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Gift ideas for new neighbor; possible cultural concerns

Discussion in 'Hangout' started by the_mother_thing, Apr 18, 2018.

  1. the_mother_thing
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    by the_mother_thing » Apr 18, 2018
    Hubby and I are buying a new home - we close next Friday. As background, the neighbor on one side of us bought her home two years ago from a previous owner who had installed a fence on their property. The current neighbor either did not get a survey when she bought her house, or if she did, no one explained to her that the existing fence significantly encroached onto the neighboring (our) property. We understand there to be a cultural/language barrier that also could have contributed to her possibly not fully understanding the situation (that is the realtors’ impression based on what they found out). Fast forward to now, the portion of the fence that encroaches onto ‘our’ property must be removed prior to closing in order to receive a ‘clear title’. Our sellers’ listing agent has talked with the neighbor, and she (neighbor) has agreed to remove the encroaching portion of fence prior to our closing date so we can move forward as planned/scheduled.

    We do not want to start off on ‘bad terms’ with this neighbor; it’s not her fault really, nor ours. Our agent and the listing agent have both commented that she seemed like a very nice woman who is likely getting the ‘raw end of the stick’ with regard to the home she purchased, and basically is just now finding out she has about half the back yard she thought she had, and it is not a pretty ‘layout’ either (our yard actually cuts diagonally through what she thought was her back yard when - for the last two years - she thought it was the other way around). I feel really badly for her as it’s probably going to make selling her home tough when the time comes. :doh:

    I thought it might be a nice gesture to get her a small gift of some sort as a thank you. But I’m at a loss as to what, since we know very little about her. I am guessing she is in her 60s, she appears to live alone, she clearly likes to garden as we’ve seen her out in the yard working on her beds (and her landscape is enviable), and she is Asian. I bring up the last point because in both Agents having talked to her, they shared that her English is quite limited (reference my earlier comment re: the language barrier), but also because I want whatever we decide to do as far as a gift to be meaningful and not offend her in any way. I know sometimes different things can have different ‘meaning’ or be considered rude depending on culture, and I’m admittedly not ‘up’ on what all those differences are. So I’m asking here in hopes of getting some suggestions - or at the very least, some perspective of things to not do/get. Or even if possibly getting/doing anything at all might not be too well received. My initial thoughts were something ‘gardening related’ like a nice gift card to an upscale gardening center ... she just planted two trees - cherry I think - in the section of yard that is actually ‘ours’. :doh:

    Thoughts? Suggestions? Am I overthinking this, and a nice card w/gift card would be a nice gesture and likely well-received?

    Thanks! :wavey:
     
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  2. Tekate
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    by Tekate » Apr 18, 2018
    Not sure if I think you should. It might feel like "here's your consolation prize". I think a nice letter and some brownies would be more familial and gracious. But I am 65 so don't trust me.. :)
     
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  3. missy
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    by missy » Apr 18, 2018
    Yes I agree with Kate. Baking her something when you move in as a "hi we are your new neighbors" is perfect IMO. More personal and less like a consolation prize as Kate wisely wrote.
     
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  4. the_mother_thing
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    by the_mother_thing » Apr 18, 2018
    Thanks for chiming in, @Tekate & @missy :wavey: I definitely don’t want it to appear as any sort of ‘consolation prize’. I thought - in the card - I would include a handwritten note ... something along the lines of thanking her for her cooperation and timeliness with remedying the fence situation so we can close on time, and that while I appreciate ‘this’ (the card and gift) don’t really remedy things for her/her yard, I do want to extend our appreciation and gesture of goodwill.

    I’m probably not wording that too well at the moment - I’m only on my second cup of coffee this morning. :(2

    I’m hesitant to do anything food related only because so many people have dietary restrictions; thus my thought that the gardening center gift card would be a nice gesture since it’s clear she enjoys gardening.
     
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  5. missy
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    by missy » Apr 18, 2018
    Your heart is in the right place and I agree with you that it's a challenging situation. I am sorry you are in the middle of it and through no fault of your own. It is difficult to know the right thing to do.

