Nosy neighbors. Looky-loos. Trespassers.

thisishishouseApril 11, 2014

Has anyone ever learned that people were inviting themselves into your under-construction home? How do you handle it without being a bad neighbor?

I've got a time lapse camera set up on our build site, mostly to make progress videos for prosperity and to share with friends. Every 7-10 days I go swap out the memory card and edit down the footage. Since work only happens M-F, I've been ignoring weekend footage.

Last night I accidentally opened the recent Sunday footage and was about to shut it down when I saw a body pass thru the frame. I ended up watching the whole day footage and saw 6 groups of people wander thru, into the house, onto the upstairs deck (without walls or safety rails), people letting their kids & dogs climb over on our dirt and stump piles.

Here's what wierds me out about it. Our lot is really out of the way. In a new small neighborhood in the woods, but no other houses there yet. Our lot is 100 yds off the end of our road, which is about 3/4 mile thru the woods, which is off a dirt road. The nearest neighbors are easily a mile away. One pair of people wandering thru on a Sunday I'd understand. But 6 groups? They really have to be going down & in there on purpose. Like word got out about a new house and now the whole town has invited themselves in.

Should I post a "private property" sign? Go passive-aggressive (ooh, I like passive aggressive) and post their photos with a sign that says "hello"? ;)

I'm partly concerned with safety, like what happens if they trip, fall, and sue. Also part security, like what about when word gets to the wrong people who decide to use my site as a discount shopping zone, or kids partying. The rest of me is just creeped out by all the humans.

BTW, Our second floor went up this week.

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From what I understand that is pretty common. One of the reasons we have a Private Property sign on our build site. Even my best friend's daughter was nervous about looking at our dig even with my permission over the phone. My neighbor across the street has told me that multiple people have stopped at my build, got out of their cars, saw the sign, got back in their cars and drove away!

    Bookmark   April 11, 2014 at 7:22AM
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Could your builder be sending perspective clients through? We were working on our backyard building a sandbox for the kids one Sunday and a couple came by with their two small dogs. The builder had sent them over because they wanted to build our model. Obviously they were planning to let the dogs run around, but since we were there they just carried them. We are not as out-of-the-way as you are, but we do have a 400 ft. driveway surrounded by pine trees and are tucked out of the way, out of sight from the road.

    Bookmark   April 11, 2014 at 7:23AM
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Annie Deighnaugh

Yes definitely post no trespassing may not stop them but it may help protect you should someone get hurt. Also post that the property is using surveillance cameras. For safety reasons anyway, the job site should maintain a minimum of safety hazards, for workers as well as wanderers. Now you also know to secure all materials, not keep valuables on site, and don't bring in anything to store until the building is locked up tight. Especially as it's out of the way, people will walk around, esp if they think they won't get caught. I have to admit that when we were in the design phase, we too stopped and looked at job sites when no one was around...always looking for ideas.

Since we've built, we've had a number of strangers stop and ask about the house too...but they don't wander around any more.

    Bookmark   April 11, 2014 at 7:33AM
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Forgot to mention. The builder already has a steel cable with a lock and 'private' sign up across the end where our little road meets the other. To get onto our lot requires climbing over/under that cable across the road, then walking 100 yards down to our lot.

And I don't believe it's builder's prospects. The neighborhood is custom home sites, not a spec development. We're the first going up, but we're told 2 other clients are finishing up with their architect.

I'll post another sign or two somewhere. Not that those won't be ignored, but at least then I'm covered for liability.

    Bookmark   April 11, 2014 at 8:07AM
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If you post that there are surveillance cameras, people will tend not to enter. But they'll wonder who the celebrity is that is building in the neighborhood! (Perhaps you are a celebrity!)

    Bookmark   April 11, 2014 at 8:43AM
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Ditto over here; I'm about as far into the bush as you, with a custom build and folks wandered down all the time. I even had one group cut my barbed wire so they could drive their quads down for a look (yeah, don't get me started). I opted for more "No trespassing" signs and a solid gate instead of a chain (meaning folks had to physically climb it or the barbed wire...), but it didn't stop them. I ended up electrifying the front fence (including a strand across the gate) and putting up signage about it being electric and having breeding bulls on the yard...seemed to do the trick :P Only problem I have now is the neighbours' dogs who don't read signage...friggen things destroy everything.

