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Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Locations that detract from value…

There are obvious locations that might have an impact on the value of a property, such as those located on a busy road or right next to railroad tracks or under an airport landing glide path; but what other locations might have an impact?

Well it turns out the airport has a wider footprint for potential value impact than just the take-off and landing
paths. That is why the Seller’s Disclosure (at least in Michigan) asks the question about whether the house is within 5 miles of an airport. All houses within that 5 mile radius are subject to the airport noise and to potential aircraft crashes that tends to happen most often just after take-off or when approaching for landings. The noise and safety concerns about properties located close to airports, especially larger airports where jets take-off and land, is what keeps the property value down in those locations.

Another 5 mile radius surrounds shooting clubs. It’s not that they fear stray bullets so much; although, I suppose that could happen; it’s really about the noise from the guns being fired. The concern is that the constant popping of the guns being shot will impact eh peaceful enjoyment of areas like a back patio or deck.  I’ve shown houses within a mile or two of
a gun club and can attest to the fact that you can hear every shot. I my case it didn’t help that the rear of the house had two obvious bullet to pellet holes in two of the windows (not from the range, I was assured; but try to tell that to an already nervous buyer).

Subdivisions that were built on old farm land (as was the case in almost every suburb in America) can also be a problem, especially if the farm operation was recent. The issues tend to revolve around the impact of farm waste and pesticides on the water table in the area and because of the less than careful practices of farmers a few years back in terms of discarding of things like oil tanks or even old rusty cars or barrels. Who hasn’t driven by an old farm that has a field of rusting 55-gallon drums and not wondered what was in them originally. Many farmers took the money when utility companies and others came around looking for a place to dump stuff. They dug big holes, dumped stuff in and then covered the hole up and went on about farming.

In this area in Michigan, where suburban subdivisions are most often served by wells and septic systems we always recommend having the well water tested and quite often we find elevated levels of Nitrites and Nitrates. Those two residual chemicals that were produced by the waste from livestock don’t pose a big danger to adults but can severely impact young children. Here’s a good site to go read more about them.

Old dump sites, even those run by governmental bodies, can also be dangerous, especially if they were officially closed years ago. Nobody was concerned about what was being dumped into those old sites in the mid-20th Century; so, very spotty records (if any) were kept. By the end of the Century everyone became aware of and concerned by what may have been dumped in those old “city dumps.” Now many municipalities face massive clean-sup efforts to deal with things that were hauled off to the dump by utilities and industrial companies. You don’t even want to know what they are finding and you don’t even want to live next to it either. The same concerns are generally there for old industrial sites. You just don’t know what and how much was dumped into the ground at those sites and it takes a complete environmental study to determine whether or not a remediation effort is required. You might not believe that there were “industrial” sites right in the middle of your town or your neighborhood; but that was how things were done in the late 19th and early 20th Centuries. A common practice back then to rid the plant of rejected work was to take it out and throw it in the pond or river or field next door; the one that you are thinking of living next to now.

Power substations and pipeline easements are usually very visible and well-marked and have their own issue in terms of property value impact. Power substations usually look fairly ugly and always surrounded by high chain link fences, maybe with barbed-wire on top. In addition they seem to attract lightning strikes, at lease the people that I know who live next to them tell me. I don’t believe that they are all that dangerous in themselves; however, if one of those big transformers blows you will feel it and hear it if you live next door to the substation. Many of them also have a constant hum that is put off by the equipment. Pipeline easements
themselves are mostly invisible, unless you live next to a pumping station or a major junction location. Then things can get a little noisy and there are usually smells associated with burning off excess gases. Obviously any pipeline failure can cause a major spill and create quite a mess that may require a lengthy cleanup. Gas Pipeline explosions ion the big pipelines is extremely rare but not unheard of. That may keep some potential buyers awake at night.

Homes located next to, across from or sometime even near mobile home parks are also impacted in value. Modern mobile home parks are actually very nice facilities with good, affordable housing. The park management usually tries to be a good neighbor, too; however, there is still a left-over stigma from the old “trailer park” days. That’s why you will often see what is designated as a “transition area” between these parks and single family home neighborhoods. Those transition areas may consist of multifamily apartment or condo units or maybe commercial/retail areas. And speaking of retail/office/ restaurant areas; the concerns with living next to them tend to be about traffic, parking and sound and light pollution. Those stores or bars or offices often don’t close down and turn everything off just because you want to go to bed at 9 PM. Restaurants/bars in particular can have customers who are quite noisy and sometimes destructive by the end of the evening. Unless you plan to spend your time in that bar next door, think about that before you buy.

Sports venues often are created in areas after many homes are already in place. Think of school athletic fields or tennis courts. Many of these venues are used at night with huge lights to illuminate the field. In addition to the light pollution that is produced when those are lit up, the crowds are seldom quiet and reserved at the events that are going on, so buy good blinds or drapes and hope that your windows block
out the noise.  Sometimes venues are built out in the country, but progress eventually brings the suburbs to the venue. Many car race tracks were that way, especially the small dirt tracks that abound across the country. Horse tracks or dog tracks may have been built right in the heart of things. All of these venues bring concerns about traffic, parking, noise and light pollution into play.

So, that’s a pretty long list of places that can detract from the value of a property. The concerns that have been mentioned, whether real or imagined by a potential buyer, all serve to hold down property values. You need to be aware of whether any of these detractors is nearby. You might see some mentioned in a Seller’s Disclosure Statement; but many, if not most, of them are things that the seller might not even mention, sometimes because they have become so used to things that they forget and sometimes because they don’t want to call attention to the issues.  Hopefully you are working with a Realtor who knows the area and who can alert you to the issues that might exist. If not, find a local Realtor who can. You don’t want to find out in the spring that sometime in the middle of the winter you bought a beautiful house that no one told you is next door to a gun club; where every day will sound like the forth of July.

Finally there is the case of buying the most expensive house in the neighborhood. Realtors will almost always advise against buying a million dollar house in a $300-400,000 neighborhood. The owner/seller might be very proud of the fact they he spent more than anyone else in the area and built his McMansion amid much more modest homes, but all he really did was throw away money, since few wise buyers will overpay that much above the neighborhood property value average.


Location, location, location has been a real estate mantra forever; but, it also has great impact on value. Hopefully you netter understand what things to look for in a location that can have a negative impact. At least factor these things into your offer, if you still intend to buy in that location.

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