    But IMO it is the thought that counts so if she cannot eat the baked goods she will surely appreciate the sentiment and the goodwill that spurred you to bake them.

    I do feel like getting her a gift while a lovely lovely idea might be taken the wrong way. Because you do not know her and what she will think and it can be seen either in a positive light or a negative one and you just cannot know at this juncture since you do not know her.

    While baked goods (or something similarly low key and homemade vs store bought/more expensive) are generally always considered kind and thoughtful. Does that make sense? That's where my thought process is here with regards to this.

    Good luck and congratulations on your lovely new home!
     
  6. junebug17
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    by junebug17 » Apr 18, 2018
    I get what you're saying TMT, it was huge that she was so cooperative and you want to acknowledge it. Valid point about giving food. Maybe get her a plant she can plant outdoors, or have flowers delivered? I would probably do that as opposed to the gift card, I can't really tell you why lol, just feels more natural to me or something.
     
  7. missy
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    by missy » Apr 18, 2018
    I love this idea Junie. Low key and thoughtful and will not feel like a consolation prize. :appl:
     
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  8. Tekate
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    by Tekate » Apr 18, 2018
    @junebug17 great idea Junebug, I thought of the brownies as it's communal, like breaking bread together :) but food allergies etc are a real and true consideration. Buying a garden plant and offering to help would be really neighborly if it were me... it's amazing that a person today can buy a house without a mapping of the lot, we didn't get a new mapping here in 14 when we bought this house, but we did pay to have this lot re-certified by a company recommended by our agent (our house was 7 years old when we bought it)..

    TMT, you are a kind person and the lucky lady to have you as a neighbor, some people would come in big guns raised..
     
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  9. the_mother_thing
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    by the_mother_thing » Apr 18, 2018
    Thank you, all, for the feedback. :clap: Yes, it really is pretty huge for us that she is being cooperative & getting this done so quickly. Had it delayed our closing by even 2 business days, the up-front cost (to us) was going to be pretty significant. And I genuinely feel for her situation, as her home’s value will likely decrease somewhat at resale given the circumstances or she may experience challenges selling due to the irregular shaped lot - no gift I can give will fix that. :(2

    I am happy to send flowers with a card and would probably prefer that over selecting a plant for her to plant outdoors. As someone who enjoys gardening myself, I am pretty particular about what goes in my yard (which is why I thought the gift certificate would be nice so she could choose something she loves). So I guess flowers or perhaps an inside plant will do. What types of flowers or plant might you all suggest? Is there any particular sort of flowers/plant that speaks to friendship/thank you/appreciation or that - culturally - might be more meaningful? A peace lily seems a bit cliche’ but maybe it would be the most appropriate? :confused:
     
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  10. Alexiszoe
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    by Alexiszoe » Apr 18, 2018
    @the_mother_thing , it's so sweet of you to do so! I am loving the ideas of flowers and a card for her to pick out whatever she wants. As for flowers, lilies can be a bit messy with the pollen stains and also associated with funerals so I wouldn't recommend it. How about potted orchids? They last a while, is easy maintenance and it's really pretty.
     
    


    


  11. Alexiszoe
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    by Alexiszoe » Apr 18, 2018
    Also, I am wondering: if you know what her ethnicity is, maybe use Google translate to add in a short phrase (e.g thank you for helping us etc) in her language? As you mentioned she has difficulty with English. This way it shows the effort you are making to get to know her and she can understand you better too. It must be tough and lonely in some ways living a life in a country where she can barely speak the language, so a little goes a long way. :)
     
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  12. mrs-b
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    by mrs-b » Apr 18, 2018
    Just to clarify - is she paying for the fence to be removed?
     
