13 Home Improvements You Might Make That Your Neighbors Will Probably Hate
Trust us: Your neighbors are a lot less excited about your front-yard trampoline and swimming pool excavation project than you are.
Improving your home is exciting: Whether they’re minor or substantial, indoors or out, property upgrades can change the look and feel of your living space. For homeowners who take on such projects, the promise of a new kitchen or fenced-in yard makes all the noise, mess, and aggravation worthwhile. Your neighbors, on the other hand, have no reward to look forward to, but must bear the inconvenience of not being able to enjoy their homes and neighborhood as much as they might until your project is complete. There’s also the risk they’ll hate your changes, which could lead to an ongoing feud.
In fact, a 2022 survey conducted by Offerpad, an online home-buying and -selling service, found that nearly half the respondents indicated that proper home and yard maintenance was the most important quality of a neighbor. The same survey found that 45 percent of respondents cited disagreements related to yards or home exteriors as the reason for neighbor discontent.
As you read through these neighbor-offending projects, consider which are in your future. How can you make your improvements less egregious and troublesome for your neighbors? We have some ideas.
1. Projects That Just Won’t End
One of the most annoying home improvement projects is the one that lingers on…and on. When a home becomes an ongoing construction site complete with a chain-link construction fence, portable toilet, Dumpster, and torn-up landscaping, curb appeal for the entire neighborhood goes out the window. Be mindful of how long your project will take because if it lingers on for too long, neighbors are bound to complain.
2. Over-the-Top Exterior Lighting
It sounds like a good idea to install exterior security lighting around your home, but even that can cause trouble with neighbors. Be mindful of where you place motion-activated, dawn-to-dusk lights. Though they may face away from where you sleep, they may light up the neighbor’s bedroom like a Christmas tree.
3. Painting Your Home’s Exterior a Bright Color
Unless your home is in a tropical setting like Florida or the Caribbean, it’s probably a good idea to avoid painting the exterior a bright color. Just because there’s no homeowners’ association that dictates all homes on your block must be beige doesn’t mean a bright pink or peacock-blue hue will be well received by the neighborhood. If you want to make an update that involves a gaudy color, paint an eye-popping accent wall inside the home.
4. Noisy, Congested Construction Projects
It’s nearly impossible to build an addition or undergo a major renovation without making noise or a mess: Ruckus that begins too early in the morning, along with construction trucks that block neighbors’ access to the road, will leave you on the receiving end of dirty looks and snarky remarks. Instead, bend over backwards to keep the peace in the neighborhood. Work with the contractor to limit noise and traffic congestion, taking note of when traffic on the street is busiest. Be sure, too, to confirm local ordinances about the hours during which your crew can and cannot delight neighbors with the not-so-sweet sound of an electric saw.
5. Additions That Block Their Views
You’ve always wanted a second-story balcony on which to enjoy sunlight, fresh air, and better views. Before you begin construction, be sure your intended addition does not take these desired attributes away from your neighbor’s home. Instead, consult with a contractor about whether it’s possible to make your dreams come true without blocking the neighbor’s view.
6. A Too-Tall Fence
A fence allows for privacy, but if the one you install is sky-high compared to the neighbors’, you could be in for a fight. Not only will a too-tall fence look odd next to a regular-sized one, it could also block sunlight and view the neighbors once enjoyed. In the same vein, if the fence materials you use clash with those the neighbors have, you could be in for some pushback. The two fence styles don’t have to be identical, but they should be aesthetically complementary.
7. Front-Yard Recreation
“Business in the front, party in the back” is a saying that is as true of homes as it is for mullet hairstyles: The front of the home is all about curb appeal and presenting an attractive complement to neighbors’ yards. When a playscape, skate ramp, trampoline or gazebo is set up in the front yard, it interrupts the minimalist, manicured yards the rest of your neighbors have worked hard to cultivate. If you must erect a recreational eyesore on your property, do it somewhere the neighbors don’t have to look at it.
8. Removing Desirable Trees
While the neighbors will probably applaud you for taking down dead or dying trees, hacking down thriving trees could leave them in a tizzy. This is particularly true if you want to remove a centuries-old beauty, or if the tree provides the adjoining property with desired shade or privacy. Before revving up the chainsaws, be sure to consult with your neighbor, especially if the tree straddles the property line.
9. An Elaborate Sprinkler System
Your landscaping will look greener and brighter than everyone else’s, but at what cost? An extensive irrigation system is great for keeping plants and grass on your property watered, but if the system is loud, runs early in the morning and late at night, or soaks the home or driveway next door, you might be in for an unpleasant neighborly exchange.
10. Front-Yard Vegetable Garden
Homeowners with small or nonexistent backyards may be tempted to put a vegetable garden in the front yard. But neighbors who prefer tidy, manicured lawns may not be happy about this choice, no matter how many homegrown zucchini you give them. The unruly appearance of 8-foot-tall tomato plants and sprawling cucumber vines may be a bridge too far, particularly when you consider that for a good part of the year, your vegetable beds will be just dirt, unless you plant short-lived annuals to decorate the beds in between crop plantings.
11. Installing a Swimming Pool
Even with the promise of invitations to future pool parties, neighbors might be less than thrilled by the construction phase of an in-ground pool. Pool installation can take several months with heavy trucks coming and going frequently, and if your pool site sits on bedrock, the jackhammering will likely send the neighbors into a tizzy. Additionally, common fences may have to temporarily come down in order to allow access to your backyard, straining your neighbors’ tolerance even further.
12. Rainwater Harvesting System
While environmentalists will certainly applaud you, your neighbors might not be so thrilled with the huge collection and storage tanks that are part of a rainwater harvesting system. While the modern corrugated metal cisterns may be more appealing to many folks than the plastic green tanks of years past, these large reservoirs still make a huge impact on the landscape.
13. Converting a Garage to Living Space
While converting your two-car garage to a state-of-the-art media room sounds like a fantastic idea to you and your family, this makeover raises a serious question: Where will you put your cars and other garage items? The cars will likely go in the driveway or on the street in front of your house, which might make neat-freak neighbors and HOAs less than happy. As for the tools and bikes and colorful plastic buckets, will you just stack them in an untidy heap against the side of the house? Also not a neighbor-pleasing move. You could buy a storage shed or two, but some neighbors may not be happy with random, mismatched outbuildings, either.