Don’t Fence Me In….
Home ownership is a funny thing. There are few things in life that people take greater pride in than owning a home. However, this is where an interesting dichotomy comes in. After moving in, people tend to want to do two things to their home. First, they want to show it off. Like a newborn baby, they want all their friends and relatives to share in their newfound joy. After that, though, many people look for ways to secure their privacy. And what is the easiest way to do that? Fences.
As homebuilding has increased through the years (with the exception of the last 6 years or so), landowners have gotten smart. They keep raising the price of their land, causing builders and developers to find ever increasing ways to maximize the home density on their acreage. This, in turn, has resulted in most homes having no more than 10’ to 15’ of separation between properties. As a result, there are numerous neighbors that now have fabulous views of side and rear neighbor backyards and porches. Unfortunately, considering yourself the master of your own domain does not always feel so good when you are sharing that domain with the prying eyes of others. This causes the natural reaction of people to want to protect and maintain their privacy with fences. Easy right? Well…. not so fast.
There are some communities where landscape maintenance is handled by the homeowner’s association. While this is not prevalent in most single family communities, it is very common in active adult communities. In these cases, many communities do not allow backyard fencing. The reason for this is pure economics. Without fences, landscape maintenance companies can have their equipment move freely from one lot to the next, keeping costs low for the community. With fences in place, both access and ease of maintenance are reduced, causing costs to be greater. It is the tradeoff that many of these homeowner’s make to live in relatively maintenance free communities.
However, most other communities leave landscaping to the devices of the individual homeowner. In these instances, fencing issues are more important that one may realize. Remember, a fence is both a construction as well as an aesthetic issue. Remember when I said that communities are becoming more and more dense (housing wise, not people wise – you make your own judgment on the intellectual capacity of your own neighbors). Well, that means that there is a tighter margin of error for property swales. These are the areas on the property lines that allow drainage to move off the property and appropriately flow to the community drainage inlets, preventing your lot and home from becoming an unwanted community water feature. It also means that fence placement is problematic, since you do not want to block or modify the flow of water through these drainage areas.
Then, you have aesthetic issues. Woe be the community that has no fencing guidelines and restrictions. Remember, one of the reasons why we choose to live where we do is the appearance of the neighborhood. Now, think of how that community feels if one neighbor has a landscape hedge, another has decorative fencing, a third has wood shadowbox fencing and a fourth has chain link. Then imagine if all these different fencing types were next to and attached to each other. Not necessarily the image of visual harmony that you were looking for.
The important factor here is to make sure that your community has fencing guidelines. Just like with community housing, you want to make sure that your fencing requirements and restrictions are consistent throughout the community. It is a fair question to ask prior to your home purchase, especially in newer communities where limited construction may be completed prior to your moving in. Personally, I like fencing that is required to be softened by landscaping. It is amazing what shrubbery does to soften the impact of community fencing. However, that is just one person’s opinion.
So, remember, a home may be your castle, but a yard and a fence represent the edges of your kingdom. Make sure they all adhere to the same quality standards and guidelines.
Until next time…
Keep kicking the dirt.