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  13. the_mother_thing
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    by the_mother_thing » Apr 18, 2018
    Thank you, but full disclosure - we suspected this was going to be the case when we made our offer to purchase the home. We asked the sellers’ listing agent why ‘our’ house sat for sale so long (almost 6 months, and our market is seller-strong right now). She said that several potential buyers’ who considered/viewed the home love it but didn’t like the ‘irregular shaped lot’, which it would appear to be, given the fence’s location if you just looked at it in person. However, when we pulled the property plat from the county, it was clear the problem isn’t ‘our’ property having an irregular shape at all; rather the neighbor’s fence encroachment. It’s also sad for our sellers (who haven’t lived in or even seen their home for several years) that their listing agent never bothered to look into the feedback she received on their behalf, likely costing them a sale months ago and probably a $30k loss. We love this house, it’s perfect for what/where we wanted to be, it ticks all of our boxes, and the price drop from it sitting for sale so long is a bonus. It is just really an inevitable & unfortunate scenario for the neighbor, and if it wasn’t us, it would be someone else purchasing it and having to ‘force’ the fence removal for the same reason (clear title). We’re just trying to be as considerate and kind about it as possible toward her, and offered to help cover the cost of the removal for the encroaching portion.

    I love your idea about the google translate/phrase; unfortunately we only know she is ‘Asian’; no info about which ethnicity, and I admittedly (ignorantly) don’t know enough about the various ethnicities to help me possibly figure that out short of directly asking her. And I agree - I am angry for her that whoever her agent was at purchase didn’t appear to ‘help’ her out much with regard to this, and that the language barrier was possibly taken advantage of. :naughty: I used to have an older, widowed woman from Germany as a neighbor years ago. No fence issue, but she was largely ignored by the neighbors because of the cultural & language differences. She and I became wonderful friends, and I spent a lot of time with and learned a lot from her.
     
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  14. CJ2008
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    by CJ2008 » Apr 18, 2018
    I think just a really nice heartfelt note would be perfect and may even be "safer" than any gift at all, at least right now. (But I say that because I'm thinking you're planning on doing this NOW or is it AFTER you've moved in?) And then a little bit after you moved in you could do a little gift. I like the brownies idea but that's because I'm focusing on what I'd like :D

    Also wanted to point out if you end up buying flowers/plants - she may have cats or other pets and she may not like plants inside for that reason (and many can be toxic so if you do end up doing that make sure they're not).

    ETA: it's super nice that you're going out of your way to acknowledge her cooperation and I'm sure she'll be able to tell and sense what nice people you are regardless of what you end up doing.

    ETA2: thinking more about the brownies...I'm thinking she may not like any sweets or whatever...you have no way of knowing. And even though she can just throw out any baked goods or food I don't know...that may not make her feel nice to have to do that. I think safest is to wait until you know her a little better and then do a little something. But you can't go wrong with a really nice note.
     
    Last edited: Apr 18, 2018
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  15. the_mother_thing
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    by the_mother_thing » Apr 18, 2018
    We do not know if she (the neighbor) is paying for it, or if our sellers’ listing agent and/or the sellers are paying. We offered to our agent - if necessary - to help cover the cost so our closing wasn’t delayed, as there would be a much larger financial impact to us if that happened and we were trying to be fair/deal in good faith. The really odd part about all of this is: we don’t believe our sellers’ listing agent has even told them (our sellers) about this fence issue yet, and we suspect that based on some of her responses regarding this issue and how she’s been somewhat ‘shady’ in convos with our agent about it ... like she’s hiding something or not being fully forthcoming/truthful.

    My overall gut feeling is this: our sellers’ listing agent’s contract was about to expire in a matter of days when we went under contract, and she (listing agent) knew she was likely going to be fired/replaced with a new agent if the house didn’t sell. I think - once we brought this up to her upon submitting our offer - she realized that she failed to identify this issue when she could/should have, given so much feedback from potential buyers about the lot, and she realized that she probably cost her sellers’ a lot of money as a result, as well as much lower commission for herself, and now she is trying to hide her own ‘negligence’ as an agent from her sellers to save the sale/commission (and her ass). So my sense is that she very well may have offered the neighbor to pay out of her (listing agent) own pocket the cost to move the encroaching portion of fence (about $575) just to hide it from her sellers and not get found out that she failed them.

    The listing agent has been flakey as fudge and miscommunications things throughout the process to not only our agent (including things she was not supposed to disclose to our agent), but her own assistant as well. This fence issue didn’t begin with our sellers’ listing agent, but it could have and should have been identified MUCH earlier than us coming along last month. And if her sellers knew that, they’d probably hit the roof and fire her on the spot for failing to look out for their interests which is her job.

