Category Archives: Neighbors

Out of !!!!s

Dear Jewish Fairy Godmother:

My former best friend is royally angry with me and I think she is very
in the wrong. We’ve been neighbors for 20 plus years. Our husbands
used to work together. Our sons grew up like brothers; both are
getting married this summer to wonderful young women. But she and
her husband have decided to move to where their son/daughter-in- law
will live. In the year since she made this decision our relationship has
deteriorated, in part because her attention is focused two hours north,
and in part because she’s started to treat me like chopped liver, as the
old saying goes. She assumes I am on tap for whatever she needs,
and has never once asked if I needed anything because she is so
preoccupied with her transition. She’s putting her house on the market
(for sale by owner) soon and asked if I would stand in for her. Why?
Because she and hubby are going to be out of town attending their
son’s Frisbee tournament! If it were the Olympics, I would stretch but
it is &*%^ frisbee and I work 60 hours a week plus care for my
own family. I told her “Sorry. No can do. Not enough time.” Now she is
accusing me of not being supportive of their move.

Out of !!!!s

 
Dear Out of:

Twenty years is plenty long enough for big asks, and I put hostessing
an open house in that category. But her request reflects a lack of
understanding of the status of your friendship. It’s not the same as,
say, Can I list your address for a package delivery? Or Can you fill in
for me when the cable guy comes in case I can’t make it home in
time? Selling a house requires not just a warm body to open the door
but being “on” socially with prospective buyers, and also being
knowledgeable enough about the home to be able to answer questions
that potential new owners might ask. No was a thoroughly legitimate
answer. She should reschedule the open house or pass on the Frisbee
trip.

 

I understand that your No came not only from not having much
discretionary time for yourself but also from your sadness about the
changes in the friendship. That seems like a worthwhile conversation
to have before she moves away.

Overwhelmed With Worry

Dear Jewish Fairy Godmother:

What can I do to help a friend who has just been diagnosed with ALS?
Her health has been declining for the past two years. She has gone
from a vibrant public figure to a woman who needs a walker to get
from her recliner into her wheelchair. Her husband is overloaded
already caring for his 98-year- old mother. She has no biological
children, but does have adopted grandchildren (long story). I am her
friend and neighbor and usually run quick errands for her like library
books (my office is a block away) and specialty items from a favorite
store. But now she needs more and more help every day, and I’m
concerned the people who have been bringing her meals etc during the
most recent spate of testing and treatment may fad away with this
news. She is very appreciative for help but also very frightened, and
there is so very much to do around the house and in the bigger
picture.

Overwhelmed With Worry

 
Dear Overwhelmed:

There are two levels of support people who have received a terminal
diagnosis need. And be clear, even if it is a slowly progressing form of
ALS, there is no cure at this time. That doesn’t mean that any one of
her friend or family might not go first, but the prognosis is of
progressive decline until death. So the emotional level of support,
among family and the inner circle of closest friends needs to be
addressed first. Because the disease is not linear or predictable, it is
useful to first establish big criteria of needs: assists with meal
preparation or companionship in the house in the earlier stages,
compared to assists with bathing, eating, etc in later stages.

 
Fortunately there are many websites set up to support exactly this
kind of situation. One I know best is caringbridge.org, though I am
sure others are also good. It allows people to identify specific tasks
(e.g. a gluten free vegetarian dinner for two on a specific date, of two
hours of housecleaning) and friends to sign up to provide them. These
sits also allow the patient to give medical updates to people who care
about her welfare. Ask your friend if she wants help setting that up,
and perhaps offer to be her site manager (or recruit one). You are
right that a long haul will wear folks down. But it takes a village to
support us all in hard times.

