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Your once-beautiful fence has become an eyesore. It’s time to hire a contractor to build a new one. But your gorgeous new fence will also benefit your next door neighbor. Surely, she should pitch in half the cost. Or should she? Fences can be a touchy subject with neighbors. And what seems like the obvious course of action to you might not be the opinion shared by the folks next door. Before you hightail it over and demand they pay their share, let’s take a look at some of the possible issues that may arise.

Is it Time?

What seems to you like a clearly decrepit fence might be just fine with your neighbor. Be prepared that different people have different levels of tolerance for decay and decrepitude.

Priorities

People also have different priorities. Your neighbors might be saving up for a big Hawaii vacation. When you come by talking about home improvements, they might feel like you’re raining on their luau.

Differences in Tastesneighbors arguing

You’re thinking cedar, your neighbor favors a budget chain link fence. Different materials have different aesthetic aspects — and costs vary, too. If your neighbor is open to sharing the price, but wants a much cheaper material, you might work out a deal where you pay a larger percentage and get your cedar.

Who Needs a Fence?

Much as it shocks us here at Buzz, not everybody wants a fence. One neighbor might really need a fenced yard to protect pets or children, while another prefers openness between yards. In this case, the neighbor with the kids or dogs will probably be the one to bear the cost.

Plan Ahead – and Communicate Ahead

Like the folks planning that Hawaii trip, nobody wants a sudden cost sprung on them. Instead, don’t wait until your fence is disintegrating before thinking about a new one. When your fence is just starting to look a bit tired, you might assess that it has another year or two or three of service left. That’s the time to start thinking about replacement materials, and begin a casual conversation with any neighbors who share the fence line. Discuss the condition of the fence. Tell them you’re saving up for a new one. Hint, hint. Ask their opinion about materials.

How Important is Your Fence to You?

People are sometimes disappointed when neighbors just aren’t excited about the proposed new fence. Your neighbors might have different financial priorities, or just not be as devoted to home improvement as you are. If they don’t seem interested in your fence idea, they probably aren’t. You might have to decide whether you are committed enough to foot the entire bill yourself. If it’s an issue of privacy or safety, your new fence will be worth it.

Quotes and Estimates

fence do-it-yourself vs. professional
Flickr/Daniel M. Hendricks

One of the worst strategies is to install an expensive new fence, then stop by your neighbors’ house to demand reimbursement. Discussions and negotiation needs to happen first. Tell the neighbors you’re getting estimates. Gauge their willingness to participate. Show them estimates. If you share only part of a fence with a neighbor, get an estimate per linear foot and measure your shared length. You can break this down for each neighbor with whom you share fencing. Try to get at least three estimates.

Get it in Writing

If your neighbors are open to sharing the cost and responsibility for a new fence, arrange a convenient time to meet with them and discuss the estimates. Talk about materials, costs, timeline and other details. If you decide to move ahead with the project, write up an agreement. If your fence will require maintenance, discuss this aspect, too.

Designate a Point Person

If multiple neighbors are involved, try to agree on one person to deal with your fence contractor. This will streamline the process. Neighbors can either pay the point person, or pay the contractor directly. Often the point person will be the gung-ho neighbor who initiated the fence project.

Ready for a new fence?

Be Open about Your New Fence

Even if you plan to bear the full cost and responsibility of your new fence, talk to your neighbors ahead of time. Let them know that you’re adding more privacy and security to your property. Alert them to the construction timeframe so they won’t be surprised by some noise and hubbub. Cluing them in ahead of time can ease surprise and resistance later.
Need some help with that new fence? Our team of designers and builders is ready to work with you – and your cooperative neighbors – on the fence that will make everybody happy. Call us today.