    Bookmark   April 11, 2014 at 8:59AM
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I would add more no trespassing signs, as well as add a few signs stating that they are on camera.

I was researching this throughout the week, as I had two teenage boys walk up on me when I was alone in the woods in our new property. I read a story of a guy who made a custom sign, saying something along the lines of:

If you are reading this sign, a photo of you has been sent to my email. Please turn around and leave the way you came. If i don' see a photo of your back, I will turn your photo in to the police. If you think you have a reason for being on my site, please call XXXX.

Does anyone know the distance required between trespassing signs to covers you if someone comes in and gets hurt? I imagine it varies, but maybe not by much.

    Bookmark   April 11, 2014 at 9:43AM
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I love that sign. Now I just need a camera to back it up. ;-)

    Bookmark   April 11, 2014 at 10:36AM
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I'm shocked that there isn't a locked fence around the construction area. Both you and the builder are vulnerable to lawsuits. Are you paying for it yourself, without a bank loan? Because banks usually require that kind of precaution.

    Bookmark   April 11, 2014 at 10:56AM
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Skyangel, exactly! I believe he mentioned the part about it being sent to email, because a lot of people would crush the camera. I have thought about buying some decoy cameras also.

    Bookmark   April 11, 2014 at 11:06AM
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I'm pretty sure out subs hated coming to work on our house. We have a front gate into first field with number padlock. Second gate between two fields and the gate leaving the pasture into our yard. Old pic shows the set back. When we first started the cows had been separated and there was a bull in the front field. Nobody has messed with leaving gates open... The cows watch them like a hawk. Now it's down to two gates which will be replaced with cattle guards one day... That was one of the last items on the list and first to be cut until we save up.


    Bookmark   April 11, 2014 at 11:13AM
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I am shocked you are having this kind of problem based on your description of how secluded the road and property is located.

We recently bought 8 acres in a secluded area and when we first drove into the hidden road (going to the property) we saw all the signs at the only house inhabited on the road. "No trespassing, beware of dog, visitors not welcome"....and on and on. We quickly turned around and left since this was a dirt road and we did not realize the property was at the end of this road. We told the realtor about our reaction and that we were afraid he would come out with a gun. The realtor laughed and said "he might have." This is a tourist area and we found out this homeowner was tired of renters asking him where a certain rental house was located.

We call him "our security" because most people won't go beyond his house.

With this new video generation, I think if you put up a surveillance or camera poster, it will only excite the intruders about being on video.

I think your only recourse is to put up ""Beware of dog" or "Beware of property owner being armed (gun)". I take both of these lightly since we don't have a dog or gun.

This post was edited by cricket49 on Fri, Apr 11, 14 at 11:19

    Bookmark   April 11, 2014 at 11:16AM
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Some of my faintest and fondest memories are of my dad looking on a Saturday morning at the unfinished homes in the tract development we just moved into and taking me along. I was a toddler at the time. I asked him years later why, and he said he wanted to see the guts of the homes before the plaster walls went up.

    Bookmark   April 11, 2014 at 11:24AM
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If you continue to have problems with unwanted visitors an old farmer once told me the best way to keep people off your property is a blackberry hedge and a herd of geese. Sounds kind of funny, but geese are surprisingly aggressive and only a fool would try to climb through a blackberry bramble.

    Bookmark   April 11, 2014 at 11:26AM
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"I'm shocked that there isn't a locked fence around the construction area. Both you and the builder are vulnerable to lawsuits. Are you paying for it yourself, without a bank loan? Because banks usually require that kind of precaution."

We are probably way behind the times around here, but I've never seen a locked fence around a house being constructed in our area.

I imagine constructing a sturdy enough, tall enough fence with a lockable gate all the way around a house construction site would be cost-prohibitive for most.
Our bank didn't require a fence.

We live in a rural area, and there were definitely people coming by to look during the build.
A couple of people who knew us actually called us and pointed out a few things they'd noticed that helped us make our house better.

People seem to have no qualms about coming onto your construction site, but they would never barge into the house once you've moved in.

