CULTURE SCHLOCK – By Darren Garnick
October 18, 2007
Anyone who has ever worked as a police officer, newspaper reporter or has served in local government knows this universal truth about human relations: Animal disputes bring out the worst in people. A typical small town dog hearing packs in more hate and resentment than the United Nations General Assembly.
Of course, neighborhood grudges simmer for many reasons beyond killer pit bulls and toxic doggie doo-doo. Touted as a breakthrough consumer real estate tool, a new Web site chronicles the myriad of causes for shattered communal harmony.
RottenNeighbor.com was launched this summer by Brant Walker, a 27-year-old computer programmer from San Diego. The site is a geographical hate forum for bitter neighbors to “warn” newcomers against buying a home in their area. Maybe it’s because there’s someone on the street who doesn’t mow their lawn, or there are teenage vandals or druggies in the next apartment. Or maybe the freak-next-door raises alligators in his bathtub or is stockpiling anti-aircraft weapons in the shed for the “next revolution.”
In any case, the altruistic motivation to keep prospective homeowners out of your neighborhood – regardless of how utopian or dysfunctional it might be – seems like a self-destructive exercise to me. If no one wants to live on your street, real estate values will plummet and your chance of escape dwindles.
On his site, Walker brags that he’s offering the “the first real estate search engine of its kind that helps you find bad neighbors before you move so you don’t regret the purchase of your new house, home, condo or apartment.”
“Real estate agents will never tell you about bad neighbors,” he writes. “If a bad neighbor exists, this information should be made freely and easily available to everyone.”
Before purchasing my current home, I did the traditional background check for area child molesters, domestic abusers and assorted malfeasants. I wish I had access to the secret police database that documents exactly where the “bad people” live. But I have no privileged access to the cops or Santa Claus. I just did a simple newspaper archive search and turned up only a couple of kids who liked to play with matches.
I figured as long as I didn’t give out Bic lighters or blowtorches on Halloween, I would be all set.
Although RottenNeighbor.com has already enjoyed massive success in generating grass-roots buzz, the Web site itself so far is not living up to its promises.
I plugged in the “03060” zip code for Nashua and the Google map was directed to upstate New York. I did this multiple times to check if I was typing in the wrong information. Using the navigation arrows, I eventually was able to migrate from Albany to Milford. Many of the neighborhood complaints do not even include a street – so libel or not, what’s the point?
Here’s a gem RottenNeighbor “report” from Greater Nashua:
“WORST NEIGHBORS EVER!!!! Where in the world do I begin? Liars, liars, liars. 3 boys and a dog. Husband tells me “Oh the wife is a notorious liar.” The sad part is, he is an even BIGGER one. Now that the boys are growing up, guess what they are turning out to be –liars also.
They have zero respect for anyone else, their yard, house anything. They are huge slobs. Cause all sorts of problems in the neighborhood with their lies. Had to have our yard surveyed because they said that part of our property was theirs. Surveyor says “Nope, here’s the proof.” Kids knock down our marked survey sticks sledding–what does Dad say? “Oh well, boys will be boys.” The next time they do it, he blames the other neighbor who is nice enough to plow his driveway. Complete buttholes.”
And some more insightful testimony from The Telegraph’s circulation area:
“Recently separated from husband and left alone with 3 kids, this woman is out of control! … Summer was a living nightmare—every day 7 to 9 kids here in blow up pool all day long yelling screaming crying and left unattended because she spends her entire life ON HER PHONE.
“Her children made 2 huge holes in my brand new fence so that they could watch us swim in our pool in my backyard… My favorite is when her kids hang out the upstairs windows yelling to us asking if they can swim here with us… I did not save my money for years to buy a home in this wonderful affluent community… only to end up next to a RENTER!!!!!”
As it’s structured now, RottenNeighbor.com only exists to confirm the obvious. Southern New Hampshire is teeming with potential guests for Jerry Springer or Judge Judy. Although I confess that I did not know that owning an inflatable pool is a character flaw or even a crime.
Walker would be better off requiring that the complainers on RottenNeighbor.com provide their full names and addresses. Those are the people I’d really like to avoid.
Darren Garnick’s “Culture Schlock” column runs every Thursday in
Encore magazine. Feedback is welcomed at cultureschlock (at) gmail.com.