask the agent if the seller is willing to consider giving you the form before you lodge an offer.
This form asks the seller to reveal any disputes or complaints the sellers and the property have been involved in, which should reveal any neighbourly disputes. The form will also highlight any notices and proposals for building works that neighbours have submitted through planning or building control that the sellers are aware of. In addition, any Rights or Informal Arrangements that the seller has entered with third parties, including neighbours, needs to be disclosed on this form.
While the form is great in theory, in practice there are many bad neighbour behaviour that the seller doesn’t have to disclose on the form. For example if the neighbour has noisy barking dogs. You might think this is something that needs to be disclosed, but will probably not be on the form. The sellers could always say they haven’t noticed the noise, or are not bothered by it, even if they were. Remember – in this form the seller has a vested interest not to disclose every negative aspect of the property, if they think they can get away without disclosing.
Here is a sample copy of the SPIF form from the Law Society.
2. Ask the seller about their neighbours, when you meet face-to-face
Firstly, you should always meet the sellers face-to-face before you make an offer. You can find out a lot about the seller – their motivation to sell, the condition of the property, the history. And for the purposes of this article, also about the neighbours.
Obviously, if the neighbours are from hell, the seller isn’t going to volunteer this information easily. However, you should still ask the question, and in person, to gauge the seller’s reaction. The two red flags to look out for are:
- If the neighbours are decent or good, the seller would be chomping at the bit to say good things as a selling point – how lovely they are, how they’re sociable, how they’re neat and tidy and quiet. If the seller doesn’t say any of this, it could be a red flag. If the seller isn’t even able to come up with one positive thing to say about the neighbours, that is a very bad sign.
- If the seller tries to change the subject or evade the question, that is also a red flag.
This step won’t categorically tell you if there are bad neighbours – but it might throw up red flags, for you to do more digging.
3. Meet the neighbours
Should you talk to neighbours before buying a house? Absolutely! The best way to suss out the neighbours is to meet them and judge with your own two eyes. After a house viewing, take some time to knock on the doors of the properties next door. Have a friendly chat, ask about the neighbourhood, while at the same time try to suss out more information about the neighbours. Some key things you might want to find out are:
Are they renters or homeowners? Renters are a risk as they might move out at any time, and new tenants who move in could then be bad neighbours.
Are they musicians? I have nothing against musicians, but if they then practice at home often and there’s poor noise insulation between the properties, that could ruin your peace and quiet at home.
Are they house proud? You want neighbours that maintain their property and garden well, as this will potentially cause less issues (pests, leaking gutters, etc) for you.
Do they have pets that might be an issue? If they have dogs that are aggressive or bark at everything, this might be something you don’t want to put up with.
Are they operating an home business? This could mean lots of people visiting their property every day. Even worse, if they’re operating an illegal business, such as drug dealing, you might get unsavoury visitors at all times of the day.
Do they look like they have lots of noisy house parties? If you see strobe lights, big sound systems, signs of a recent house party, a house of university students… these could all be red flags for frequent house parties that keep you up at night.
Above all, the neighbours are people you’ll be in close contact with week in week out if you buy the property, so you want to make sure they’re the sort of the neighbours you can get along with, and their style of living is compatible with yours.
4. Have a good look at the neighbouring properties
Bad neighbours are terrible because they do things because they don’t care about others around them. Often (but not always) they also don’t care about the exterior of their properties, as they don’t spend time there.
Does their front and back garden look unkempt and not maintained? Is the paint peeling, paving stones missing, cracked windows, fence in bad shape, exterior lights not working? Do they leave their trash bins on the sidewalk for days before bringing it back in? Have they dumped trash and furniture into their own front or back garden? Are there big trash sacks of beer bottles and spirit bottles, signifying huge house parties? Are there rusting, abandoned cars sitting on their front lawn or driveway?
These by themselves don’t signify bad neighbours. It could be that they’re busy working 3 jobs, or have a sick relative to look after at the moment, or are tenants (and therefore they’re not responsible for investing in the upkeep). But what you find here in combination with your conversations with neighbours, you can easily spot bad neighbours.
5. Visit the property at different times of the day
Before you put in your offer, you should view the inside of the property at least three or four times. Try to go on different days of the week, as well as different times of the day, to maximise your chance of spotting something about your neighbours that is a red line for you. It could be dogs that bark like mad every time you go out to the back garden, noisy garden parties, loud musical instruments next door like drums, heavy metal music blaring through the walls, someone doing a home business with lots of cars parked out front, etc
Even then, you won’t be able to spot everything in the thirty minutes you’re there, even if you go three or four times.
So I also recommend going to the property, parking out in front on the street, and just observe and listen for an hour or two. Do this especially on a Friday or Saturday evening. Do the neighbours have loud fifty people house parties? If you cruise by on Saturday or Sunday afternoons, do you see any huge gatherings of families and friends? Could be a sign this happens every week, and something to investigate further.
6. Search the police map for crime on the street
The police publish crime information down to the street level. You can access the Crime Map, put in the postcode or street name, and zoom in to the street level. This will show you crimes, from the last 3 years, that have been reported on that street. If you spot many reports of anti-social behaviour, or other crimes, this could be a sign that your street has some bad neighbours.
7. Why are the current owners selling?
If the owners are moving because of bad neighbours, they won’t reveal this information. However, to rule out that they are moving because of bad neighbours, you can try to validate their reason for selling. Does the reason they gave for selling stack up? Or is it suspicious? Especially if they’re selling within a year or two of buying, that’s a short time frame for moving and for me that would be a red flag to investigate further.
8. Ask the tenants, if the property is currently tenanted
Go back another day, without the agent, and speak to the tenants. They have first hand knowledge of any problematic neighbours, and they might be willing to spill the beans. But be careful – they might also be willing to give false information, if they think that they’ll be evicted when the property is sold, and want to scare away potential buyers like yourself.
9. Ask the previous owners
From the Land Registry website, you can easily find out the previous owners for a small fee. Not just for the property you’re buying, but also for properties adjacent to yours. If a neighbouring property has just sold, it might be worth trying to get in touch with one of the previous owners, to get their view on bad neighbours on the street.
This is harder than the other steps above, as the Property Register won’t give out contact details, so you might have to do some sleuthing of your own on social media and Google. Or if you’re speaking to the neighbours, you could ask if any one of them has the contact details for the previous owner, or willing to pass yours along.
You might also discover something interesting about the property you are buying doing this too!
10. Do a Google search or a Nextdoor search for your street
You might find discussion about problems on your street, crimes that have happened, or other information that will help you decide if there could be bad neighbours near the property you’re looking to buy. On Nextdoor especially, there are often nosy neighbours that report on the smallest happenings on their streets. Usually a bad thing, but in this case its good to have all the dirt to help you make a decision on this property you’re looking to buy.
You don’t have to do all ten steps above to verify that your potential future neighbours are good neighbours that you want to live next to and not bad neighbours. However, by doing the research above on your future neighbours, you minimise the risk of buying your first home only to find out that your life is made a living hell by your neighbour’s actions and behaviours. While it might seem daunting to do all the above to find out about neighbours when buying a house, this is a crucial step in the process to ensuring you get your dream first house or flat.