No Fence

Dear Jewish Fairy Godmother:

The house next-door has been a rental for decades. It has finally been
sold to a couple, and as they were moving in and talking abut what
they planned to do to the house and garden I realized that I’m not
used to having a relationship with neighbors that’s based on equality.
With the tenants, I always had some degree of authority, because I
was friendly with the person who owned the property, and acted as
sort of a watchdog to be sure the renters didn’t do anything stupid. So
the tenants were somewhat deferential, and I could be nice in ways it
was easy to be, like giving them a quart of soup every so often, and
never had to worry about them doing things that were seriously
disruptive to my life. The new folks seem okay, if a little chatty, and
interested in gardening the median strip together, which sounds great.
How else do I get things off on the right foot?

No Fence

 
Dear No Fence:

The strongest message to ensure your privacy would be to build a
fence. But I don’t think that’s what you really want and ironically I
don’t think that it sends the message you want to give the new
owners. I would give them time to settle in, and make the house their
home. Bringing them soup or perhaps your extra zucchini and
tomatoes would be a welcome gesture of friendship.

 
Decades implies you’ve lived in your house, and developed it nicely, in
a way that might intimidate new owners. Don’t rush to invite them
over in the flurry of excess friendship. Write them a lovely note of
welcome, and let them settle in quietly without a lot of fuss. Then
when the time is right, agree on the boundaries that work for you both
regarding noise, shared phone numbers and/or keys, and so on, and
then make plans for the garden next spring, when you feel like
comfortable equals. Personally I’d hold back on the keys until you
know them better. Good neighbors are a wonderful thing. Take your
time making it happen.

Ticked Off

Dear Jewish Fairy Godmother:

My neighbor and I have shared hourly yard workers for years. No
matter who finds them among students, clients, employees, children of
relatives and friends, etc, we have agreed on what hourly rate to pay
and cooperated on schedules. The last regular gal we had was
amazing, but finally got a teaching job so we both fell behind during
fall and winter. My neighbor found someone new who is not as good
but needs the work and money. I had her scheduled to come on
Sunday, but my neighbor slid in ahead of me for two hours of heavy
lifting of rocks and soil, so by the time the gal got to my place she was
tired, dehydrated, and hungry. I fed her and she worked a paltry 1.5
hours, which barely made a dent in the mess. I’m frustrated with both
of them, especially because it’s my birthday week and I am
entertaining. What should I say to whom?

Ticked Off

 
Dear Ticked Off:

You should speak to both of them simply and clearly.
To the yard worker you should be very clear: I made a plan with you. I
was clear about how much work I had. If you had extra time you
should have called me to see if I wanted you to start earlier or work
longer before you made other commitments. I still want you to work
for me, but I want us on the same page about what you are saying yes
to and what I can count on. I’m past being angry but I do want to
know we agree.

 
To your neighbor: I know you found [worker name] so you probably
feel you have a proprietary interest in her and maybe even the rights
to first place in line. But I’d made a plan for Sunday and what you did
made it difficult for me to even make a dent in my weeds. I need at
least xyz hours of her time in the next few weeks. Can you wait to hire
her again, or at least consult with me before you do? [Pause to listen
to excuses.] Thanks for letting me know before she comes back to
your place.

Disgusted

Dear Jewish Fairy Godmother:

I have a neighbor two doors down with whom I have a very close
relationship. One of our mutual friends once described it as “lurking
privileges,” which means in essence, If I am up early and need
something like half-and- half, I have the right to walk around the house
and look in a window or two and see if anyone sees us. We have
keys but don’t use them early or late. For reasons too arcane to
explain, we agreed not to text before 7 am after her mother moved in
with them (the usual aging symptoms plus plus). Yesterday the city
worked on the sewer lines outside our houses. I stayed away from
home a lot of the day. For the record, it is very hard to run zero water
(sink, shower, laundry, flushing, even washing one’s hands). The
caution was, If you do, the sewage may back up and then it is your
problem. Write the script: In a fit of partial lucidity, while my neighbor
was out, her mother remembered not to flush at her house, but found
the key and came over to mine to use the bathroom. When I got home
there was a backed-up mess in both bathrooms and the tub. Ugh Ugh
Ugh. I cleaned it up (we are talking hours not just one roll of towels).
Do I say anything or not?