    Bookmark   April 11, 2014 at 2:00PM
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I'm shocked that there isn't a locked fence around the construction area. Both you and the builder are vulnerable to lawsuits. Are you paying for it yourself, without a bank loan? Because banks usually require that kind of precaution.

I agree with melsouth, who said I've never seen a locked fence around a house being constructed in our area. I have been on building home tours around the area and never once saw a locked fence.

GreenDreamhome - you know of banks that require them in rural areas? What type of fencing is it? I image it would be difficult to do here with all the trees. And expensive if they have to fence in the septic field and well area too.

    Bookmark   April 11, 2014 at 4:01PM
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I remember as a teenager, walking through new neighbourhoods to check out the houses in framing stages.

We're going to be building inner city, on a lot that had a house torn down, and there are lots of people living around it. These kinds of construction sites usually have fences around them. I've never looked to see if they're locked.

We have a fence on our lot just to prevent people from dumping garbage. It seems to have slowed it down, but still doesn't prevent it. Last week we found a mattress thrown over the fence. I wonder if we're going to need a whole lot of locks once the build actually starts, since each fence panel can be pulled apart.

I can see people wanting to check out the builder's work, especially if it's a custom home. Not looking at the layout, but how does he do his framing? How do the joists meet the foundation, etc.

    Bookmark   April 11, 2014 at 4:45PM
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I think posting some pictures on the front door/wall of stills from your camera to back up that you, in fact, have a camera, and no trespassing signs will do it.

Obviously word has gotten out. If you post some pics of people, that word will get out too, and people will stop. If they don't, well, if anything goes missing, you'll know which pics to send in to the police.

    Bookmark   April 12, 2014 at 11:23AM
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My In Laws went by our site yesterday and were met by a person they thought was casing the place. Turns out he was a neighbor who was watching to make sure they left everything alone! I was floored, he was from across the street sort of kitty corner so I hadn't ever introduced myself. Big lots, houses facing all directions, I have met most of the neighbors but he was just looking out for the newbies on the street. There are good people out there, post the signs and count down the days until you can lock the site up.

    Bookmark   April 12, 2014 at 12:04PM
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My guess is that these are curious neighbors. I wouldn't do anything really over the top to keep them out or scare them off, because that will be their first impression of you.

Your builder should have insurance to cover any theft.

    Bookmark   April 12, 2014 at 12:28PM
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I'd talk to a lawyer before I was sure I had myself protected against being sued by somebody who climbed onto the unfinished house without permission and then fell off, or was injured by other means.

The construction fences are rectangular sections of chain link fencing that are brought onto a site stacked on trucks, arranged into a big square and set on top of the ground. I see them here and there, not on every site. And it may be mostly sites for commercial buildings.

    Bookmark   April 12, 2014 at 12:46PM
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Invite the neighbors over for a tour ...

And, having your spouse drop you off some sunday with a chair and a lunch might surprise some of the lookers.

    Bookmark   April 12, 2014 at 12:47PM
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My husband is always over at our house tinkering on the weekends. People walk through constantly and I guess they think he's one of the subs so they just keep walking through chatting away about every positive or negative thing about our house. It's really quite funny. It does worry you a little, though, because we too have a very high deck with no railing and a dock on the lake. Kids/teenagers have been partying on the dock, leaving beer cans and liquor bottles behind. I often wonder what liability there is if a drunk kid falls in the lake from our dock.

    Bookmark   April 12, 2014 at 3:19PM
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I am looking into purchasing a video surveillance camera for our site. We are building on 5 acres and we have a 600+ driveway. Our land is surrounded by trees where the house will sit. For us, the camera will help in regards to trespassers but we also would like it to be "time stamp" for the workers. We already had to have a dispute with the company who dug out our electrical and gas lines since they charged us for many more hours than they worked. Any one have suggestions for a video camera that will provide us with live feed to our computers? Thanks!!

    Bookmark   April 12, 2014 at 7:21PM
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Annie Deighnaugh

Around here, we've never seen construction fences...only on commercial buildings and sites, yes. But not residential...