    That’s my $0.02.
     
    


    


  16. the_mother_thing
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    by the_mother_thing » Apr 18, 2018
    We’ll likely do it either the same day or Monday following our closing (just to make sure everything goes smoothly between now and then and we actually close - you never know what can happen). And I say that last part in large respect to our sellers’ agent, as noted in my above reply to Mrs. B. That agent has been shadier than an Oak tree, and until we are signed/sealed/closed and have keys in hand, I won’t assume anything.

    I believe she does have a cat, as I saw it sitting in her driveway one day when she was there gardening, and I’ve seen it go in/out of her back yard, but it could just be a free roaming neighborhood cat. But that is also the reason I thought I’d leave the choice of plant to her with a gift certificate ... these days, there are so many variables and sensitivity, allergies, etc. that while it’s not as personal as I’d like, it seemed the safest choice to marry up with a handwritten card of appreciation.
     
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  17. marymm
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    by marymm » Apr 18, 2018
    For me, I think something gardening-related may be akin to rubbing salt into a wound ... since what she is losing is part of what she thought was her yard, and having to change the layout of her yard, and having to move those recently-planted cherry trees, etc. (all of which is garden-related).

    If you don't feel a food-oriented gift is appropriate, perhaps a 4" beeswax candle in a classic nicely-weighted glass hurricane?
    [​IMG]
     
  18. the_mother_thing
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    by the_mother_thing » Apr 18, 2018
    Ugh, that is a very valid point, and I hadn’t thought about it like that. :(2 I like the idea of the candle! Thanks so much, and please if you have any other ideas/suggestions, keep ‘em coming!
     
  19. OoohShiny
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    by OoohShiny » Apr 18, 2018
    I've not read through all the previous responses (I'm 'working' ;-) ) but I would be tempted to not reference the fence issue at all, and just go with the nice 'hello, we're your new neighbours' gesture.

    It's a difficult situation because one wants to acknowledge when another party has had to inconvenience themselves for another's benefit, but none of this is your fault - her estate agent should have picked up the fence issue; she should have more diligently researched the particulars of the property she was buying; your property's old owners should have also more diligently researched their property particulars; the sellers' estate agent should have picked up the fence issue; and you just happen to be the person that is moving in after the pre-existing issue has been resolved.

    Whether it was for your ultimate benefit or someone else's, the fence issue would have had to be resolved at some point, so you shouldn't feel bad or like you owe her anything.

    Bake a cake, be friendly, be good neighbours - move forward and don't dwell on past issues. She might (and might grumble about it), and if she does that would be a shame, but none of that is within your control.
     
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  20. mrs-b
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    by mrs-b » Apr 18, 2018
    So here's my experience.

    I bought a house with a fence between me and my neighbors. Our neighbors had constructed the original fence. Then we all got dogs, so we went halves in constructing a more secure fence. The new fence went on exactly the same line as the old fence.

    The new fence was too low, and these people didn't control their dogs properly. So we reached a time when their dogs were using their weight to lean the fence over and hopping over the (now lower) fence. Clearly, we needed to replace the fence with a higher, sturdier one. We offered to go halves again. They said they couldn't afford it. We paid for the whole thing. The second new fence went on exactly the same line as the first new fence, which went on the same line as the old fence.

    These people sold. New people bought. The man who bought was combative. Like - REALLY combative.

    He said the fence was on his property. This was the first we'd ever heard of it. This is in NY, by the way, and I'm not sure where you are or what the laws are where you've bought. He wanted us to pay to move the fence.

    So this would have been the THIRD time we had to pay to move a fence which we'd had no idea was ever-so-marginally (think - 6") onto his property. We said - screw you. If you want that fence moved - pay for it yourself.

    So this woman, your neighbor, whose English is not good, bought a house, I assume, in good faith. She is now about to lose half her yard - which she uses to pursue her love of gardening - leaving her with a property which will be SUBSTANTIALLY lower in value.