Disgusted

 
Dear Disgusted:

For both the safety of your home and her mother, as well as the
integrity of the friendship, you have to say something. You can make
it short and clear, putting the burden on her not for any remediation
but for future planning. Start with: Your mother might not have
understood that what was true about flushing at your house was also
true at mine. I came home to a mess, which is all cleaned up now. It
was gross but there was no permanent damage, so let’s call that the
past. But for the future, I am concerned that if she remembers where
the key and comes in thinking that she’s in her own home and it’s
okay to do whatever she wants, there’s potential for bigger problems
down the line.

 

 

It’s like the old story of the frog not jumping out of the slowly warming
water. You friend’s mother’s decline may be accelerating and she may
be in denial about the level of daily care and supervision that is
needed. This is a simple wake-up call for you all. She should secure
your key and get her mother in for cognitive and behavioral
assessment. Better a little bathroom cleanup that a house fire or a
search party combing the neighborhood.

Ping Pong

Dear Jewish Fairy Godmother:

A long, long time ago (as in the 1990s) I played tennis with a neighbor. We were
not good friends when we started or when we stopped, but we had mutual friends
in common so as we played we became closer. The ability to be spontaneous,
travel together, and improve our game were good advantages. As our knees
began to give out we adjusted our game, but eventually, for not one big reason
but twenty small ones, we stopped trying to play together. Fast forward to now, or
actually a year ago. I joined a local table tennis club. I tend to play in the morning
with the other retirees and my game has improved a lot from playing four times a
week. I ran into my old tennis buddy at the store an went into my manic,
evangelical pitch about how great table tennis is for coordination, reflexes, brain
reflexes, etc. She decided to come and has now become a regular. My problem:
she’s too regular about wanting to play with me, and because she is not as good,
I am losing what was growing access to the better players, both singles and
doubles, because there is stratification of teaming, unspoken but consistent. I
want her to get better, but not at the cost of my own game. On the other hand, I
like having her there. How can I politely tell her I want to play the field?

Ping Pong

 
Dear Ping Pong:

Emphasize politely when you talk to her. Make a point of playing with her at least
part of most days you play. Tell her that you try to get there when the session
starts so you can warm up, and then get access to the better players before they
get busy with other better players. Tell her how pleased you are that she has
come to join. And how much better she will become if she plays with as many
different people as possible. Talk to her as someone who has come up through
the ranks, and who wants to keep ascending. Tell her The most important thing
you can do is to play with as many different people as possible. You’ll keep
learning much more than I could ever teach you.

See if you can cajole some of the folks you know best to commit to playing
singles with you so that you have a way off of the table with her. Ask the club
manager to help team her with other people “….so she gets to know more folks.”
Be kind and keep paying and playing it forward.

She’s Baaaaaack…..

Dear Jewish Fairy Godmother:

I lived in the same community of about 100,000 from after college
until 10 years or so ago. I had a very tight group of friends. Some of
us had been college roommates. Others will raised our families
together: we were part of the same social group, our children all went
to high school together, and we even shared the same plumber and
electrician. I thought once things were going to be the same when I
moved back after 12 years away. My husband&'s company had moved
him far away, and while it sounds exotic to live “in the islands” it isn&'t
as much fun when you don&'t have close friends. So I was very excited
about return. Everything has changed. A good metaphor is that our
weekly bridge game has dwindled from four tables down to one, and
some weeks none. People don&'t seem close. They trade show & tell
and news, but it&'s nothing like the sense of extended family and
community that I had when I left. How should I handle this?

She’s Baaaaaack…..