    Bookmark   April 13, 2014 at 9:00AM
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I agree with most that it's just curious neighbors. After a few days reflection, I guess I'm most surprised that so many people would know about it to wander by. As stated, it's at the far end of a new development, down a hill, thru some woods, off a dirt road. We just started 3 or 4 weeks ago. And there's only 4 or 5 houses up on that dirt road. Couple horse farms, an estate, an old orchard property. For 6 different groups of people to walk thru on a single day means that word somehow got out. Life in a small town, I guess. Having lived half my life in cities of 100k+, having only 7k neighbors will take some getting used to.

I also agree with zone4newby about first impressions and not doing anything to make a bad first impression. Hopefully doors and windows will be done in a few weeks and will put an end to the self-guided tours.

lazygardensFunny suggestion about the chair. Although my first instinct would be to go the "hockey mask and hatchet" route. ;)

Kath9177: For surveillance, someone on the monthly thread "It's , how's your build" is building in Utah but living somewhere else. They've got a nice remote camera going. If you're local and don't need a live feed, I'm using a time-lapse camera from Brinno. Couple hundred bucks. built in timer. Snaps a pix every few secs and makes videos. With fresh batteries and a big memory card it can go for weeks. It's small and inconspicuous enough to go unnoticed. I've got mine bungeed up a tree. It's small and cheap enough you could even do 2 or 3.

    Bookmark   April 13, 2014 at 11:48AM
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I'd get the house built ASAP and get moved in..that should put an end to it.

    Bookmark   April 13, 2014 at 12:01PM
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Years ago when we were doing major renovations on a big, old house, (right in town!) we were still living in the house in an upstairs bedroom while the work was going on. Heard voices in the house one evening and found a family had just walked in and were wandering around the house. I was stunned to say the least.

    Bookmark   April 13, 2014 at 2:51PM
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sixgmillers "Kids/teenagers have been partying on the dock, leaving beer cans and liquor bottles behind. I often wonder what liability there is if a drunk kid falls in the lake from our dock.

You will be sued. You might not lose, but you will be sued.

Let the local cops know there are underage drinking parties and also set up a camera with night vision that feeds to the web so you can check and see when they are there.

When you see people there, call the cops for trespassers.

    Bookmark   April 14, 2014 at 10:17PM
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Just post a sign at the road saying the property is under electronic surveillance and visitors who do not have the permission to visit will be trespassing.

The dangerous unprotected openings are required to be temporarily protected for the safety of the workers by law and common sense.

    Bookmark   April 15, 2014 at 6:32AM
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We are far from the street in a secluded area and still get people driving past our no trespassing signs. We had signs alerting people of video surveillance, but they disappeared this winter. Just the other night a car drove all the way up our driveway and turned around in front of the house. Having a heat-sensors driveway alert is a huge help. I am trying to convinced husband to get a solid structure gate at the end of the driveway, but he thinks that will spark more curiosity, not deter it. Any thoughts on that?

    Bookmark   April 15, 2014 at 8:07AM
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" I am trying to convinced husband to get a solid structure gate at the end of the driveway, but he thinks that will spark more curiosity, not deter it. Any thoughts on that?"

We have a farm property that was in a similar situation. Teenagers throwing parties and using it for a "romantic spot". Deer hunters just doing whatever they felt like even trying to put up permanent tree stands in the woods. People fishing out of the pond and weirdos coming out and parking behind the barn out of sight doing god knows what all day. We put carpet tack strips across the drive, huge piles of logs and sticks, etc. It still didn't stop them from driving back. We found out that to most people property rights mean very little. They will do whatever they want if there is not something to put an active stop to it.

Our neighbor across the street used to catch them all the time and call us. Sometimes, these people would show up 5 minutes after we left! Who knows where they all came from.

Anyway, we finally decided to put a homemade gate across the gravel drive. It was cheap to build and when painted didn't look too bad. Stopped the driving traffic 100%. They still tried to park in the neighboring lot and walk across for hunting, but another family built a house on the other side and he goes out to make a ruckus when he thinks hunters are trying to get out there so it's no use even trying to get a deer.

If you can't be out there right away, I wouldn't hesitate to put up a gate. It will help a lot. Especially if it's right on the road where if they stop their car will be visible to everyone driving by.

