David has owned a house for over 10 years and has extensive knowledge on maintaining the safety and security of a home.
What I've Learned
When I first purchased my home, I was excited to have an alleyway behind my house. It allowed easy access to my garage, my garbage would be picked up behind my house, and I felt it just made the area in front of my house look better.
Unfortunately, it wasn't as good as I thought it would be. I don't regret buying my house, but I wish I had known some things ahead of time after I purchased my house so I could have saved myself a lot of trouble.
In the over 10 years I have owned my home, I learned what to do to protect my home and the alleyway behind it.
This article covers the pros and cons of owning a home with an alleyway, how to project your alleyway, and a few personal stories of my experience in dealing with an alleyway behind my house.
Pros of Having a House With an Alleyway
There are positives to having an alleyway behind your house, and that was what I considered when I purchased my home.
- Trash was picked up from the alleyway. I grew up with trash cans in front of the house each time the trash was being picked up. It was a bit unsightly. This increased more so when I had a recycling and green waste bin. So it was nice to have these behind my house, so they were out of sight.
- Access to my garage was easy. If I wanted to park in my garage, I took the alleyway. Again, I liked having the garage out of the way so it wouldn't distract from the look in front of the house. Again, out of sight, out of mind.
- It was different. I never lived anywhere that had an alleyway, let alone been in many alleyways in my life. I had heard bad things about alleyways but always thought it was a work of fiction. So generally, I was excited to have one.
Cons of Having a House With an Alleyway
Unfortunately, there are more negatives than positives in having an alleyway behind your home. These are items you should consider before purchasing a home that has an alleyway.
- Trash will be a problem. As much as I like having the trash picked up behind my house, it's a problem on a consistent basis. In my case, the trash was picked up on my side of the alleyway, so everyone put their trash cans in front of my house.
- All sorts of individuals will frequent the alleyway. Most people think it's just unhoused individuals. It's not just that. Everyone uses it to walk down, innocently or not. You'll have individuals who will go down the alleyway to dig through the trash, park their cars, or do illegal activities.
- Crime will happen. In reference to my last point, you will have those individuals commit crimes in the alleyway. Some could be minor, like stealing trash or spraying graffiti. However, people have been known to park their cars in the alleyway to have sex.
- Stray animals can be a problem. There is a reason why the term 'alley cats' exists. There are always a lot of stray cats roaming about. I have cats of my own and keep them inside because of the stray cats that live in the alleyway. You may have other animals frequent the alleyway, too, like dogs.
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Protecting Your Alleyway
There are ways you can protect your alleyway, which will end up protecting your home as well.
- Upgrade your fence. When I purchased my home, I had a three-foot chain link fence between my backyard and the alleyway. That let anyone walking by see inside of my backyard, even leaving the opportunity for them to jump the fence into my backyard. After a couple of incidents, I replaced the chain link fence with a tall, wood fence.
- Install lights. Many homes in my area have a garage facing the alleyway. Installing a motion-activated light that triggers when someone walks or drives by can scare intruders away. Make sure the lights are secure and high up enough so they won't be stolen.
- Install a camera. A camera will allow you to capture any footage of anything happening behind your house or just allow you to view what is going on. You can install a fake camera to give the illusion that people are being recorded. Just like the lights, ensure the camera is high up and secure.
- Clean up your section of the alleyway. I go in my alleyway and pull up any weeds in the dirt, pick up any trash, clean the alley in front of my garage, and so on. This keeps my area well kept. Occasionally, I clean up my neighbor's portion of the alleyway, including the neighbor directly across from my home.
- Don't overfill your trash. Take your trash out weekly to be picked up, and don't overfill your trash can. This will prevent individuals from going through as much each week, making a mess, and otherwise giving you problems. People who dumpster dive do remember the good houses to do it at. Don't give them the opportunity.
- Keep your doors closed. It doesn't matter the type of door—garage door, gate, etc. Keep the doors closed as much as possible. If you leave a door open, you give the opportunity for someone to come in, steal something, or otherwise give you trouble.
- Do visual inspections. Every so often, I walk down my alleyway to inspect other people's houses, if there has been recent graffiti, and so on. Because whatever happens anywhere in the alley can affect my part of the alleyway.
- Engage in neighborhood watch. Neighborhood watch isn't just for the front of your home but also the alleyway. Having phone apps, like Nextdoor, can be good to have as it's easy to communicate with your neighbors about what is happening in the alleyway.
- Assume your neighbors won't take care of their portion of the alleyway. I had one neighbor who had a bunch of dry weeds everywhere, trash, and a fence that was falling apart. They didn't care about keeping up their part of the alleyway.
Personal Experience with an Alleyway
I have quite a few horror stories when dealing with my alleyway. I am sharing these so you know what to expect if you are considering buying a home with an alleyway behind it.
- Two cars blocked access to the alleyway. I came home one day after a long day of work. I went to drive into the alleyway and saw a car was blocking one end. Irked, I drove around to the other end to see that it was blocked by a car as well. I found the owner of one of the vehicles and asked them to move. I was annoyed when I did it, as people feel they can treat the alleyway like their own parking lot.
- Neighbor constantly left trash. As stated earlier in the article, the trash was picked up on my side of the alleyway. The neighbor across from me always had an overfilled trash can. This resulted in trash spilling out anytime someone went through it. They would just leave their trash on the ground and wouldn't pick it up even after they put their trash can away. We had constant arguments about the trash. There were times I would dump it back on their side of the alleyway since the trash was disgusting, such as used diapers.
- Graffiti on my garage door. As I was leaving for work, I watched my garage door close and saw there was graffiti on it. It's going to happen in an alleyway. I've also had graffiti on my trash cans. It's an annoyance, but one usually easily fixed with a fresh coat of paint.
- Trash can burned down. This is the incident that prompted me to write this article. This occurred right after Thanksgiving. I was taking my daily walk around the neighborhood and walked by the alleyway. I realized I needed to put my trash cans back in and saw that one of them was missing. I walked up only to see that the bin had burned down to the ground. Not only that, the fire had damaged my fence. Come to find out, trash cans in my area were being burned down.
- Individual left human waste behind my house. As I was leaving work one day, I looked and saw a pile of clothes left close to my fence. Naturally, I never pick up anything with my hands, so I obtained tools to pick everything up. As I got close, I saw that human waste was left behind. I reached out to the city government about disposal, but they said they wouldn't do anything about it. So I had to take care of it myself.
- A theft resulted in damage to my car and garage. For protection, I installed a light above my garage. However, it was a solar light. One day I drove home from work and pulled into my garage. As I did so, I ended up running over a cinderblock that had been placed in front of my garage. I didn't realize I had done it, though, so I backed up, doing further damage to the underside of my vehicle and the floor of my garage. I was naturally upset and couldn't figure out why someone did it until I saw my light had been stolen, and they used the cinder block to reach up high enough to steal it.
Keep This in Mind
Owning a home with an alleyway does sound horrible, but on average, I had a bad incident involving my alleyway once every couple of years, though in a few cases, it resulted in some sort of financial loss. All houses have problems. An alleyway is just another type of problem a homeowner has to deal with. It shouldn't dissuade you from buying a home if it's perfect for your needs.
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.
© 2020 David Livermore
Abby Slutsky from America on December 26, 2020:
I have never considered a home with an alleyway, but I thought you did a good job of sharing your experiences. It probably would not be for me, but I do like the idea of trash pickup behind the house.