June 8, 2008 -- Home sellers in many markets already are having a difficult time unloading their property because of the country's housing slump, but some have found selling their houses more difficult because of their neighbors.
How the neighbors keep their homes, including their lawns, backyards and the overall appearance of their homes, can affect the ability to sell another home in the same area as Sandy Hook, Conn., as residents Amy and Andrew Kennedy found out first hand.
The couple has lived in its 3,000-square-foot home for more than two years, in its nearly picture perfect setting. The large, two-story home sits on a well-manicured lawn in a quiet area.
The Kennedys, who thought of the home as their "dream house," have mixed feelings now that they are making the transition from proud homeowners to nervous sellers.
"It's not the house, it's the neighborhood. Their houses are $300,000 and ours is $600,000," Andrew said.
As they plan to move to California, the Kennedys worry how the upkeep of their neighbors' houses may place a negaitve value on their own home.
"We wish the backyards of some of these home ... you know ... would just pick the trash can up," Amy said.
"It would be great if they just mow their lawns," Andrew added.
During a drive around her rural neighborhood, Amy pointed out homes with messy facades, overgrown lawns, dilapidated exteriors and non-functional cars sitting on the grass.
"This lovely broken-down Volkswagen, it's never moved, never brushed off," Amy said. "It's very messy, a lot of dirt."
There are some homes that are as well-kept as the Kennedys in their neighborhood, but Amy and Andrew know that many buyers don't just look at the home they want. They also look at the houses around them.
"First impressions make or break the sale of a home," Amy said.
She found out just how true that statement was when she drove up the dirt road leading to her house and unexpectedly walked in on a real estate agent getting ready to show her home to a Michigan couple.
After a quick tour, close inspection of every room and a sales pitch by Amy, potential buyers Dona and Doug Huwer had some reservations.
"We're concerned about a little bit of the roads, the dirt road in the area. As you're driving in, driving out, you want to see what the others are doing to their houses. Are they well-maintained? Are things spewed all over the yard? If you're willing to take that risk, you can use that as a bargaining chip," Doug said.
Real estate experts said the bottom line is, untidy neighbors and unkempt neighborhoods could be hazardous to a home's value.
"If they park large objects in their front yard: boats, cars, dump trucks, earth movers -- that could make you nervous," said real estate expert Ilyce Glink. "If they don't take care of their landscaping -- they've got knee-high grass, bushes that aren't trimmed ... that might bring down the value of your house by 10 percent or 20 percent, maybe even more."