 
Dear Baaaaaaack:

Invite the old gang over for a big summer barbecue. Get people happy
(an open bar doesn&'t hurt) and talk about old times and new times.
You can just ask folks to share what are the big events in their lives
since you’ve been gone. Don’t be shy about saying that you that you
really hoping to capture some of the magic that you had for so long.
See how they respond (both verbally and by body language). If they
like the idea, you get some of your old friends back. If they don&'t, you
have to make new friends just like you did when you moved to the
islands. You play bridge: check out the bridge club. Make a list of other
activities you&'re interested in. Pretend you were suddenly single or
dropped into a new city and looking for new friends. You can work
through the synagogue or through community organizations but find
people with similar interests in an activity-oriented setting. You can
also initiate activities by starting a rotating monthly international
themed dinner club if you have foodie friends. Food also lubricates
friendships. Think about volunteer work and taking classes where you
will meet people of your age and interests. Friendships take time, even
old ones, to get their rhythm back.

Threatened?

Dear Jewish Fairy Godmother:

Last week I saw some nasty-looking graffiti near my mailbox. I
thought about covering it with black spray paint but ignored it. Denial
was not a good choice, it turns out. Today I woke up and someone had
maliciously unscrewed a bottle of “Not Tonight Deer” (a foul smelling
concoction that saves roses and other living things from becoming
deer food) all over my front porch. It’s hard to imagine a raccoon
committed enough to unscrew something I always keep tightly sealed.
I cleaned up but I am concerned. When I walked my block I saw one
to two other houses with similar genitalia type graffiti, but they are not
neighbors I know. This seems small to involve the police but I am a
single elderly female. Also I am on good terms with all my neighbors
and this is not a gang-oriented neighborhood, though there has been
more graffiti in the bus-stop etc areas.

Threatened?

 
Dear Threatened:

Whether this is directed personally at you or not, you should definitely
not count on denial to solve the problem. Talk to your neighbors and
see if any of them have had any problems. Walk your block to see
which, if any, other homes have been tagged. Usually an upswing in
graffiti means a shift in gang activity in your neighborhood. Sometimes
it is a passing thing; others it can mean they are settling in. Petty acts
of crime can be theft or vandalism, but in either case they are
considered criminal mischief and are always unsettling.

 
Call your local police and ask them to look at the graffiti. The specific
visuals may mean something more to them than to you. Ask them if it
is okay to cover it over with street-colored spray paint, so that the
“victim lives here” mark is removed. Ask what cues would have them
patrol the area more regularly. If you have neighbors with dogs that
might bark in the night, ask them to call for a patrol when they do. If
the acts continue, install motion sensor lights and perhaps a camera,
and an alarm system if you do not already have one. If all else fails,
get a dog. Folks with alarms and dogs are less likely to be hassled.

Kitty Momma

Dear Jewish Fairy Godmother:

I have a neighbor with whom I am very close. We share pots of soup
and library books. We run errands for one another and housesit for
overnights (though for longer stints we hire help). She and her
husband recently adopted a foundling Lab who has an unfortunate and
insane hatred of cats. While they were traveling, the dog broke away
from the house sitter and killed a different neighbor’s cat. Everyone
was extremely distraught, including my friends, however they have
chosen to keep the dog. Recently I lost my own cat to a speeding car.
Fortunately my remaining one is elderly and stays inside or on my
porch. I realized that I&'ve become a little paranoid about having my
neighbor drop by when she has her dog with her, even if he is leashed
and on heavy-duty collar. In the past she would easily just pop in for
a cuppa coffee and a schmooze, or to drop off or pick up something.
What should I say and how?

Kitty Momma

 
Dear Kitty Momma:

Your “paranoia” is legit. Any dog who gets away with killing a cat is not
going to know IT’s NOT OKAY!! You obviously don&'t want to end your
friendship over this, but you do have the right to keep your pet safe.
Some cities have restrictions (from penning them up to killing them)
on animals that have killed or injured people. I don&'t know if that&'s
true for animals that have killed or injured other animals. You can
check the local ordinances, but unless you or the former kitty’s mother
moot.

