How much do you like your next-door neighbors? Enough to share your backyard with them?
A surprising number of homeowners are bucking the notion that good fences make good neighbors and taking down the fences in favor of bigger gardens and more space to entertain.
I like the idea – back on Gilliam Lane as a kid in the 60′s our backyards ran together so we had about six acres, rather than one-and-a-half, to run around on, play baseball, tag, and all that. Of course these days children aren’t allowed to do any of that unless supervised by the resident Filipino, but a large combined yard would still offer a sense of space, and that’s rare in the modern Riverside quarter-acre lot.
But Realtors hate the idea, knowing that most of their clients want to be walled off from their neighbors – they want vegetables, they’ll send the nanny to Whole Foods, for crissake, rather than grow the damn things themselves (even if they knew how). That’s the new reality, I suppose, and I think it’s too bad.
Communal living does tend to give real-estate agents pause. “Before I’d put this property on the market, they would have to have a legal document” spelling out ownership and rights, says Sandy Yeatman, a real-estate agent in Kennett Square, Pa.
Yard-sharing is rare in new developments of single-family homes, big builders say, with privacy fences often required under community covenants and building codes.
A shared yard could damp an individual home’s value and prolong the time spent on the market, says San Jose, Calif., real-estate broker Denise Shur. When a fence isn’t there, she says, “potential buyers instantly start calculating the cost” to build one.
She says she would advise neighbors to restore fencing when either home is offered for sale. It is best to install the fence before listing the home, she adds, “as some buyers will not want to be the bad new neighbor who required a fence.”