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Do it with the neighbors: how important is knowing your neighbors in finding your homestead property

 
pollinator
Posts: 188
Location: Outside Detroit, MI
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A question for Leigh:

When looking for our own 5 acres.... is it important to get to know the neighbors before buying the property?

i think we all would agree that it would be ideal to know the neighbors and share lots of things in common.  But is it VERY important?  OR just "good" but not necessary?

Pros to knowing the neighbors and having things in common:
- sharing wisdom and resources.
- sharing labor
- not having to worry about being reported to "the departments of making you sad"
-


What have been the experiences of other homesteaders out there??
Did you know your neighbors before buying your property?
What are your pros and cons?
 
gardener
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I think it is important to know your neighbors, but I've also lived in places where the neighbors were wonderful and then moved out, to be replaced by not so wonderful neighbors. So I think personally it is great to know and have a good relationship with your neighbors, but I don`t think it should be a deal-breaker in buying a property (unless criminal activities are going on nextdoor, that sort of thing, in which case it would. I`d be asking around and maybe even looking for a police blotter to see that in particular).
 
pollinator
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I know most of the people around us now. I did not always know them. I think it's nicer to know. We've received help from the neighbors, and offered it. Sharing of time, knowledge, etc is great. I've also had ducks go on a walk to the neighbors and they called me to let me know they were there so I could go get them. So it's always nice to have a friendly relationship with those around you. However, I've also had to file a police report because I went to introduce myself to a new neighbor and got molested. So, not all neighbors are good neighbors.
 
master steward
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I have never been interested in knowing my neighbors.  What I do what to know is how do they keep up  their property.

Lots of junk ... no way!  Lots of cats ... no way! No one mows their property here, we don't either though if it was a more residential neighborhood, I would want to know that they mowed it.

I once turned down a property because it had lots of deer.  It was residential.  Now I have lots of deer and love them.

I have always looked at how the neighborhood looks overall and never met any neighbors until I moved in.
 
pollinator
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I know people who would never have found out that their future properties could be had if they hadn't gotten to know the neighbours first. In addition to finding property, it is also sometimes possible to get a good read on a community or area based on the people you meet, especially if you happen to be living in close proximity.

I think neighbours could absolutely make or break a property deal for me. If they're spraying stuff that can only be discussed in the Cider Press, or if their choice of recreation involves noise, petro-chemicals, hard drugs, lawless types that don't respect private property laws, or activities that could result in fires, explosions, and cops all over the place, I want nothing to do with it. For those reasons, I really want a good read on the neighbours.

Depending on your life philosophy and mentality with regards to prepping and survivalism or homesteading, it is probably also key to get to know your neighbours. Either you'll have a valuable resource in the greater community, or at least you'll know that they're the type you have to worry about, and arm yourself accordingly. I personally think it to be more of a "how useful can we be to eachother" type scenario rather than a "who's the dangerous leader type, he's the first one shot" scenario, but knowing your neighbours is just another part of knowing the terrain, whether it's topographical, political, or yes, social. These are variables, whatever you personally think of them, that can be neutral, but are often potentially assets or liabilities, depending on circumstances. And sometimes they are irritants, roadblocks, and at the extreme, threats.

Five acres isn't really all that much when it comes to avoiding notice. It's not like you can really remain hidden on most five acre pieces of land. So I think I would prefer to know the people in close proximity.

-CK
 
author & gardener
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C. E., that's a good question, and I see a lot of good input here already.

Introducing yourself to potential neighbors while you're still looking for property can help give you a feel for the area. Our neighbors pointed out a blueberry bush we didn't know about (buried in brush), and the old swimming pool (long since filled in and overgrown with brush.) We learned that the property was once farmed with a mule and plow. They can also answer questions about traffic, weather patterns, local noise, potential areas of flooding, etc. You can also feel them out what they think about living near livestock, for example. Our neighbors were delighted with the prospect of us adding goats. Others may take issue, so it's good to know before buying.

