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TLDR; Is it rude to ask how much a new neighbour paid for their apartment? My view is that it isn't, because it's information that's probably their favourite topic of conversation right now, and also in the public domain.

Recently, some new people in my apartment building moved in. Unfortunately, they appear very friendly, and have already telegraphed a degree of interest in developing some form of non-transactional relationship with me.

Two days in a row now we have both given each other friendly hellos and acknowledged one another's existence but not actually stopped to introduce ourselves. The worst type of faux-relationship you can have with someone is the one that consists of hellos without ever stopping to talk. I have decided that I will not be that person.

So next time I bump into them I intend to actually make an effort. Not a huge one, but an earnest one nonetheless.

Presently, I am self-indulgently trying to come up with possible topics of conversation. For example, they were sanding the floor the other night which means they bought the place, which means I might pretend to not have already looked up the sale price and to casually ask if they bought it or are renting, then ask how much they paid.

I am aware of the typical sensitivities regarding questions that pry into matters relating to finances e.g. income, personal expenses, etc but I don't think that such graces apply if these things are publicly available

For example, I find the following unlikely:

"I hear that's very competitive to get accepted into. Tell me, how much does a year at this elite boarding school for toddlers cost?"

"We'll, that's none of your damn busine--"

"Actually never mind, they have a price list on their website"

Generally speaking, is my perspective on this reasonable? If it's of any relevance, I will not be deploying any offense-taking countermeasures such as the classic "if you don't mind me asking" gambit.

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    "Unfortunately, they appear very friendly" ? really ? – everyone Nov 17 '17 at 14:57
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    @everyone if you don't want to interact with people, then you can't help but feel like a jerk if you're aloof towards warm people. if your desire to be left alone grows, i could see a type of resentment towards friendly people to develop. i was being 90% facetious. – faustus Nov 17 '17 at 15:11
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    There are counterexamples to "it's public so it's not rude to ask about it". E.g. "who is the father of your baby" (birth certificates are often public record) or "are you a registered sex offender" (definitely public record). – user3067860 Nov 17 '17 at 16:15
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    It would depend on the country. In France for instance that would be unthinkable. – WoJ Nov 17 '17 at 16:25
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    In what country are rents public domain? – Azor Ahai -- he him Nov 17 '17 at 17:22
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Is it rude? No, I don't think it is rude, but...

Honestly, I think it would be an odd topic for a first conversation.

Since you don't know how friendly they are, just because they wave and smile doesn't mean they are willing to share personal details even if this information is somehow public.

So, you should ask it only if you are really interested in how much they paid for the apartment, otherwise, I don't think it would be the best topic for conversation.

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    First topic? I agree, that would be odd. "Hey there! I'm BaldPrussian. Nice to meet you. By the way, what do you pay for rent?" i can't see that conversation ending well. – baldPrussian Nov 17 '17 at 14:20
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    @baldPrussian more like: so i heard some construction last week, was that a hardwood floor you were installing? [...] so i'm guessing you either owe the landlord a huge favour or you bought it? [..] yes, the pricing bubble is finally going to pop. did you get a good price? ... however, your sentiment is correct: Keep It Simple, Stupid. – faustus Nov 17 '17 at 15:02
  • Maybe for someone with social anxiety it would be a good thing. If they don't like the question they might not wish to converse any further, which may also suit OP's wishes – Darren H Nov 17 '17 at 15:41
  • Try sharing how much you paid for your apartment and see if theirs is higher or lower than yours. It makes you vulnerable and they can choose how much of their info they want to reveal. – Nelson Nov 18 '17 at 13:34
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Is it rude to ask how much a new neighbour paid for their apartment ?

Note that this seems to be your only motivation for speaking to the neighbor.

My view is that it isn't, because it's information that's probably their favourite topic of conversation right now, and also in the public domain.

If it's in the public domain and that's all you really want to know then look for that info in the public domain instead.

Recently, some new people in my apartment building moved in. Unfortunately, they appear very friendly, and have already telegraphed a degree of interest in developing some form of non-transactional relationship with me.

I've emphasized the word "unfortunately" because that's what you used and it seems to say that you really don't want anything to do with them and only want to know what they paid.

Two days in a row now we have both given each other friendly hellos and acknowledged one another's existence, but not actually stopped to introduce ourselves. The worst type of faux-relationship you can have with someone is the one that comprises hellos without ever stopping talk to talk. I have decided that I will not be that person.