    I gotta tell you, if that were me, I'd be telling you to move it yourself. Asking her to take SUCH a huge hit, and to pay for the privilege, is unrealistic. If you want to have any hope of a decent relationship with her, go talk to her, apologize for this massive inconvenience, loss of money to her, and change in lifestyle - then arrange to have the fence moved on your own dime.

    And THEN take brownies.

    How long has the fence been there? Does she have any right of 'accepted boundaries' due to an existing fence being unchallenged for more than a certain period of time? This is how neighbors find themselves in court.
     
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  21. Calliecake
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    by Calliecake » Apr 18, 2018
    Just my two cents. I’ve worked with people from all over the world for 25 years when I was working. Warmth and kindness always comes thru and is helpful in any situation when people feel it is genuine.

    As a gardener I wouldn’t buy her a plant to be planted. I’m really picky about my yard and it sounds like you know this feeling well too. I would probably give her a very nice card thanking her and saying you both have a love of gardening, compliment her beautiful yard along with a gift card from a garden center, HomeDepot or Lowe’s. Every gardener needs fertilizer, gloves and gardening tools.

    What you want to do is a kind and thoughtful. Your heart is in a good place. You may end up having a very relationship with this women.

    ETA. We have had a similar situation with lot lines in our first home. We went by what the housing developer staked as our lot lines. We found out two years later they we wrong and had to move bushes when the neighbors got a dog and wanted to add a fence. I was never angry at our neighbors for it. It doesn’t seem like anyone has done anything malicious.
     
    Last edited: Apr 18, 2018
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  22. PintoBean
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    by PintoBean » Apr 18, 2018
    My suggestion is a box of cookies from a nice local bakery. They don't go stale as quickly as brownies and cake and they are easy to re gift, bring to work to share, or serve guests that come around if she doesn't eat them.
     
  23. the_mother_thing
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    by the_mother_thing » Apr 18, 2018
    @mrs-b I *wish* our fence issue was only a couple inches over the line. If it were, I doubt it’d be as big an issue. Unfortunately, it’s more than 22 feet over the property line and takes up/over about half of ‘our’ usable back yard. What makes it worse (for her, unfortunately) is that per the neighborhood covenants, each home also has an 8’ set-back from the property line for any fences, so in actuality, her fence is really 30’+ beyond where it’s supposed to be, so we couldn’t even share a physical fence line with her even if we wanted/agreed to. Again - totally not her fault (unless she did get a survey, did understand the issue, and just hoped it’d never be discovered, but I don’t believe that to be the case). I even argued that she (neighbor) should tell the HOA to pay for it, as they had to approve the fence going in at the time, so they also clearly dropped the ball in ‘approving’ the job when it was finished. Again, there is a LOT of blame to go around on this issue, but none of it is with us. As @OoohShiny said above, we’re really coming into this after everyone else who *could* have and *should* have addressed it ... didn’t. If it wasn’t us buying the house, it’d be someone else, and this issue would be the same.

    Also, we did offer to help cover the cost of removing the encroaching fence section; however, we got word back last night through our realtor from our sellers’ listing agent that ‘it was being taken care of’ and would be done/removed prior to closing next Friday (and as I opined above, my bet is the listing agent is actually paying for it to cover her ass, and appease the neighbor and her sellers, but that’s neither here nor there). Lastly, we cannot move it ourselves as we are not the property owners, and we cannot close on the house until it is resolved, as our lender will not accept anything less than ‘clear title’ to the property, which the fence - as-is - would prevent. So short of offering to help cover the cost, our hands are tied. The fence was installed before she bought the home, but there are no rights to ‘accepted boundaries’ in this case (we checked before we submitted our offer); so, no, she doesn’t have a legal claim to the section of property that her fence occupies.

