If You’re Buying a Home Near a Nightmare Neighbour, You Might Want to Think Again - Kanebridge News
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If You’re Buying a Home Near a Nightmare Neighbour, You Might Want to Think Again

Three real-estate professionals dish on dealing with confrontational people living next door to a listing

By ROBYN A. FRIEDMAN
Thu, Mar 14, 2024 11:29amGrey Clock 3 min

Q: Have you ever had to deal with a nightmare neighbour while showing a home?

Arthur Greenstein, broker associate, Douglas Elliman Real Estate, Dallas

In April 2022, I showed a four-bedroom duplex unit in University Park, near Dallas, to one of my clients. From the second we arrived, I knew there was going to be a serious problem because the next-door neighbour, who lived in the other half of the Midcentury Modern house, was nosy and angry. She would barge into the unit each time I was there with my buyer, trying to find out who her neighbour would be, and she would stand outside the duplex yelling at us about how we parked our cars. She was retired and had a lot of time on her hands, and she acted like she was the mayor of the block. It was difficult because I didn’t want to be confrontational with anyone when showing a house, and she was being intrusive. After she did this a few times, I tried to convince my client not to buy the property because I’ve seen in other situations what an unpleasant neighbor can do to the value and enjoyment of a property. But he purchased it anyway because that area had limited inventory and great schools. After the closing, the problems continued. The neighbour shut off my client’s water and electricity and put a lock on the water meter. He had to call the police to get the utilities turned back on. Over the past year, things have not calmed down. My client is involved in a lawsuit now with the next-door neighbour and the previous owner for not disclosing the adverse condition of having a nightmare neighbour living next-door.

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Tom Stuart, associate broker, The Corcoran Group, Brooklyn, N.Y.

In June 2020, I listed a two-bedroom co-op in Brooklyn. This was during Covid, and the neighbour next door was very angry that buyers were coming in and out of the building. At the very first open house, when I was buzzing individual buyers into the building one by one, a buyer informed me that there was a note taped to the door of the apartment. When I went to look, I found a piece of notebook paper taped to the door that said in scrawled handwriting: “Don’t buy this! Rats and Bugs!” I had no idea how many people saw it. The neighbour also called building management and my manager to complain, but everything was being done properly. He started posting signs on the walls of the hallway that said things like “You are being watched!” and “Area under surveillance.” More than once, I caught him with his door cracked open, peeking through, which spooked potential buyers. My sellers were perplexed, but didn’t want to confront him. I was eventually able to sell the apartment, but he didn’t do himself any favours since his efforts certainly meant it took longer to sell the property and, ultimately, more people came through than might have without his interference.

Melvin A. Vieira, Jr., real-estate agent, Re/Max Destiny, Boston

In October 2019, I sold a two-bedroom, Cape Cod-style home in the Hyde Park neighbourhood of Boston. I was representing the seller. Every time I would go over to the house, the seller would yell, “Melvin, close the door, close the door!” I didn’t know what he was talking about, but then he would shout, “It’s too late. She’s there!” And then, his next-door neighbour would appear, a middle-aged woman who was nice, but quirky. She would just walk into the house and start talking about everything going on with the house and the neighbourhood. My client said she was just making it up. It got to the point where I had to sneak into the house. It became a game, almost like an episode of “Mission Impossible.” I would pull up, check for her car, and if I saw it, I would park my car down the block and then walk to the house and go in a side door just to avoid having her see me and come over to interrupt a showing. My client told me she was doing that because she didn’t want him to move. He had lived there since 1996, and she didn’t like change, so she was trying to kill the deal. My strategy was to become friendly with her and have conversations with her away from the house. If I knew someone was going to show the house, I would stop her outside her house and talk to her to distract her. The market was strong, and the house sold within a few days of being listed, so she didn’t slow anything down. And, ironically, she and the new owners get along now.

—Edited from interviews by Robyn A. Friedman



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I.M. Pei was the confident visionary behind such transformative structures as the Bank of China Tower in Hong Kong and the Louvre Pyramid in Paris, but he was also humble, and for years resisted a retrospective of his work.

Pei, a Chinese-American architect who died in 2019 at 102 , would always protest any suggestion of a major exhibition, saying, “why me,” noting, too, that he was still actively at work, recalls his youngest son, Li Chung “Sandi” Pei. A decade ago, when Pei was in his mid-to-late 90s, he relented, finally telling Aric Chen, a curator at the M+ museum in Hong Kong, “all right, if you want to do it, go ahead,” Sandi says.

