Mind the Neighbours
This article was written a few years ago, and the values mentioned reflect the time. The message remains as relevant as it was at the time of writing.
You’d be forgiven for assuming that problem neighbours were confined to sink estates or high density urban housing. You’d be mistaken, as shown by a recent experience of a client of mine.
I got involved on a negotiation only basis with a good sized detached property in a Hampshire hamlet. Conservation area, quiet rural road, large attractive plot, slightly underwhelming 1960s house which nonetheless had some potential. That said, the asking price was stiff – fair value would have been around £740K, but the place was being marketed well north of £800K.
As I usually do, I got to the viewing early, and wandered down the lane. I simply wanted a quick look at the historically top priced property in the neighbourhood, just to convince myself that my judgement was right about the place I was assessing. Halfway down the road I was accosted with an aggressive “CAN OI ‘ELP YEW?!” by a chap in the field between the two properties in question. I cheerfully declined, and went on my way. But his belligerence stuck in my mind – it was hard to seen how I could have been mistaken for a burglar. Later that morning, having completed the viewing and discussed our negotiating strategy, I mentioned the incident and suggested the clients ask the estate agent about this guy before we start the offer process.
It quickly transpired that he and his partner were living in a summer house in the large neighbouring field which they’d ostensibly bought to keep horses. The building did not have residential planning permission, and none was likely to be granted given the conservation area status. The couple were “known to the local council” (always an ominous phrase), whose sterling efforts to remove them were making little progress. Of course this kind of thing should be spotted by any decent conveyancer in enquiries before contract. The estate agent in question owned up the instant the issue was raised. How he thought anyone would buy the place in the circumstances is an interesting question. Unsurprisingly no negotiation went ahead. It just shows that it pays to look before you leap – and that a second set of eyes can help you avoid wasting time.