But your sole reason for wanting to talk seems to be knowing how much they paid.

It certainly would be a "faux" relationship to pretend interest in anything more than that, from what you've said.

So next time I bump into them I intend to actually make an effort. Not a huge one, but an earnest one nonetheless.

If all you want is the price paid and have no interest in making a friend or being friendly then I'd suggest just looking for that info some other way.

If you genuinely want to be friendly then forget about the price paid entirely and just chat, pass the odd comment ("cold day this morning" and so on and work from there). These things build slowly (usually) not instantly.

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  • on a 10 pt scale of how much i care about how much they paid, it rates maybe 0.001. this question emerged as an intellectual curiosity that is entirely peripheral to my original goal of reciprocating a degree of warmth to another human. i used the"unfortunately.." phrase partially to make people laugh at its absurdity, partially to see how many people would even notice it, partially because i suppose i am a troll. and partially because it's true. – faustus Nov 17 '17 at 15:53
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    All your comment does is make your goals even less clear to me. But note that "getting to know new neighbors" is somewhat location dependent, so if that's your goal please tag your question with a country. – StephenG Nov 17 '17 at 16:01
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    A relationship of just hellos is not the worst kind of relationship you can have with your neighbors. – stannius Nov 17 '17 at 19:31
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    @stannius suppose i had a choice: 1) neighbour who didn't like me, and i didn't like him, and we were quite open about our feelings, 2) neighbour who is perfectly harmless, but i last spoke to 3 years ago, and since then, had noded to them out of some strange politeness. i would feel far less anxiety walking past my enemy. granted, this is the simply my disposition. your overarching point, is correct -- open violence would be worse than enternally nodding hello. – faustus Nov 18 '17 at 4:40
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If you feel uncomfortable asking a question, and you don't know the person at all, that's usually a good sign that you shouldn't ask that particular question. Ask a question you feel comfortable asking.

Why don't you ask how they're enjoying the apartment instead? Or ask if they're enjoying the area that they moved into? Those are nice open ended questions where the person answering has a bit of freedom about how much information they can reveal. If you ask a question about the price of a place and they don't want to answer, you have to explicitly say that you don't want to answer the question to not answer it. If you ask if they're enjoying the apartment, you can talk about things you feel comfortable talking about while skipping over any details you don't want to share publicly.

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  • you are totally correct about not cornering them. but i thought of my response. i would stick my tongue out at them as though we were 10 years old and jokingly remind them that i could find out online. if they at least smile at that joke, then we are vaguely on the same wavelength and maybe we can be friends. – faustus Nov 17 '17 at 13:16
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    @faustus I wouldn't recommend taking risks with new neighbors. What if you need their help in the future? Better to have a pleasant relationship but one that isn't very deep (e.g. just saying hello) than to have an unpleasant one. – user8960 Nov 17 '17 at 14:07
  • What if I don't feel comfortable asking any question at all? – Alessandro Da Rugna Nov 17 '17 at 15:41
  • @AlessandroDaRugna I think that ends up depending on your motives for wanting to speak to someone, and might end up being a different topic altogether. – Jess K. Nov 17 '17 at 15:48
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    @faustus "I would stick my tongue out at them as though we were 10 years old" this might backfire as if you're toying with them (I'd certainly do). Note that everyone has a different degree of humor, and if they don't appreciate your "joke", then you just make an enemy instead of maintaining the relationship at neutral. – Andrew T. Nov 18 '17 at 4:07
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Way I was raised (mostly in Southern & Western US) it is considered rude to ask questions like that, especially of people you're just barely getting to know.

There are so many other topics you could raise (how do they like the area, where did they used to live, what do they do), seems pointlessly pushy to lead with price questions.

Maybe later, after you've known them a while, you could bring the subject up indirectly... "Hope you got a good deal", then letting them decide whether to follow up. Some people do like to complain about how bad they got rooked. ;D

Note: price talk can backfire. Back (number) years ago, I got a small two bedroom apartment in San Francisco, after having lived elsewhere. I complained to my co-workers about the price "Can't believe I am paying (number) bucks for this tiny apartment!" and they just stared at me in slack-jawed wonder, because unbeknownst to me, that price was a steal. "Are you out of your mind?" was the most temperate response out of many...