A sweeping retrospective, “I.M. Pei: Life Is Architecture,” will open June 29 at M+ in the city’s West Kowloon Cultural District. The exhibition of more than 300 objects, including drawings, architectural models, photographs, films, and other archival documents, will feature Pei’s influential structures, but in dialogue with his “social, cultural, and biographical trajectories, showing architecture and life to be inseparable,” the museum said in a news release.

As a Chinese citizen who moved to the U.S. in 1935 to learn architecture, Pei—whose full first name was Ieoh Ming—brought a unique cultural perspective to his work.

“His life is what’s really interesting and separates him from many other architects,” Sandi says. “He brought with him so many sensibilities, cultural connections to China, and yet he was a man of America, the West.”

Facade of the Bank of China Tower in Hong Kong in a photograph commissioned by M+ in 2021.
© South Ho Siu Nam

Pei’s architectural work was significant particularly because of its emphasis on cultural institutions—from the East Building of the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C., to the Museum of Islamic Art in Doha, Qatar—“buildings that have a major impact in their communities,” Sandi says. But he also did several urban redevelopment projects, including Kips Bay Towers in Manhattan and Society Hill in Philadelphia.

“These are all places for people,” Sandi says. “He believed in the importance of architecture as a way to bring and celebrate life. Whether it was a housing development or museum or a tall building or whatever—he really felt a responsibility to try to bring something to wherever he was working that would uplift people.”

A critical juncture in Pei’s career was 1948, when he was recruited from the Harvard Graduate School of Design (where he received a master’s degree in architecture) by New York real estate developer William Zeckendorf.

With Zeckendorf, Pei traveled across the country, meeting politicians and other “movers and shakers” from Denver and Los Angeles, to Philadelphia, Washington D.C., Boston, and New York. “He became very adept at working in that environment, where you had to know how to persuade people,” Sandi says.

During the seven-year period Pei worked with Zeckendorf, the developer fostered the growth of his architecture practice, supporting an office that included urban, industrial, graphic, and interior designers, in addition to architects and other specialists, Sandi says.

When Pei started his own practice in 1955, “he had this wealth of a firm that could do anything almost anywhere,” Sandi says. “It was an incredible springboard for what became his own practice, which had no parallel in the profession.”

According to Sandi, Chinese culture, traditions, and art were inherent to his father’s life as he grew up, and “he brought that sensibility when he came into America and it always influenced his work.” This largely showed up in the way he thought of architecture as a “play of solids and voids,” or buildings and landscape.

“He always felt that they worked together in tandem—you can’t separate one from the other—and both of them are influenced by the play of light,” Sandi says.

View of the National Center for Atmospheric Research, on the mesa, in a photograph commissioned by M+ in 2021.
© Naho Kubota

Pei also often said that “architecture follows art,” and was particularly influenced by cubism, an artistic movement exploring time and space that was practiced in the early 20th century by Pablo Picasso, Georges Braque, and the sculptor Jacques Lipchitz, among others. This influence is apparent in the laboratory at the National Center for Atmospheric Research in Boulder, Colo., and at the Everson Museum of Art in Syracuse, N.Y. “Those two buildings, if you look at them, have a play of solid and void, which are very cubistic,” Sandi says.

Yet Sandi argues that his father didn’t have a specific architectural style. Geometry may have been a consistent feature to his work, but his projects always were designed in response to their intended site. The resulting structure emerged as almost inevitable, he says. “It just was the right solution.”

Pei also intended his buildings “not only to be themselves a magnet for life,” but also to influence the area where they existed. “He never felt that a building stood alone,” Sandi says. “Urban design, urban planning, was a very important part of his approach to architecture, always.”

After he closed his own firm to supposedly “retire” in the early 1990s, Pei worked alongside Sandi and his older brother, Chien Chung (Didi) Pei, who died late last year, at PEI Architects, formerly Pei Partnership Architects. Pei would work on his own projects, with their assistance, and would guide his sons, too. The firm had substantial involvement in the Museum of Islamic Art, among other initiatives, for instance, Sandi says.

Working with his father was fun, he says. In starting a project, Pei was often deliberately vague about his intentions. The structure would coalesce “through a process of dialogue and sketches and sometimes just having lunch over a bottle of wine,” Sandi says. “He was able to draw from each of us who was working on the project our best efforts to help to guide [it] to some kind of form.”

The M+ retrospective, which will run through Jan. 5, is divided into six areas of focus, from Pei’s upbringing and education through to his work in real estate and urban redevelopment, art and civic projects, to how he reinterpreted history through design.

Sandi, who will participate in a free public discussion moderated by exhibition co-curator Shirley Surya on the day it opens, is interested “in the opportunity to look at my father anew and to see his work in a different light now that it’s over, his last buildings are complete. You can take a full assessment of his career.”

And, he says, “I’m excited for other people to become familiar with his life.”