When you’re house hunting, you may come across a home that is literally only a few feet from the neighbor. In fact, more and more homes are being built on smaller lots so you may encounter this frequently. It may be difficult to determine during the showing just what life would be like living just an arm’s length away from your neighbor. Will you be able to hear their TV? How much privacy will you have? And just what does the law say when it comes to how far away houses need to be from each other? Let’s take a closer look at this situation so you can determine if this is the right set-up for you.
Result of lot shortages
Did you know that homes are often built so close together because of lot shortages? According to housing market data, there is a shortage of lot inventory in most of the major housing markets. This is often attributed to old zoning restrictions and land-use regulations. So when space is tight, homes tend to be sandwiched together to create more housing options. This is even truer today with inventory shortages and high buyer demand. Plus, it also has a historical aspect. Row houses were common in Europe hundreds of years ago which continues to influence housing design today.
Knowing if noise will carry
When you’re touring a home while the neighbors are out, it can be tough to determine whether or not you’ll be able to hear them inside your own home. If the home is part of a homeowners association (HOA), then find out what the noise standards are. That will give you a good indication of what you can expect. If possible, visit the home at different times of the day to see how noisy the environment is and whether or not sound tends to carry. If other people’s noises are bothersome to you, then living just an arm’s length away from your neighbor might be a dealbreaker.
Understanding the law
We’re in a tight housing market, and demand continues to be high. Neighborhoods are becoming denser, especially in highly desirable communities. So it’s unlikely that we’ll see a reduction in the number of homes that are built close together. Unfortunately, there is no federal law that states what the minimum distance between homes should be. This can vary widely from municipality to municipality. Most towns will have a minimum requirement for how far back a home needs to be from the lot line. To find out what the setbacks are in your community, contact your local building department.
How to create more privacy outdoors
When you’re inside your home, you can close the doors and windows to help create more privacy if the neighbor’s house is close. But what can you do outside? First of all, consider installing a privacy fence. Adding shrubs along the fence can soften its look and also help absorb noise. Screens can also be used strategically to create privacy in your outdoor living space. You can also help to mask your neighbor’s noise with a water feature like a fountain.