If you’re thinking of buying your first home (or your second home or your third home), you’re probably having a lot of fun/stress looking at homes for sale online.
You’re probably spending a lot of time on Zillow searching for neighborhoods you like and seeing if there’s anything good in your price range.
If you don’t already know your home price range, check out this post on how to find out online.
Before you fall in love with a house online and, certainly, before you go visit a home for sale in person, be sure and check out its location.
Map it first, otherwise, you’ll be wasting your time sometimes when you go out to see it in person.
Backs to Busy Street
Probably the number one disappointment people have when they actually visit a home they’ve seen online is when the home backs to a busy street. That really limits the usability of the backyard.
Story. I remember a particular client who fell in love with the kitchen in a house. The house, unfortunately, backed to a very busy street.
She had no idea it backed to a busy street because when she was online she had focused on the photos of the amazing remodeled interior. She hadn’t clicked on the map.
She and her husband had three little kids so they’d be using the backyard a lot. That house was definitely off their list. The backyard was way too loud with all that traffic noise.
But the poor woman couldn’t get that updated kitchen out of her mind. She was smitten. She wanted to find a house with that kitchen in a better location.
A house like that would be awesome but it didn’t exist in their price range in that area.
If you took that particular house with the great kitchen and moved it a few doors away from the busy street, its value would have been maybe $50,000 more… and out of their price range.
- Also check out Kristin LaVanway’s first home story where she talks about this exact subject.
Right Buyer. Now, that house with the noisy backyard house would be a great house for a buyer who rarely or never uses the backyard, AND who really wanted the best possible kitchen for the money in that neighborhood.
If the house had dual pane windows (or they could be added at a reasonable cost) that would help make the interior quieter.
And some people are just a lot less sensitive to street noise. I’m talking to you people who grew up in New York and Chicago. You may not even notice the traffic noise.
7 More Problem Locations
Backing to a busy street is the #1 thing to check for when you find a home online that you’re interested in. Here are some others.
Fronting Onto a Busy Street
Buyers seem to know automatically that owning a home that fronts onto a busy street can be a pain in the neck. In addition to the noise factor – which is more obvious than when a house backs to a busy street – buyers realize immediately that getting out of the driveway and merging into traffic can be stressful.
Story. Here’s the story of a woman I used to work with in Washington D.C.
She and her husband were getting established economically but they were not actively looking to buy a house yet. One day they saw an open house sign on a busy street and stopped in.
They liked the place and the agent told them if they used him as their agent, he would contribute some money to help them with their closing costs. (They didn’t realize, of course, the complications of having the same real estate agent represent both the buyer AND the seller.)
The agent showed them MLS listings of similar homes that had sold and they were convinced the price was fair.
My friend and her husband didn’t realize until after they bought the house that none of those comps the agent had showed them were on busy streets.
So they had paid the same price as if the house was NOT on a busy street.
They slowly realized they overpaid (and they learned a downside of a buyer using the same real estate agent as the seller).
Backs to Commercial Real Estate
Another location that can be a ding on value is a house that backs to a commercial area like a strip mall.
The house may back to the back of the strip mall but it can be noisy with delivery and garbage trucks coming and going. It can be particularly annoying if the trucks do their business early in the morning.
Besides the noise, if commercial buildings fill the view out of your backyard, that’s an additional ding on value.
Near Monster Power Lines
You know those huge metal towers that look like giants marching in a line.
If you can see these power line towers when driving to or from the house, it’ll have a ding on value, although it’s really hard to calculate how much it will impact the value of the house.
If, however, you can see the power line towers from the front yard, backyard, or when looking out windows of the house, that’s a lot bigger impact on the value of the house.
I’m certainly not saying don’t buy the house – although many people won’t consider buying any house too close to power lines – I’m just saying, be extra careful when pricing the house.
Those towers aren’t going anywhere. They’ll affect the value of the house when you sell it in the future.
Near Railroad Tracks
This one is pretty obvious but it does depend on how close the house is to the railroad tracks and how often trains go by.
Story. One semester in college I rented with my sister and brother-in-law an apartment that bordered a railroad track.
Fortunately, it was just a spur line to a few old factories and it had very little traffic. One train a day would come by just after 6:00 am. The trains were full of sugar beets headed to the sugar beet processing plant.
I remember getting startled awake by trains shaking the building. It felt like the world was coming to an end. But, eventually, I kinda got used to it.
Nevertheless, I wouldn’t want to buy a house near those barely-used railroad tracks unless the price of the house was pretty great.
Tall Buildings Look Into Backyard
People like to have privacy. One of the reasons people don’t want high-rise or medium-rise apartment buildings built in existing neighborhoods is the loss of privacy for those who live very near those tall buildings.
Story. A local radio disc jockey said she used to live in just such a high-rise apartment that overlooked an older residential neighborhood. She said the high-rise looked directly down into the backyards of the first row of houses.
It turns out, an older couple in one of those homes often swam and sunbathed in their backyard totally naked (!) for everyone on that side of the apartment building to see!
I wonder if they were sunbathing naked before the high-rise was built or if they were doing it just to thumb their noses at the high-rise developers.
Just keep in mind that it’s a ding on value to have people looking down into your backyard.
FYI, some people aren’t thrilled about having a two-story next door looking into their backyard.
It’s often obvious but sometimes it’s hard to know if you live in the flight path when the house isn’t located right next to the airport.
In my area, the seller is supposed to tell, or as they say, to “disclose,” to the buyer if a house is in the flight path but that might not happen until the home is under contract.
If you have any suspicions, you should definitely spend a LOT of time in the neighborhood before making an offer so you know if any noise is significant to you or not. If the noise is significant, it can lower the value of the house.
It’s hard to know when this nuisance becomes a ding on value.
If your house is near a high school, college or other stadium and 8 nights a year the traffic and parking are all messed up and it’s incredibly loud, that’s annoying but it’s hard to know if it impacts the value of the home.
It’s probably best – like in all these examples – to walk the neighborhood a lot and ask the neighbors you run into how annoying it is to them before you make an offer.
What have I forgotten?
I’m sure this isn’t a complete list.
What other locations are a ding on value? Please leave a comment below.
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