 
I say invite the neighbor over for coffee and tell her you&'re very sorry
to have to have this conversation. Explain that she remains welcome
but the dog does not. You might say you’re sure accident that
happened with the house sitter would never happen with her or her
husband. But quickly add that you are traumatized by the loss of your
one cat and very protective of your other. Ask her to respect your
concerns and leave her dog at home when she comes to visit or pick
up/deliver. It may be more convenient for her to do everything while
she is walking the dog, but he’s not invited. Say if it’s a problem, that
you will do all the pick up and delivery. Then ask what training and
behavior modification the dog is receiving. It’s okay to let her know
this is serious to anyone who loves cats.

Needled

Dear Jewish Fairy Godmother:

Long story short, I feel like my neighbor is exploiting me. She has two
cats, one of which almost died a few weeks ago. My guess is that he’ll
died of kidney failure within a few months but in the short run he’s
being kept alive on a variety of medications and saline injections every
other day. That’s where I come in. I’m a nurse (for humans, not for
cats) in my day job. I no longer do the hands-on nursing that involves
needles but of course I did so for years. My neighbor was given
instructions by her veterinarian about how to do it, but I agree with
her that the process requires at least three hands if the first two aren’t
well-trained and the cat isn’t very cooperative. She hold and I inject.
She’s been giving me food almost every time I come over. The deed
itself and the brief socializing don’t take more than five-ten minutes.
But I don’t have pets of my own for a reason, and when I discussed
this with a friend who works at a vet’s office she said they charge $15
each time for injections. Should I say something or just ride it out? PS
I have heard of cats lasting for years with these injections, but this
guy is almost 18.

Needled

 
Dear Needled:

It’s always nice to have someone cook for you. But being paid is nice
also. You don’t say how long this been going on. By me doing it for a
few weeks, even a month or so is neighborly. Doing it longer than that
feel very discretionary. But it’s also an act of kindness, to the neighbor
and to the cat. If it’s not a big deal, keep doing it. If you truly feel
exploited, you’re going to have to speak up. You can do it actively or
passively. Actively is more honest.

 
You don’t say what time of day you do this or how it impacts your
schedule. A passive way of interrupting the pattern is simply to alert
your neighbor that you will be less available, and then follow through.
A more active way is to have an actual conversation that says, This is
more than I thought I was saying yes to. I appreciate that you’ve been
thanking me with food, but your cat seems like he’s going to need this
for a long while. Do you think you can learn to give the shots under
my supervision, and then have a different neighbor hold the cat for
you, at least a couple times a week? Unless she’s deaf, dumb, and
blind, she’ll get the message, readjust her expectations, or offer to pay
you in money not food.

Boundary Girl

Dear Jewish Fairy Godmother:

The house next door has been a rental for the 30 years I have lived
here. Many of the tenants have been fine. Some have been horrid,
where horrid means noisy and messy, and with barking dogs. One had
a brother just out of prison who sold drugs and ran his car on the lawn
blaring nasty rap music. So I care a lot about who lives there. The
current owner has made good choices from my point of view but they
all went badly for her, and entailed a lot of expensive repairs. She is
getting older and even senile and I fear she may sell to a property
management company with whom I have no dialogue. Now a friend
might want to rent it after the current tenant moves out and the latest
set of repairs are done. In my ideal world the next tenant would be a
quiet graduate student or writer who is self-sufficient, as opposed to
someone with whom I will have to navigate my friendship. But the
worst so far outweighs that problem, so I am mostly looking or advice
on good fences and neighbors.

Boundary Girl

 
Dear Boundary Girl:

Any time one has to recalibrate a relationship, whether it is at the end
of a romantic dyad, when a friend gets into a new romance and you
lose access or don’t like his/her partner, when you divorce but want to
remain friends with your in-laws, etc it’s a good time to remember that
it’s okay to have a relationship conversation even if you are not trying
to forestall a breakup –- which is when most folks re-examine their
patterns of communicating and relating.

