“What Are They Doing Upstairs?!” 5 Kinds of Bad Neighbors Sellers Won’t Warn You About, and 6 Tips to Avoid Them for Good

Before you break out the broom, read our guide on how to deal with noisy neighbors and spot them before purchasing a new home.

If you haven’t sat at home genuinely theorizing over whether your upstairs neighbors A, are trolls; B, installed an in-home bowling alley; or C, drag furniture for fun; well, you likely haven’t lived in New York City. *But seriously, who NEEDS to walk back and forth in heels that many times?*

No matter where you live, neighborly noise can feel inescapable. Whether you reside in a condo or single family home, there can be loud music or noisy construction, stark stenches or garish lawn displays.

“The neighbors’ noise and aesthetics are among the top concerns of homebuyers,” said Northern New Jersey-based Redfin agent Noah Goldberg. “If you have a bad neighbor, that’s something you’ll deal with every single day. You might hate that they still have Christmas decorations up in February, or that the family upstairs lets their kids run around at night. Many people list their homes, not because of a fault of the property, but due to the surrounding situation.”

We spoke to Noah, who represents Hoboken, across the river from Manhattan, about the five most common types of neighbors. If certain neighborly behavior doesn’t match your preferences as a homebuyer, keep an eye out for these clues. For while bad neighbors aren’t bad people, living in such close proximity can greatly impact how happy you are in your home. If all else fails, we’ll help you find a remote cabin atop a mountain where the greatest amenity is the sound of silence.

1. The noisy neighbor

Apartment dwellers know all about thin walls, loud music and stompy neighbors, while in single-family homes, there’s the 7am lawn-mower, rowdy backyard antics, and noisy dogs.

“In multi-family buildings, noise can travel through walls, floors and ceilings. If the building is constructed poorly, as is often the case with a wood frame building, you might hear a neighbor sneeze next door or loud footsteps overhead. I helped a family buy a three-bedroom condo with plenty of room for their two young daughters. After they moved in, the condo above them was rented to three roommates who had people over every weekend. All my clients heard was the sound of everyone walking around, which is no one’s fault, it’s how the building was constructed. While they love the apartment, after three years, they’re ready to move in search of a quieter space.”

2. The inconsiderate neighbor

Neighbor quirks aren’t all related to noisy neighbors. Some are nosey, rude, or inconsiderate.

“I know a buyer who lives in a condo building where a few families leave strollers or bikes in common areas, or let their kids run up and down the halls. It’s a source of frustration. Many buildings have an internal communication tool or group, and in this case, it’s filled with complaints. A small percentage of neighbors can occupy so much of your time when they are problematic.”

3. The neighbor who shouldn’t be there

Some neighbors might be uninvited. Unresolved pest problems or proximity to wildlife may bring new unplanned friends.

“The solution to this type of problem is to have an experienced agent on your side who’s a neighborhood expert. I show in such a tight area and know every building in Hoboken, including which have historically had noise or pest problems. A good agent can steer you to well-built buildings and away from problematic poor construction. They know the neighborhood and can point out issues you likely won’t notice, such as an airport flight path, a rowdy neighborhood restaurant, or whether buses and trucks will use your street as a commute ‘cut through’ bringing traffic and noise. We also have good recommendations of trusted inspectors who will be able to identify potential problems we can’t know for certain.”

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4. The party animal neighbor

There’s regular noise, and then there’s party noise–and the fallout in its wake when the party’s over.

“I’m working with a couple that want to upgrade to a larger ‘forever home.’ We found a fantastic, newly renovated house at a great price. We were planning to submit an offer when we noticed the neighbors’ yard. It looked like a frat house after a huge party. The driveway was filled with old cars, and in the yard was a tiki bar, assorted junk and furniture, and a pool filled with leaves. As much as my clients loved this home, they passed out of concern they’d be living next to a party house. That property was on the market for a year before the seller opted to rent because no one wanted to live there long term.”

5. The ghost of neighbors past

Maybe your neighbor is actually a kind, decent human being and you’re projecting a death stare for no good reason at all?

“People base their search for a home on what is happening to them at that moment. So if at the time of searching, a buyer’s neighbors are really loud, that’s what they care about. Or if they live in a concrete building built like a bunker, they don’t consider potential noise issues. Any new home must deal with the sins of the old one. It’s kind of like recovering from a bad ex. The things you didn’t like about that person are what you look to avoid with the next relationship, and that same thinking applies to searching for a home.”

How to avoid bad neighbors

1. Spend significant time in any home you want to buy

“Don’t leave after five minutes, even if that’s enough to see the whole space. Hang out and see who is walking by or if you hear noise from anywhere. Walk around the entire building in case you spot anything that could be a future issue, such as how the property is maintained and whether that matches your personal preferences.”

2. Return to see the home more than once

“Visit multiple times, and at different times of the day and week. If you first went at noon on a Saturday, the loud family with kids might not be home. Go on a Tuesday at 6:30pm when everyone will be home having dinner, or at 8am on a Tuesday morning to see what the morning rush hour commute might be like.”

3. Try to talk to potential new neighbors

“Meet the neighbors if you can to find out if they are nice people, or if they warn you of someone on the block everyone has a problem with. But let it be spontaneous. Don’t go knocking on doors, which may feel uncomfortable for both parties. In condos, spend a little time in the lobby or common areas to see who you might encounter. Most people (even if they are a renter) are happy to chat about their building. In suburban areas a “run-in” may be rarer, but you might get lucky. But take their comments with a grain of salt. The person might be a busybody, or someone who calls the police over how garbage cans are left out. While no one is buying a house to make friends, your neighbors are the people you’ll see most next to your family, and you should try to find out who they are.”

4. Pay attention to exteriors

“Be conscious of how neighboring homes look from the outside and how well they are maintained. If you like a manicured lawn, are the neighboring ones also viewed as a point of pride? Do you notice quirks like holiday decorations left up for months, or trash bins left on the curb? While these signs in no way mean the neighbors are bad people, if they don’t align with your personal preferences, you might not be happy living in the home.”

5. When issues arise, don’t burn bridges

“Everyone handles interpersonal relationships differently, and remember that you could be living next to someone for years. Pick your battles. Sometimes the best neighbor is someone with whom you exchange a quiet nod and stay out of each other’s way. If there is a problem, be kind, but firm. If you have an HOA or management company, tell them and they can be the bad guy, or make an anonymous complaint.”

6. Make sure you’re being a good neighbor too

“A little extra effort goes a long way. In condos, be respectful of noise levels and common spaces. No one wants to hear parties in a shared courtyard until midnight every day in the summer. Do a self assessment periodically of your property from an outsider’s point of view. Are you the last person on the street to remove holiday decorations? Do you blast Game of Thrones on Sunday with your surround sound speakers still going at 10pm?”

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