If you're fortunate enough to have neighbors with like interests, that's a true bonus. We have very nice neighbors, but for the most part they view us as the neighborhood nuts. :p

I'd say the most important thing about neighbors is to BE a good one! Be polite and respectful at all times. The last thing any of us wants or needs is a feud! The only reason Dan mows the front lawn is out of respect for our neighbors, LOL. We had guinea fowl a number of years ago, which I absolutely loved. But guineas don't stay put and we didn't want them roaming the neighborhood and annoying our neighbors, so we got rid of them. Made me kinda sad, but I never doubted it was the right choice.
 
C. E. Rice
pollinator
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Leigh Tate wrote:BE a good one! Be polite and respectful at all times. The last thing any of us wants or needs is a feud! The only reason Dan mows the front lawn is out of respect for our neighbors, LOL. i



Great points and great suggestion there.  Everyone wants a good neighbor......and sometimes you may be the first nice neighbor someone has ever had.   Think how valuable to them you would be considered and how loyal to you they would be if you were the first to ever be simply "nice" to them.



________________________________________________________________________________________________________
elle ... that is horrible what happened to you.  sorry to hear.   a good reminder of warning to also be cautious around new people and...
probably a good idea to bring someone along when visiting a stranger's house.  ugh.
 
pollinator
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To me it is less about your neighbor specifically and more about the culture of the neighborhood.

In some neighborhood/HOA, if my grass is more than 1.5inches I get reports and fined.
In another neighborhood, I can build a barn, throw up a windmill made from a bicycle wheel and sheet metal, and no one cares.
In another neighborhood, there is music and dancing every week but they shut it down at a respectable hour because of JOBs the next day.
There are also neighborhood where everyone is silent, but your tools and property goes missing and 25% of the population is strung out on drugs.
Another neighborhood has zero humans under the age of 40 in another it seems like every body is under 35yrs and have 3 kids under 5yrs old. Which is great if you have kids too and want to setup future playdates but might be horrible for grumpy old man me, because they are always getting their toys on to my property or asking me questions.

I don't need a neighbor who feels the needs to share his tractor with me and tell me all about his rash. Or always want to borrow sugar from me. Personally we dont have to be that friendly. I would like it if there was a storm, he would share his water with me if I didn't have any and most importantly that he will at least view me as a fellow human and not rob and maim me.

From a homesteading standpoint I wish he protect his well and our shared water table, make sure his septic is working well, and hopefully that he doesn't spray too much. I would probably even cut his grass just to make him stop spraying.  I would like it if his goats don't end up in my food forest, but maybe I should just get better fencing.

I have heard stories about neighbors from hell, who sue you for any little thing, or report you because your fence is 3.5ft and not 3ft, told the gov that you are running a factory because you have two boats that you are working on. More often than not it is the "neighbor" that never swears and like everything to fit in that box that is the worse, the ones that are a little rough around the edges are usually easier to bond with after a while.
 
gardener
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Leigh Tate wrote:

You can also feel them out what they think about living near livestock, for example. Our neighbors were delighted with the prospect of us adding goats. Others may take issue, so it's good to know before buying.

I had the opportunity to adopt a pair of geese. I thought they'd be a layer of protection against day-time predators. I checked with both neighbors who would hear them, and they were OK with the plan. Marguerite and Heinrich have been good, although not perfect protection for the ducks from spring eagle predation, but they really are loud at times! When one neighbor was hosting a wedding, they asked us not to be running any machinery at the key time. I asked if they wanted me to move the geese for the day, and they said, "natural noise is fine, just please no chain saws," so clearly the geese can stay!