 
The time to do so is well before your friend moves in next door,
preferably before she decides. Go out for lunch and talk candidly about
the benefits, and dangers, of living so closely. If you normally see one
another weekly, or monthly, be clear if you want to keep that the
same or not. Do you want a friendly wave and hello, as you would with
a stranger, or do you want your friend to be able to show up any time
knocking on your door? Do you want her to have key/code access or
only when you invite her? If you want to use one another for pet or
house care during vacations or quick getaways, are those roles clear
and equitable. Will you have any concerns about being social with her
friends? That’s a quick laundry list. Every friendship will have its own
history and nuance. But without the talk, you could lose the friendship,
or watch it decay. Even with boundaries that seem clear, assume they
will change and erode. But better to plan for problems than trip over
them.

Hear No Evil

Dear Jewish Fairy Godmother:

I have the same problem in two areas of my life: a new friend who is
also a neighbor I genuinely like and trust, and a person I have just
started dating and, while I don’t know how fast or deep it will go, is
certainly the most interesting person I have met in a long time. In
each case the person has a teenaged chills from a prior marriage and
in each case I have heard from my friend about the problems with
their ex, and with the difficulties of creating a solid ongoing
relationship with a child who lives part of the time with someone who
bears them great enmity. The problems that the exes create
(according to the new friends) are both emotional and financial, and in
each case my new friend presents themselves as a relatively private
person and their ex as a person who trash-talks them publicly for
their ostensible failures as a parent. The evidence is that when I have
said to my old friends that I am befriending the new friends, I have
heard things like” I hear s/he…isn’t paying for her son’s college……or
He doesn’t take enough time to spend with his kid….or He doesn’t even
have a set-aside bedroom for the child who has shared custody with.”
How should I respond?

Hear No Evil

 
Dear Hear No Evil:

I get letters about a lot of problems that are nuanced and require
carefully articulated responses for people to try to communicate to
others in difficulty emotional circumstances. Generally it is harder to
deal with problems that affect your direct interpersonal relationships
with people than it is to discuss third parties. You are in a position not
only to communicate with people that are old friends in ways that set
or reinforce your standards about gossip and trash-talking, but also to
perhaps influence the loose talk about your new friends.

 
Your answer should be short and sweet: I know s/he and the ex have
a tough relationship. I have heard a different version of things. I’m not
saying one side or the other is all right or all wrong. But I am saying
there’s absolutely more than one side to the issues. And while the ex
may be vocal and my new friend may be less so, I’d be careful about
believing everything you hear. I’m not going to. Before you repeat this
gossip, I suggest you ask my new friend directly when you meet
him/her, and then draw your own conclusions. They’re unlikely to be
so direct, but odds are they’ll stop talking badly about your new friend,
at least to you.

Owed

Dear Jewish Fairy Godmother:

My neighbor and I do errands for one another all the time. As in, “I’m
going to Costco. Do you need anything?” Or “Can you take library
books back for me. I owe $5 in fines.” The kind of things that are easy
for each of us based on routing and most of the time involve small
sums of money, generally below $30. We generally keep a running
tab, or leave one another the receipt with the owed portion circled
when we leave the goods on our respective porches. It’s informal but
most of the time we get it right or it feels roughly even. But lately she
has been forgetting to pay me, and while $10 once doesn’t feel like a
lot, when it happens more often it does add up. We also share food, as
in “I made a pot of soup” or a casserole, chicken etc. I think she thinks
she’s a better cook, but we both say the right things so I can’t be too
much of a shlubb. How can we get on track?

Owed

 
Dear Owed:

My simplest advice would be to have everything be COD. One goes to
the market and gets paid upon delivery, which could be in person
instead of just dropping it off. It’s a little more time consuming
because of the How are you? social niceties. But it does reinforce the I
did you a favor part of the exchange, which should make up for any
cooking differential real, or perceived.

