Real Estate January 23, 2024

This Fence Did Not Make For Good Neighbors

A lot of people are surprised to learn that a survey is NOT required when you’re purchasing a home. In the 16 years that I’ve been doing this, I’ve only ever had one situation in which it was required.

When I’m ready to list a house, I ask if the seller has, by chance, a survey of the property. Nine times out of ten they shake their head but tell me that they can point out exactly where the line is. I then find myself ushered to a side window. The seller’s finger points towards the glass & says, “See that shed over there? That’s my shed & it’s about a foot away from my neighbor’s property.” A shed is only slightly better than the notorious & almost-invisible mowing line.

This is a cautionary tale not to trust the trees.

About 15 years ago, my husband & I befriended a couple who had recently purchased the house across the street. The home had been vacant for years & years & years. Very shortly after they finished the inside & moved into their newly renovated colonial, they decided to work on the exterior.

New siding – check! Reconstruct the front porch – check! New gutters – check! Next on the list – a fence.

Have you ever heard the saying “Fences Make Great Neighbors?” Hmm…

There was a straight line of lilac bushes between their home & the home of their Westward neighbors. For as long as anyone could remember, that row of bushes was taken for biblical truth indicating the property line.

Our friends were eyeing up the bushes one day when the neighbor strode out with great confidence. He personally walked our friends right along the line from the street, past the houses & all the way to the back alley. After relaying the story of the property line as it was told to him a couple of decades earlier, the neighbor nodded & strode back into his house. He obviously felt that the brief tour solidified the property line agreement.

A few days later, the neighbor was outside in his bathrobe to water the lilac bushes & panicked at the sight of survey flags. The flags weren’t in line with the lilac bushes but were rather 2 feet closer to his house. That’s not the big surprise of the story, however.
The neighbor marched up to our friend’s house. From my open window across the street, all I could make out from the commotion was a few intermittent words & phrases: “Surveyor.” “Bushes.” “For 20 years…” “Ridiculous.”

Eventually, the truth came out. The neighbor wasn’t so much concerned over him having two less feet of grass to mow but rather that he had been burying two decades of dead pets knowingly just off of his property in his neighbor’s (our friend’s) front lawn.

He was so distraught over the thought that a post-hole digger was going to be anywhere near his former fur-babies that he personally exhumed his animals & reburied them on the correct side of the survey flags.

The fence went in, but it didn’t make for a more neighborly relationship.

Katina Hunter
Team Lead for the Katina Hunter Team with Coldwell Banker