Kirsty McLuckie: Want to know how much your neighbour's house sold for? Just ask

Kirsty McLuckie finds a world of difference between nosiness and research in property price etiquette.

Kirsty McLuckie finds a world of difference between nosiness and research in property price etiquette.

If a near neighbour sells their house, is it allowed, within the rules of politeness, to ask how much they got?

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A friend has owned a lovely tenement flat in Edinburgh for years and the place upstairs – identical in size and layout – went on the market last month.

After a couple of weeks of viewers trooping up and down the stairwell, the unsightly for sale sign at the communal front door was covered up with an even uglier sold one.

My friend has a cordial relationship with the property’s seller so, curious about the selling price, she has tried quite a few approaches when bumping into him to get him to reveal it.

Questions such as: “Congratulations, are you pleased with the offer?”, “How did the closing date go?” and other subtleties have so far proved unfruitful however.

Each time he’s straight batted her inquiries back at her, politely – but giving nothing away – closed down the conversation and moved on.

Not being from these shores and somewhat perplexed by his reaction, she asked if such reticence could be an “Edinburgh thing”.A decade or two of writing about property has taught me that there are regional, generational and cultural differences in how much people are likely to reveal to someone else, particularly about their finances.

But while I’m not sure I would ever ask a friend what price their home sold for, I think if it is a neighbour, in some circumstances it is OK to ditch the niceties.

After all, such a question would clearly be in search of useful information – particularly if you are thinking of selling your own place as she is – rather than nosiness.

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And after all, when a property goes on the market a home report is made available to anyone who is interested, with the surveyor’s valuation included.

A few weeks after the sale, the precise selling price will be revealed online anyway, by one of the sold property price websites which are the delight of the virtual net curtain twitchers and researchers alike.

So why be so reluctant to impart the figure to your neighbour?Such questions of property etiquette remind me of the last time I moved.

We sold our little house in a cul-de-sac in central Scotland a couple of months before our neighbours were planning to put their almost identical property on the market so I was fine when asked, to let them know the amount of the winning bid.

I was less delighted when a few months later the neighbour got our new contact details from a mutual friend and phoned to inform me that they had sold their house, for substantially more than we managed to get for ours.

I couldn’t at first make out why she felt the need to impart this information.

Such a fact could no longer be of any practical use to us, but as the conversation went on I got the distinct feeling she was merely phoning to crow.

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She confirmed this by saying: “I think we did especially well getting more than you, because you write about property, don’t you?”

Yes, Linda, I do.

I’m not sure whether or not asking a neighbour to give you details of the price they’ve sold for should be considered rude.

What I can say however, is that inflicting your own triumphs in profit on others – unasked – is definitely beyond the pale.