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Everyone needs good neighbours, but do we know them?

5 min read
31 Aug 2021
  • Compare the Market research shows how many Australians seek to avoid their neighbours whenever possible
  • Nearly a quarter have argued with a neighbour, with noise, boundary disputes and even pet problems among the most common bugbears
  • Almost one in five Aussies can’t name any neighbours and one in four hardly ever speak with anyone

Love thy neighbour? I hardly know her! New research from Compare the Market has revealed that nearly one in five Australians don’t know the people next door, with some going out of their way to avoid them altogether.

In a survey of more than 2,000 Australians,[1] the price comparison website found that although more than half generally speak with a neighbour at least once a week, one in four (24%) hardly ever speak with anyone else in their street, and 17% don’t know the names of any immediate neighbours. Only one in three (35%) know the names of all of their neighbours.

More than a quarter of those questioned would describe some neighbours as being like family (26%) and almost half would consider them good friends (46%), with 62% confirming that they’ve helped a neighbour in need. Almost two-thirds of respondents (63%) have been inside a neighbour’s home.

But positive feelings aren’t always reciprocated. In fact, one in four respondents (24%) admitted that they actively try to avoid interacting with other locals in some way, while one in five (19%) said they have pretended not to hear or see someone to avoid speaking, and 23% have delayed leaving home to miss crossing paths.

Attitudes vary depending on age, with those aged 18-24 and 25-34 more likely to dodge interactions (34%), compared to just 8% of people over 65. These age groups are also less likely to reach out to a neighbour for help (56% and 67%) compared to 71% of people aged 45–54, and 85% of over 65s.

Renters are more likely to avoid conversations (32%) than homeowners setting down roots (20%), and less likely to know the names of their neighbours.

About 23% of respondents said they have argued with a neighbour, of which 26% had bickered about noise or anti-social behaviour, 20% quarrelled over property boundaries and 19% nagged about dogs and other household pets.

One unlucky respondent said poo had been hurled into their garden, while others reported rubbish and illegal burning. Another respondent revealed their neighbour had dobbed them in for breaking lockdown and “lied” about the circumstances.

When asked about the number of acquaintances they have made on their street, the most common response was two or three households (25% and 19% respectively), with some only chatting to one (14%) and others having no relationship with anyone in their area (13%).

Most common topics discussed by neighbours

Topic of conversationPercentage
The weather46.8%
General news (e.g. Covid)46.5%
Local issues (e.g. Road repairs, council matters)35.2%
General health26.5%
Other neighbours21.8%
Bin collections18.6%
Household bills8.4%


Age group highlights

  • Over 65s are more likely to play an active role in their community, with 88% making contact with at least two neighbours and 25% knowing five or more.
  • About a quarter of 18–24-year-olds don’t speak to any neighbours compared with just 5% of over 65s.
  • Younger people are much more likely to avoid their neighbours, with about 34% of the 18-24 and 25-34 age groups admitting they would go out of their way to dodge interactions, versus just 8% of people over 65.
  • More than 85% of people aged over 65 would approach a neighbour for help compared to 65% in the 35-44 age group and 56% of the 18-24 age group.

Renters vs homeowners

  • 31% of renters said they “hardly ever” speak with their neighbours compared to just 20% of homeowners.
  • Renters are more likely to deliberately avoid their neighbours (32%) than homeowners (20%). Thirty per cent of renters have delayed leaving the house to avoid conversations compared to just under 20% of homeowners. Despite this 64% of renters would go to a neighbour if they needed help and 54% said they have helped a neighbour in need.
  • Renters are only slightly more likely to have had disputes with neighbours (24%) compared to homeowners (22%), however are much more likely to disagree about noise or anti-social behaviour (38%) than homeowners (19%) who are far more likely to argue about property boundaries (24%) or pets (20%).

State highlights

  • Queenslanders are the least likely to say they’d go out of their way to avoid their neighbours (21%) but are also the least likely to describe their neighbours as good friends (43%). New South Welshmen are most likely to consider their neighbours as buddies (48%) or describe them as “like family” (27%).
  • People from Western Australia are more likely to ask a neighbour for help (76%) and more likely to have helped a neighbour in need (68%). They are also the most likely to have been inside a neighbour’s home (68%)
  • South Australians are the most likely to have had a dispute with a neighbour (27%) followed by Victorians and West Australians (23%).

[1] Compare the Market commissioned PureProfile to survey 2,007 Australian adults online between July 5 and July 7, 2021.

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avatar of author: Sarah Orr

Written by Sarah Orr

Sarah is an avid storyteller, passionate about improving financial literacy and helping Australians make informed choices with their money. Outside the newsroom, she enjoys cycling around Brisbane and snapping scenery on her camera.

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