    I genuinely hate it for the neighbor, and our stance (to our agent) was the sellers of our home should cover the cost (at least for removal of the section that encroaches) as they too were neglectful in knowing WTH was going on with regard to their property - for several years. But we don’t get to make that decision; we just get to deal with the aftermath, which is why I want to ‘extend the olive branch’ from the get-go with the impacted neighbor. :wavey:
     
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  24. smitcompton
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    by smitcompton » Apr 18, 2018
    Hi,

    No so fast Mrs. B. In il. it take 20yrs for the use of property to transfer.(I forgot legal name.) I had a fence problem too. I went to the Village building codes Dept. I showed them my survey and told them what the problem was, and he suggested I talk to the neighbor and explain that either we leave things the same, or they have to remove a portion of their fence. I did this and they agreed to give me permission in writing to leave things as they are, and we parted as good neighbors. The 20 yr mark has passed for me, so I don't worry about the property line anymore.

    I agree with O Shiny. I don't think you should bring it up all. All the legal actions have occurred without your involvement with her.. So there ought not be any bad feelings toward you. It was not your fault.
    I like brownies, so I would go simple. If she brings up the fence, that is the time to say that you are sorry this happened. Just be neighborly.

    Annette
     
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  25. the_mother_thing
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    by the_mother_thing » Apr 18, 2018
    Noted about the gift suggestion; thanks! And that’s my hope - that we can have a good relationship with all of our neighbors. The only person I suspect is acting with any ‘ill intent’ is our sellers’ listing agent. Hubby and I agreed that if we didn’t have our realtor representing us, we’d have contacted the sellers directly by now to let them know WTH is going on down here, as they live out of state/up north, and aren’t seeing the things their realtor is doing - and more importantly what she isn’t doing - for them.

    We insisted on our getting a survey not only because of this issue, but because we also need to have a fence installed for our dogs, and we did not want to take any chances on having something be amiss with regard to the property plat we pulled from the county.
     
  26. Calliecake
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    by Calliecake » Apr 18, 2018
    I hope this all works out well @the_mother_thing . We have 4 couples who are really great neighbors whom have become good friends. We all help each other out and it really makes things nice. One of our neighbors who have recently moved burned one side of a large evergreen. I was angry when it happened but am glad I didn’t say anything about it. They are nice people and it would have caused problems. I’m glad I kept my complaints about the tree with husband and on Pricescope and no where else. LOL
     
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  27. mrs-b
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    by mrs-b » Apr 18, 2018
    @the_mother_thing -

    I understood that the fence was a long way onto your property. My point was that even 6" was the basis of so much stress and aggression. People feel strongly about boundaries - and I have no issue with that. I worked for many years in dispute resolution, and the #1 cause of disputes that go through the courts and end up in arbitration is fences.

    If she didn't put it there, and you want it removed, and it's on your property - either the person selling you the property should move it, or you should. I don't see her liability in this at all. In my situation, my neighbor tried to force me to pay to have the existing fence between us moved again. We said no. That was about the full extent of what he was able to do. We told him if he wanted to move it - go right ahead - it was on his property and his right to move. But we weren't paying for it.

    I hope you work it out. But from experience, I can tell you - $600 is nothing compared to having fractured neighbor relationships, and if you think a batch of cookies will sweeten the experience of losing half her back yard, and a significant percentage of her 'one-day' selling price - if she can sell at ALL with an eye-sore like that - you're mistaken. You need to go bigger than that, and starting with a conversation would help. People never respond well when the first indication they get of a complaint is something with an official letter head.
     
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  28. VapidLapid
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    by VapidLapid » Apr 18, 2018
    I would buy her two cherry trees
     
  29. doberman
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    by doberman » Apr 18, 2018
    I would think that removing the fence should be your job, as it's on your land. Making her remove it feels a bit like adding insult to injury.
     
    WeeOui and mrs-b like this.
  30. Babyblue033
    Brilliant_Rock

    Messages:
    894
    Joined:
    Apr 11, 2008
    by Babyblue033 » Apr 18, 2018
    It's not to say your neighbor specifically won't enjoy home made goodies, but just from my own mother & MIL (1st generation immigrant Asian ladies in 60s & 70s), I can see both of them not appreciating it as much. I would say gift cards to home center with a hand written card is a great idea (Keep it short & sweet to get your message across), I also like orchids like someone mentioned.

    I think what you're doing is very sweet and neighborly, even though this obviously wasn't even your fault. This is a rather crummy situation for her and it would go a long way to show her that you appreciate her cooperation.
     

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