Good Fences Make Good Neighbors – Part II

Last week, I shared some ideas about how to maintain good relations with your neighbors. Disputes with neighbors can be expensive and stress provoking. In a world that already has plenty of tension, here are some ways to keep everyone civil and neighborly.

When you live in close proximity with other people, you’re bound to bump into one another. If the first time you interact with your neighbor is over a problem, that’s a tough way to start a relationship. If you don’t know your neighbors, I recommend introducing yourself. It’s amazing what a handshake and a smile can do.

The name of the game with good relationships, with neighbors or others, is to try to see things from their perspective and to communicate openly. I once lived in a house with a road that went along the back edge of my property. We parked our pick up truck on that country road for days at a time. Little did I know that by parking there, the neighbor on the other side of the street couldn’t pull her horse trailer out of her driveway. If she had called and told me, I would have apologized and moved the truck within minutes. Unfortunately, two days later when our truck was still there, she was unable to make it to an event with her horses, and by then she was hopping mad. The whole thing was such a bummer. The bad blood was completely unnecessary and hot tempers took a long time to simmer down.

What we do with our property can affect what our neighbors can do with theirs—or what happens to theirs. As fire season approaches, one of the ways to be a good neighbor is to create a defensible fire space. While you’re at it, if you want to be a really good neighbor, pull the dead vegetation out and plant some drought-resistant landscaping. Property values are determined by a home’s amenities, as well as its location and the condition of homes around it. If your neighbors are shade tree mechanics who have three cars with the hoods up and engines pulled out, this probably won’t increase property values in the area.

What you do to keep up the appearance of your home matters, too. Paint color and condition are important. Some neighborhoods fall under the purview of strict local ordinances or CC&Rs that limit paint color and condition. Oddly enough, my understanding is that people who own properties in the township of Mendocino are not allowed to paint their properties because the town loves that worn, coastal look. Of course, this is crazy because people need to be able to take care of their investments, but hey, it’s not my call.

Another big issue that affects neighbors is the height of your property. When you renovate, if you build a second (or third) story, this can affect your neighbor’s view and access to sunshine. I’ll go out on a limb here and suggest that litigation over this very issue will increase in the years to come as easements for sunlight which is required for solar power become more prevalent.

As I’ve said, the bottom line basically comes down to the golden rule: do unto others as you would have them do unto you. Treat people like you want to be treated, and I’ll bet your neighbors will return the favor.

If you have questions about real estate or property management, please contact me at or visit If I use your suggestion in a column, I’ll send you a $5.00 gift card to Schat’s Bakery. If you’d like to read previous articles, visit my blog at Dick Selzer is a real estate broker who has been in the business for more than 40 years.

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