What We Can’t Tell You About Your Neighbors
Prior to ushering buyers around in my car I’ve occasionally recommended buyers drive around a little to familiarize themselves with the area. If, for example, there is a cute little cottage that buyers think they just have to see but I know it’s built between a Quikkie Mart and a funeral home, maybe a drive by is in order before we load up in the car.
After emailing a few properties to buyers, some of which may have had Quikkie-Mart-like issues, they headed out for a delightful day of sight seeing and neighborhood previewing. They more or less drove by most of the properties that fit their criteria.
When I spoke with them about taking an actual tour of the homes they remarked, “You know that home on La-di-dah Street? Well, we drove by it and now we have some concerns about the crime.”
It turns out that one of the neighbors had a sign up in their front yard, right beside the "posted no trespassing” sign, that read something to the effect that their home was being stolen from on a regular basis and that the help of any and all good Samaritans was being called upon to dial the sheriff and/or the home owner if said alleged thief was spotted mid-crime by passers by.
Florida real estate law precludes real estate agents from sharing so very many important things such as crime rates and whether or not we know the subject property is circled by homes occupied with sex offenders. Dateline NBC can show their faces on TV but your real estate agent is only allowed to be “the source of the source”.
So I “source of the sourced” an email to the buyers a few crime tip websites like the local sheriff’s site, plus www.crimereports.com, www.spotcrime.com and www.familywatchdog.us so they could vet to their own satisfaction and then I hit the road.
I decided that I needed to see the alleged criminal complaint sign for myself. For what it’s worth, my search turned up very little crime in quite a wide vicinity. I was curious and just had to look.
When I drove by the property I spoke with a neighbor who volunteered their opinion of what was going on with the crime sign. That explanation included the words “cheese sliding off the cracker”. (His words) He was one of a few neighbors who was over the shenanigans but just didn’t know what to do.
As law would have it, it turns out that mental illness is a protected class (disability) and probably a fair housing violation if brought into the equation. So even if the neighbor shared with me that the sign maker was crazier than a June bug in May and patrolled their property line on a unicycle, wearing a tin foil hat, Mardi Gras beads and brandishing a machete, I have no place telling the potential buyer.
It’s not considered a material defect of the property and there is no “check box” on the seller’s disclosure for “unusual neighbors”. In case you were curious, the other protected classes are race, color, national origin, religion, sex, familial status, age, disability or marital status.
So the lesson for home buyers and even prospective tenants is to talk to neighbors and research a neighborhood on your own regardless of “signs of crimes”. Crime rates, sex offenders and the protected classes are off limits to your real estate agent but you can ask for information on how to research it.
Real Life in Bonita Springs is a project by Chris Griffith dedicated to writing useful blog posts for consumers about the Bonita Springs, Florida area. Find out what it is really like to live in Bonita Springs, Florida by reading about our fair city. You’ll get the latest in local real estate information, Bonita Springs real estate market reports and a little bit of humor. If you have topic ideas, feel free to request a story about the idea, after all, this site is just for you.
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