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How to ensure the immidiate neighbors are "normal" for the house I want to buy?

Is there a conventional way to gather info on what kind of neighbors I will have when I buy a new house?

Why the paranoia? It is because, simply, I bought a townhome next to a borderline psycho 5 years ago, and I am still living in it while I am hitting my head sencelessly to this day. It turns out that not only she is constatnly drunk and loud (I can hear music via shared wall), but also she so far had 3 run-ins with police, all related to carrying (and pointing to someone for one occasion) firearms when she was drunk. Just to be clear, where I live is considered to be one of the safest and kids-friendly city in the state...

Hence, I want to make sure my next purchase will not result in my family being afraid of going outside or unnecessary worries... I just want to have normal neighbors. Here are the ideas that came to mind, but are they realistic? Am I missing anything big?

- Go to one of those websites to check background of people who live in the neighborhood? (If so, which site is trustworthy? All of them look fishy ...)
- Knock on their door and chat? (What do i say, "nice weather"?)
- Stake out in the neighborhood for a while? (Is that even realistic?)
- Hire someone? (Is there a profession like that?)

Any tips are appreciated!
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October 16 2012 - US
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Answers (6)

I am going to play devil's advocate....what happens if you move into the perfect neighborhood, with angelical neighbors all around, and then all of a sudden one of them moves and sells to your psycho neighbor?  You can only control in life how you react to the environnent, but not the environment itself.  Feel sorry for you, but there is never any guarantee of neighbors unless you buy in a super rural area surrounded by acres of land.
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October 16 2012
Profile picture for fb462827053
For each of the homes we purchased (it has been 4 over the past 30 years) I just knocked on the doors of the immediate neighbors and told them I was considering purchasing the home next door, and what could they tell me about the neighborhood. It worked out quite well. Granted people move and dynamics of neighborhoods change, but I feel there is no need to hire an investigator when you can easily get the answers you need by being friendly. Good luck
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October 16 2012
I think you just have to hope for the best in many ways. Certainly, knock on a few doors and ask neighbors what it is like to live in the neighborhood, that can't do any harm.

You have no control over what happens in the future, in any case. Your perfect next door neighbors could sell their home to a psycho just after you move in.
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October 16 2012
Profile picture for user0013518
I hate to tell you, but once you buy, you have no control over what goes on around you.  I have, in the past, done lots of checking out of my new neighbors.  Problem was, they moved out and then the nut cases moved it.
Same with barking dogs, etc.
  Nothing to be done about it, unfortunately.
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October 16 2012
Profile picture for wetdawgs
There is never a neighborhood where everyone is "perfect", and even the most perfect neighborhoods of today evolve over time.   A child grows up to be a teenager, and rebellious things happen.   A house goes up for sale and someone else moves in.

We always check out the neighborhood before making a purchase offer.   We check with the police department for info on calls to the neighborhood.  We visit at all hours of the day and night to listen and see the activity.  We wander the neighborhood on beautiful days when people are out mowing their lawns, or raking the leaves or shoveling sidewalks.   We talk to those who are walking dogs, pulling weeds etc.    We don't say "is anyone in this neighborhood crazy" but "how do you like this neighborhood?   What do you like best?  What do you like least?". 

Even then, there will be things that slip through the cracks.   The person I was most worried about when checking out the neighborhood turns out to be a wonderful friend.   The quiet guy turns out to burn wood all winter long and fill our house with smoke.
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October 16 2012

You can start with public records and websites provided by your local governement depending on your State Laws.  There is usualy some sort of registred sex offender database.  However, for specific information regarding the phsychological make up of individuals in your neighborhood, you will first need  good definition or what is considered "normal".  If you really want to get into each immediate neighbor, you could possibly hire a private detective I supose.  Another approach would be to ask around your friends/family/ aquaintences or co-workers if anyone has a connection to that neighborhod.  Even better, find out which Realtors sell the most homes in the neighborhood and ask them if they have relationships with any of the neighbors or any input for you. Good luck!

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October 16 2012
 
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