House & Home

How to Get to Know Your Neighbors

Posted September 13, 2012 4:38 p.m. EDT

Some people say the worst part of moving is the part where you pack, schlep all your stuff to your new destination, and then figure out what to do with it all once you arrive. However, this is the part that's over fast; the more challenging part of moving is getting to know your neighbors, and establishing relationships with them. Whether you live in a high rise apartment or a rural community, it helps to know who lives around you, and you never know when you might need to call on a neighbor, or vice versa.

The best option can depend considerably on where you live, and whether you're buying or renting. If you're buying a home, you might want to start getting to know the neighbors during the purchase process. Real estate agents are often familiar with at least some of the people in the area if they're locally based, and they can tender some introductions. Potential neighbors can give you valuable advice that will help you decide whether a home is right for you, and they can welcome you to the community on moving day.

New buyers might want to ask about neighborhood customs like who takes on the responsibility for various tasks. In a coop or similar arrangement, new buyers will be obliged to meet their neighbors as part of the application process, and they can score extra points by asking about practicalities and making it clear they intend to be fully-involved members of the community and conscientious neighbors.

If you're renting, you might not learn much about the people around you until you pull up in a moving truck, depending on where you're heading. If you have a chance to get introductions before you arrive from friends, a building manager, or a leasing agent, take them, because it will probably make your life easier.

In some communities, people tend to be friendlier than others, and you may find it easy to meet people. In others, people tend to keep to themselves and can be harder to crack. It can take persistence to establish relationships with neighbors, and remember to respect your boundaries and give them a chance to come around.

Either way, it's advisable to start with a good first impression. While you're moving, you'll have large trucks and heavy furniture to deal with. Strategize ahead of time to find a loading and unloading area that won't be inconvenient, and consider the needs of others if you're moving into a building with stairs or an elevator. Your thoughtfulness will be remembered—you don't want to introduce yourself to the community as someone who doubleparked a U-Haul in the middle of the street and inconvenienced everyone for hours, or blocked the wheelchair access ramp to a building while moving in. If you're moving to an apartment building, ask about plumbing issues so that you don't inadvertantly flood flood your downstairs neighbor's bathroom the first time you shower.

If people stop to chat, even though you're stressed with moving, try to take the time to be friendly. They're taking an opportunity to introduce themselves, so give yourself a chance to take a little break and talk with them. They might have valuable tips about the neighborhood, and you'll earn yourself a reputation for being friendly and easygoing, even in the middle of a busy time. Make sure to take down names and contact information so you can call on them later.

Once the dust has settled from the big move, you might want to consider introducing yourself to your neighbors on either side and across the street (or hall!). Pick a time when people are likely to be around and not occupied with dinner or other activities, and plan on making your visit relatively brief; stop by to explain that you've just moved and want to know your neighbors. Stress that you want to have a good relationship, and that you're always around to help if they need anything like plant-sitting or assistance with projects.

This can be a good time to ask about any concerns they might have, which will allow you to be proactive about issues that could potentially turn into acrimonious battles if left unaddressed. Say you live in Chicago: A next door neighbor might work the night shift as a Chicago emergency electrician, for example, and could appreciate it if you were quiet during her sleeping hours. Another neighbor might have young children and concerns about speeding on a quiet street. By being the one to take the first step, you can make it clear that you're aware you're an outsider moving in, and you want to fit into the community as seamlessly as possible.

It doesn't hurt to bring a little food over with you as a friendly way of saying hello, but because dietary concerns can be an issue, consider something simple. Fresh fruit is often a safe bet, while something like cookies could contain allergies such as wheat, dairy, and eggs. You may also want to plan on inviting close neighbors to your housewarming party, to make it clear that you're interested in being more than the cipher in Apartment C.

Above all, remember that a nod, a smile, or a quick wave in passing can go a long way when it comes to establishing yourself as someone your neighbors will want to know.

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