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I do not think this is rude at all. Generally, depending on the relationship you have with that person, asking about how much they paid should show that you are interested in his/her recent progress in life. People is usually also very excited about having a new home.

Moving out is always a stressing task, and a new neighbor should appreciate any interest if you are willing to ask.

Of course you would have to build up a degree of trust before asking, because (for some reason I can't fathom) sometimes people regard their peers with respect to the amount of money that they earn or spend. In the end, if this person gets nervous when you make these kind of questions, it will also be useful for you because you can start picturing what kind of personality your new neighbor has.

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    Keep in mind the question is asking about a new neighbor with whom that level of trust does not exist. I think you kind of buried the lead here, because in the context of the relationship described in the OP's question, asking this would in fact be rude by your own statement. – Nuclear Hoagie Nov 17 '17 at 16:13
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    This may vary by country, but certainly in the USA almost any question about personal finances is considered rude an a lead-in to one-upmanship – Carl Witthoft Nov 17 '17 at 17:03
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Yes, asking personal financial questions is generally considered rude, because that is kind of personal, with baggage, sometimes.

"Are you renting or did you buy" - that's a reasonable, more general inquiry. If you are looking for more chit-chat ice-breakers, since they've recently moved in....

"Where are you moving from?" - which could naturally lead to a lot of other inquiries.

Don't just grill them. Maybe state why you like living where you do "Love the parks and the bike trails here. Do you bicycle at all?" etc.

Stay away from talking about exact dollars, either rent, jobs, or even items owned.

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Making them feel like they do not have to answer the question is the best thing to do.

You may encounter people finding this extremely rude and unmannered, and some others who would not mind telling at all.

It really depends, and there is not a "Yes/No" answer for your question. Culture and country also matter a lot here. For example, we the French find it very uncomfortable to talk about money, and IMHO American people are much less shy about the topic.

You just need to phrase it in a way that they wouldn't think their answer is mandatory, and recognise being "too curious" as a sign of courtesy :

Sorry for asking, but may I ask you how much did you pay for it ? I'm sorry for being nosy, of course you don't have to answer this.

or, ask spontaneously, and pretend to talk faster than expected :

How much did you pay for ? Wow, sorry that's none of my business.

They might answer if they are okay with it.

Hope that helped.

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This can be very, very rude depending on the person who is renting.

All the answers here seem to be forgetting that Section 8 and other housing-related laws exist, which allow certain people to have part of their rent paid for by the government, or allows them to have negotiated-lower prices if they fall into certain low-financial brackets, etc.

So, by asking one of these people how much they're paying for their apartment, you are kind of inherently asking them for their entire financial background, as the price they are paying could be dependent on how much money they make or other financial problems they may not want to talk about in order to explain why they are paying that price.

That's... quite a loaded question for someone you just met.

That's not to say they might not disclose that situation to you in the future if you become friends, but upfront asking people how much they're paying can back them into a corner they don't want to be in.

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By simply saying “Hello!” to them each time you see them you are already ahead of the curve as far as neighborly friendliness goes. So don’t stress over the next steps. Let it just come naturally.

Two days in a row now we have both given each other friendly hellos and acknowledged one another's existence but not actually stopped to introduce ourselves. The worst type of faux-relationship you can have with someone is the one that consists of hellos without ever stopping to talk.

I really don’t understand why you are tying yourself in knots over this:

  • You have new neighbors. Whoopee!
  • You say a cursory hello to them when you see them. Again, big whoop. We all do this.
  • But when you say “worst type of faux-relationship” hold it right there… You have exactly the relationship you should share at this point. You know who they are and they know who you are and you just say “Hey!”

I have decided that I will not be that person.

Then for the love of everything DO NOT immediately pry about finances. You want to be a decent neighbor and do it in an appropriate way? Just say “Hello!” to them until a natural reason comes up to grow the relationship. Something like holding a door open or holding an elevator for them. Or something very casual. Do you have a common area in front of the building where people might hang out? Chat them up there!

Look, if anyone immediately came to me and asked me my finances, my immediate response would be “None of your business!” and I would look at them as if they were tools and not want to deal with them past avoiding them.

If you are just saying “Hello!” to them now, stop stressing… Just say “Hello!” You know how few people say “Hello!” to neighbors? More than you think so you are already ahead of the curve.

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