I think it's possible to get to know and help develop "community" even without knowing or socializing with immediate neighbors.
 
elle sagenev
pollinator
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Leigh Tate wrote:If you're fortunate enough to have neighbors with like interests, that's a true bonus. We have very nice neighbors, but for the most part they view us as the neighborhood nuts. :p



I've slowly been building a dam at the edge of our property using dirt from all the holes I did. I can't tell you the number of times I've seen the neighbors stopped and just staring at the dam in confusion. Add that to the free range pigs and I'm pretty much the oddest person they've ever met.
 
pollinator
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"Good fences make good neighbors".  And "Bad dog owners make the worst neighbors."  Those are my thoughts.  Doesn't matter how far apart you are, if someone's got problem animals, they'll be your problem sooner or later.  

The other big problem I've had was neighbors who burnt all their trash in burn barrels and continuously poisoned the community with the plastic fumes.  There were no burn regulations in that area.  The neighbor who did that also liked to set up a lawn chair and crack a beer and point himself directly at my farm while I was out doing chores or working.  Old pervert.  Sometimes I hoped he wouldn't be around much longer, which is HORRIBLE.  But it was also horrible living next to him.  

A few parcels down there was a problem couple, the husband was abusive and you could hear screaming quite frequently.  He also beat the animals, so you'd hear them screaming, too.   The folks on the far side of them had family that liked to bring a big dog over and turn him loose, he'd run the local horses frothing, terrorize goats, jump fences, start dog fights, and was a horrid thing to deal with.  There was no animal control in the area, either.  So it was  "deal with it ourselves" or "call the cops and deal with police reports".  That same household would turn their grandchildren loose.  Once I lookedo ut my kitchen window to see their 5 year old in my back yard twirling in circle fast as he could with one of my sharp axes outstretched in his hands x_X   WILL I BE RESPONSIBLE FOR WHAT HAPPENS NEXT < was my only thought in that moment.

I'd say YES.  Get to know who you're shoulder-to-shoulder with.  Bad neighbors can turn a perfect parcel into a living nightmare.   I've since moved away from those neighbors ^  Woohoo!
 
pollinator
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When I moved here there was a couple of neighbors kind of near.... An older couple that kept to themselves and a younger couple with young kids that partyed a lot. The partyers were not a problem to me but self destructed within a few years divorced, moved, one in jail I believe...  The old couple passed a few years ago. Now I have several neighbors. All ages. Other than the 4 wheelers buzzing around and one constantly running a machine, tractor, generator, planer, sander... etc we keep to ourselves. Except during hurricanes. The aftermath has brought all together to help out. Which is nice!
The area was rather devoid of humans when I bought I never thought of checking with the neighbors...
 
gardener
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Jen Fan wrote:"Good fences make good neighbors".  And "Bad dog owners make the worst neighbors."  Those are my thoughts.  Doesn't matter how far apart you are, if someone's got problem animals, they'll be your problem sooner or later.  



This is exactly how I feel. The only complaint I have about the people who live around me is they seem to think their dogs have a right to go wherever they want and do whatever they want. Then they get mad and blame others when the dogs get run over, shot, or encounter some other misfortune.
After some dogs tore through a fence and destroyed a few hundred dollars worth of cages to kill some rabbits, the owner said I should've built a stronger fence (although the fence was plenty secure enough to keep my animals in and wild predators out). Maybe I'm missing something, but my thought is one should take responsibility for their animals and keep them on their property (I know I would be mortified if my dog went roaming and destroyed someone's property). Now, I run the dogs off the first time I see them (since mistakes happen and animals escape sometimes), but after the first time I feel it's my responsibility to protect the animals that live here & depend on me. While this hasn't made me the most popular with some of the people out here, it has helped a bit with encouraging some of the people to be a little more responsible.
Sorry for ranting, but this is my main issue with neighbors.
In being specific to the initial question, I would definitely check out the folks in a few miles' radius of the property, and not just the people directly next to the homestead. While it seems you can't always please everyone & become friends, you should consider if you can be civil & live in peace with the people around you, or if you foresee yourself having to constantly be on guard to protect your property from thir carelessness & irresponsibility.
 
