Four easy ways to spot bad neighbours before buying an HDB Unit

6 min read

Picture this: You just moved into your new HDB apartment. It’s everything you were looking for in a new home. You congratulate yourself on a good buy when suddenly, you hear dogs barking next door and loud banging noises upstairs.

You smell second-hand cigarette smoke wafting in from your open living room window. When you think it can’t get worse, someone from upstairs drops a glass bottle from their window, and it shatters against your windowsill. Of course, this is an extreme scenario, but you get the point.

Singaporeans often forget to check for bad neighbours before purchasing a new home, but it can be a costly mistake. Here’s what you can do to avoid such a nightmare:

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1. Visit the property at different hours of the day

It is essential to visit your potential home in the evenings after working hours. That’s when most of the neighbours will be home, allowing you to gauge how noisy they are. If you hear someone singing with their karaoke system at full volume or children shouting while playing, you need to consider if you are okay to live with that.

Nowadays, since many Singaporeans are working from home or having home-based learning, it’s a good idea to drop by in the mornings and afternoons to get a more accurate feel of the noise level.

If you are a non-smoker concerned about second-hand smoke, this tip may allow you to find out if your neighbours smoke. If you often smell cigarette smoke drifting into the property on your visits, one of your neighbours may be a heavy smoker.

This may mean being frequently subjected to second-hand smoke after moving in.

Additionally, visiting multiple times may allow you to catch an upstairs neighbour in the act of high-rise littering, like that glass bottle example. Hopefully, no such neighbours live above the unit, but you want to know about it before purchasing the place if there are.

2. Check out the areas in front of your neighbours’ units

A quick look at the neighbours’ doorsteps can tell you a lot about them. If they have multiple pairs of shoes strewn about messily blocking the walkway or if they use the corridor railings as their drying rack, they may be inconsiderate people.

It’s even worse if they obstruct the walkway with bicycles or a whole jungle of potted plants. Imagine having to crabwalk through that section of the walkway every single time you pass by.

Other than causing inconvenience, HDB corridors without clearance of at least 1.2 metres will hinder evacuation and prevent paramedics from getting through in the event of an emergency. Do you want to live next to neighbours with no common courtesy or regard for others’ safety?

Speaking of things in the corridor, if there’s a large pile of random junk outside your potential neighbour’s door and a foul odour emitting from their home, they are likely to be a hoarder. If all that junk is in the corridor, you can bet that the actual unit is filled to the brim with more. That’s a fire hazard. The clutter is also likely to attract pests like cockroaches or rats, which may enter your neighbouring unit.

HDB corridor
Besides being potential fire hazards, a cluttered common corridor is also restrictive for some residents who may rely on wheelchairs to move about.


3. Check out the communal areas

A spotless corridor and clean rubbish disposal area speak of considerate and hygienic neighbours.

On the other hand, if you see:

  • Cigarette butts and used tissues lying around on the common corridor
  • A rubbish disposal chute coated in food remnants and surrounded by trash that didn’t even make it into the chute

It’s a clear sign that some of the neighbours aren’t civic-minded.

In such a scenario, you should think twice, especially if the unit you are considering is near the rubbish disposal area. The food residue will attract pests which, as mentioned earlier, may enter your nearby home.

4. Chat with the current owners (if the unit is a resale)

Ask them about their neighbours. If they have neighbours from hell, they’re not going to tell you that. However, this is still a helpful question to ask.

If the neighbours are fantastic, the seller will likely sing praises about how friendly or tidy or considerate they are as a selling point. If the seller hesitates, it could be a red flag.

If the seller struggles to say even one good thing about their neighbour, that’s a red flag right there. Finally, if the seller deflects to avoid answering the question, you know something’s up about the neighbours.

The less direct route would be to ask the seller why they are selling the unit.

If they are moving because of bad neighbours, they won’t reveal that, but you can gauge whether the reason they give holds water. If the current owners are moving out after only a year or two of living there and the reason they give doesn’t seem to add up, that’s a bad sign.

If you want to live happily ever after in your new HDB unit, make sure to follow these four tips when house hunting to spot any bad neighbours before you make them your own.

Do you do research on your neighbours before moving in? Let us know what you do in the comments section below or on our Facebook post.

If you found this article helpful, recommends checking out Unruly neighbours – 6 telltale signs to look out for and Does a VIP neighbour really affect property values?

Looking for a property? Find the home of your dreams today on Singapore’s fastest-growing property portal! If you would like to estimate the potential value of your property, check out’s Property Value Tool for free. Meanwhile, if you have an interesting property-related story to share with us, drop us a message here — and we’ll review it and get back to you.

Looking for a property?

Find the home of your dreams today on Singapore’s fastest-growing property portal! If you would like to estimate the potential value of your property, check out’s Property Value Tool for free. Also, don’t forget to join our Facebook community page or Telegram chat group! Meanwhile, if you have an interesting property-related story to share with us, drop us a message here — and we’ll review it and get back to you.

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