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Ask an Expert: How can I get the scoop on the neighbors before I buy a place?

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Q. I'm selling my current apartment in part because of two sets of awful neighbors on either side (one noisy, one nasty). Any tips on getting the lowdown on prospective neighbors before I sign a contract on another place?
 
A.  There are a few different ways to get the 411 on potential co-habitators , say our experts.
 
Begin by opening your mouth.
 
"Ask the managing agent, ask the board, ask the doorman, ask the seller ask the seller and ask anyone you know in the building," says real estate attorney Steven Wagner of Wagner Berkow.  "If there is a whacky, noisy, nasty, hoarding, incompetent, dangerous or just plain no damn good neighbor in any of the adjacent apartments, it is likely that someone will give him/her up, even if it is just with a roll of the eyes."
 
If you can find out the names of the neighbors, Google them and see what comes up, suggests real estate broker Shirley Hackel of Warburg Realty.
 
In addition, during the contract negotiation phase, have your attorney review court records on line to see if there are any pending or completed lawsuits involving your prospective apartment or the neighbors', says Wagner.  
 
Your lawyer should also study the minutes of the monthly board meetings.  
 
"It is not always the case that information about shareholder disputes will be included in board minutes, but it is possible or that the board may be considering action against or preparing for defense of an action by one or all of the shareholders.  This will more likely than not be reflected in the minutes," says Wagner.
 
Another tactic: Put it in the contract.
 
"One of the ways we have attempted to address this issue when representing buyers is to place a warranty in the contract of sale that the seller is unaware of any seriously noisy or problematic neighbors and that there has been no legal issue with neighbors in the past two years," says co-op and condo attorney Dean Roberts of Norris McLaughlin & Marcus.  
 
Remember that in the end, your sleuthing "might be for naught, because even if the current neighbors are quiet angels, there’s no guarantee they will remain next door as you long as you live there," says Hackel. "People move all the time, and buyers noisier and nastier than the neighbors you left might move in!"

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