    Bookmark   April 15, 2014 at 8:45AM
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DH went out to our new property last night to look for turkeys. He hears a gobble, and 1 minute later hears steps. Turns out it was the two teenage boys that walked up on me when I was out there last week. He tried to walk to them but they ran off, probably couldn't believe someone was out there on a Monday evening.

I have found one of the boys on Facebook. He's the cousin of our neighbor. We are going to put up new signs this week, if that doesn't work we will get the family involved. Really don't want to start up an issue, but it's not safe for them to be out there and we don't want them shooting animals on our property.

    Bookmark   April 15, 2014 at 10:18AM
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We're building in a rural area, and so far (2 years) I haven't had any uninvited visitors that I know of. I'm living on site in the barn, and have automatic lights at night.

The funny thing is- once I invited all of the neighbors to come over any time and check out my progress, nobody has shown up! I was also told by local law enforcement to shoot my gun from time to time so that the word gets out that I am armed. I'm probably known as 'that crazy old gun nut building a house'.

    Bookmark   April 15, 2014 at 10:57AM
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How about one of those deer-repeller systems where a motion detector sets off a water spray? Or, as in Home Alone, a recording: "git yer dirty, rotten, stink in' self offa my property!"

    Bookmark   April 15, 2014 at 11:05AM
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Oh, that sounds like I don't care, but I do! My parents STILL have people wandering up their driveway, and the house was build 40 years ago (and during that process they had their share of thefts) But you know how it used to be recommended to leave a tv on when you're not home to deter burglars? Same concept.

    Bookmark   April 15, 2014 at 11:31AM
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As you may know, my driveway is .7 miles, the closest you can see my house from is over a mile away. You can't see it from our main road.

We have people go through our house all the time. People have walked down the railroad path that is our driveway for years (it's always been private property). Apparently a lot of people use to camp on the hill that our house is on (my family has owned it for 40 years).

I've run into countless people on our driveway or up at our house. One guy I ran into asked me if he could spread his recently deceased brother's ashes off the hill that is our build site since they used to love to camp there. I told him that he could.

Last week (two days before we officially moved in), I came to the house at noon and met a stranger in my basement. He was checking out our GEO system since he was getting a bid from our HVAC contractor. I think our HVAC contractor told him where the key was. Turns out the guy is a client of my firm; we had a good conversation for about 40 minutes.

I haven't had anything stolen from the site. I've had a few "markings" scratched into my basement ICF (no words or anything bad). I've found burned ash from where some people have had camp fires within 100 feet of our house. I find beer cans from time to time.

I actually enjoy meeting people. It's a small town. I plan to continue to allow people to walk down my driveway; Iowa has a statute that protects landowners from the recreational use of others.

On the other hand, my aunt had a good deal of stuff stolen from her property when they were building (out in the country also).

    Bookmark   April 15, 2014 at 5:04PM
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oicu812- Thanks so much! I am going to check it out. I've been searching for a long time and I really do need to make a decision before we start the building process. That might just fit our needs. Thanks again!!

    Bookmark   April 15, 2014 at 10:45PM
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We built on 30 acres last year and one of the first things I did was to put up a gate and signs. We have about a 250' drive/entrance to our home off of a fairly busy blacktop road. Almost all of our neighbors also live on acreages.
I had a trail cam pointed at the gate and am happy to say that there were zero trespassers during our build.

    Bookmark   April 16, 2014 at 7:20AM
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LOTO, do you have anything posted at the back of the property where there is no driveway? Where it would line up with another parcel.

    Bookmark   April 17, 2014 at 1:39PM
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We have tons of lookie-loos. Fewer now that the garage doors are on. The only thing that bugs me are the guys fishing off our bulkhead. It's a lot of curious neighbors coming by... couples, and yes folks walking their dogs. A few times they were embarrassed when I was in there and they came waltzing through. Had a lady picking up aluminum cans in the back one day... for right now I don't mind too much, but we are fairly private people and though I hate to put a fence up close to the waterline, I am pretty sure we'll end up doing it. We are using a Moultrie camera similar to their game cams to catch images after working hours in case of theft. There's another house being started down the street so pretty soon we will be the old news and I think our tourists will seek out newer haunts.

    Bookmark   April 17, 2014 at 2:14PM
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