C. E. Rice
pollinator
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Kc Simmons wrote:
Sorry for ranting, but this is my main issue with neighbors.
In being specific to the initial question, I would definitely check out the folks in a few miles' radius of the property, and not just the people directly next to the homestead. While it seems you can't always please everyone & become friends, you should consider if you can be civil & live in peace with the people around you, or if you foresee yourself having to constantly be on guard to protect your property from thir carelessness & irresponsibility.



i don't see what you had to say as a rant at all.  i appreciate your experience and feed back very much!  And i am with you..... dogs are the responsibility of the owners.  if the dogs damage something ..... that is on the owners.   After numerous incidents of dogs mauling little children in the last 10-20 years... it should be little question anymore that most dogs need to be restrained/fenced (or much better trained by their owners)!

Peace
 
pollinator
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C. E. Rice wrote:A question for Leigh:

When looking for our own 5 acres.... is it important to get to know the neighbors before buying the property?

i think we all would agree that it would be ideal to know the neighbors and share lots of things in common.  But is it VERY important?  OR just "good" but not necessary?

Pros to knowing the neighbors and having things in common:
- sharing wisdom and resources.
- sharing labor
- not having to worry about being reported to "the departments of making you sad"
-


What have been the experiences of other homesteaders out there??
Did you know your neighbors before buying your property?


What are your pros and cons?



As it's written, yes.

All said and done, it depends.

If the property is unincorporated and you can literally do whatever you wish - then I'm less concerned about the neighbors.

However, that's not our current situation and a few years back decided to let our friend graze his yearling bulls on our land for a season.

Neighbors weren't too jazzed about that and made thinly veiled threats about contacting "somebody" on account of the animals living conditions.

Moreover, they've been exceptionally nosy about our operations and seem to be incredibly interested in our potential cannabis cultivation? lol

If I was looking at land, I'd try and camp there for a night or two as well prior to buying...maybe there's a dog breeder nearby?  You'll find out.

While I wouldn't want to be buddy-buddy with my neighbors necessarily...it'd be great to want to invite them over for beers with a fresh dexter steak...

...that is most certainly not the case with our neighbors - or the ones that we had to approach because they were shooting at us.  

Yeah, try to get to know your potential neighbors and/or adjacent landowners if at all possible - even if just some name and background searches.
 
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We purchased the property in 2018. It is a forested lot that hasn't been cut for 70 to 80ish years. There are 6 of us on 5 acre lots on a private road, and we didn't check out the neighbors beforehand. There were only so much land in our price range in the area that we were looking. Out of the 7 properties we looked at it fit the most things on our list and was the best option. We had cash and property prices have been increases so we took a gamble for the land.

We met the neighbors after the fact, but we don't live on the property yet. We will be building on it in the next 6 months. Maybe it will bite us once we are out there growing food, tapping trees and raising ducks.

When we spoke to them they basically said everyone is very relaxed and it is a quiet area. We did make sure that there wasn't a department that we could get reported too for stuff, but everything is zone rural farmland so there isn't anyone to call. I hope that I pick the older couples' brains about frost dates and such since there are so many microclimates in our area but besides that, I don't see us interacting with them much.

 
pollinator
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Ask the neighbors how it is in winter as well. I remember people who looked for a place in summer holidays, bought a lovely house, so quiet. All other seasons a lot of trucks passed by, fell out of love with that house.
 
C. E. Rice
pollinator
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Hugo Morvan wrote:Ask the neighbors how it is in winter as well. I remember people who looked for a place in summer holidays, bought a lovely house, so quiet. All other seasons a lot of trucks passed by, fell out of love with that house.



Very good tip....
not just winter... but what all the seasons can be like.  When does it rain?  How does the water move across the land on a really big rainfall.  Maybe flooding isn't an issue but enough rain can still move nutrient and trash across roads and onto or off of your land.  
 
master pollinator
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In my experience, neighbors are everything.  I am not talking socializing.  I am speaking of co existing.  I currently have great neighbors.  When I lived in another location I had a neighbor determined to run his life and the lives of everyone around him.
 
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