 
God invented paper and pencil for a reason. Or their 21 st century
equivalent: the text message. As in I just got back from Costco and
left me the things you asked for on your porch. You owe me $xx.yy.
To be answered by a return message confirming when payment is
made. Good neighbors are a great blessing. Sit down over a cuppa
coffee and talk it out, agree on a plan, and stick to it.

Drowning

Dear Jewish Fairy Godmother:

I just got tapped by the neighborhood association to edit the quarterly
newsletter. At first I didn’t think it would be such a bad thing to
volunteer for, because I&'ve recently retired and have more time. But
getting after people to give information, or to write the articles they
promised to do is worse than getting paid employees to do their jobs.
Everyone gives me their articles late, incomplete, misspelled, with bad
grammar, and assumes I’ll make everything look perfect by the city’s
deadline to print and mail it for us. I want to cut and run but it’s only
been one issue. When I asked the former “editor” she laughed and
said, “Good luck and buy a bottle of something strong!”

Drowning

 
Dear Drowning:

Volunteerism has its own unique rewards and curses. You seem to be
drowning in the latter. Below are some tips, but the biggest one is
this: clear your calendar for the day before you need to get the final
product to the city. No matter what, you will end up doing more
layouts, editing, tracking down, and cursing than you want to. And
save the drinking for after you submit the final product.

 
Set up a template for the issue that includes all the repetitive things:
names and contact emails/phone numbers for all relevant folks, from
the association board to the public works, police and fire stations, pet
patrol, etc. Allocate space and word limits for regular monthly columns
and give the people who write them a deadline that’s at least a week
ahead of the real one. For people who’s writing, send some editing
tips: spell check, read your column aloud, and ask your spouse or best
friend to tell you if it says what you intended. Then send it to me by
[two weeks ahead]. The regulars know the drill and should be okay.
The others you will need to harass more and likely edit more. Look for
more commitments for regular columns on everything from
neighborhood safety issues to recipe or gardening tip of the month.
People who are passionate about what they write are much more
reliable and produce better products.

Between a Fence and a Hard Place

Dear Jewish Fairy Godmother:

My husband’s father died three years ago and we bought some rural
property. Since then we built an outhouse, then a house, various
outbuildings, and fence-line improvements. As we were contemplating
a larger project we discovered, to our great horror, that all the extra
improvements we had done (other the house) were on the wrong side
of a property line. Our first response was terror at all the legal hassles
and costs, and at the seller for misrepresentation, anger at ourselves
for not having had it surveyed before buying, and an irrational desire
to just sell the place and start over again somewhere else. Do you
have any rational ideas for how to proceed? One note: because there
was a big “maybe some developer will buy up all this property for an
outlet mall” rumor a few years ago we think he neighbors on whose
side of the line we did our work may not sell. But their parcel is too
small to build a house upon on based on current zoning.

Between a Fence and a Hard Place

 
Dear Between:

The simplest, assuming you can afford it, would be to buy some or all
of the adjoining property. How you offer and get an answer without
revealing the potential for them to sue you is a tricky tightrope to
walk. My first instinct is a simple approach saying, We know your
property is too small to build on and we’d like to expand ours. Wanna
sell? If you get a yes you are just haggling over price. Your baseline
offer could include the legal costs you might otherwise incur.

 
If they decline or identify the boundary issue on their own, you should
look into relocating the improvements and returning the land to how it
was. Or even offering to give or sell the improvements to them. If they
are spiteful or litigious you might still incur legal costs or even fines.
But consultation with a land-use/real- estate lawyer should net you a
lot of useful information. One question you should definitely ask is
whether the people you bought the property from have any obligation
to have done the survey or verified the property line before they sold
it, or if in fact you screwed yourselves by insufficient research.