The importance of property values to NIMBYism

NIMBYism is cited as a common American issue as homeowners often fight hard to protect their pristine homes and neighborhoods. I was reminded of this by an article looking at seven neighbors that damage property values:

Here, the seven suprising neighbors that can reduce your home’s value:

Power Plants. The data is fairly clear on the impact of power plants on nearby home values — it usually hurts them. A study from the University of California at Berkeley shows that home values within two miles of a power plant can decrease between 4% and 7%.

Landfills. A study from the Pima County (Arizona) Assessor’s office shows that a subdivision located near a landfill (and all other residential factors being equal, like house size, school quality and residential incomes) loses 6% to 10% in value compared to a subdivision that isn’t located near a dump.

Robert A. Simons, an urban planning professor at Cleveland State University, says that if you live within two miles of a Superfund site (a landfill that the government designates as a hazardous waste site), your home’s value could decline by up to 15%.

Sex Offenders. Living in close proximity to a registered sex offender is one of the biggest downward drivers of home values. Researchers at Longwood University’s College of Business & Economics conclude that the closer you live to a sex offender, the more your home will depreciate. In the paper, Estimating the Effect of Crime Risk on Property Values and Time on Market: Evidence from Megan’s Law in Virginia, Longwood researchers say, “the presence of a registered sex offender living within one-tenth of a mile reduces home values by about 9%, and these same homes take as much as 10% longer to sell than homes not located near registered sex offenders.”

Delinquent Bill Payers. One surprising way that neighbors can bring down the value of surrounding homes, especially in town home or condo communities, is by not paying their maintenance fees or their mortgages. “Bad neighbors bring values down by not paying their maintenance fees, in some cases their mortgage payments, and not maintaining the home’s appearance,” says Pordes. “These homeowners usually do not care about real estate values.”

Foreclosed Homes. Perhaps the biggest single factor that drives nearby home values down is a foreclosure. A recent study by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology concludes that a neighbor’s foreclosed home can slash the value of homes within 250 feet of the foreclosed properties by an average of 27%. Says Federal Reserve Governor Joseph Tracy recently in his economic outlook for 2011: “The growing inventory of defaulted mortgages continues to weigh down any recovery in the housing market… Problems in housing markets can impact economic growth.”

Lackluster Landscaping. Studies show that lawn care has a big impact on surrounding home values. Virginia Tech University released a report stating that pristine landscaping can jack up the value of a home by 5% to 10%. But if the lawn looks like it just hosted the world rugby tournament, it can be a green thumb to the eye of local home prices.

Closed Schools. Sometimes, neighborhood problems can stem from local government action. For example, if a cash-strapped city or town closes a neighborhood school, that can easily steer home values south. The National Association of Realtors says that 75% of home shoppers, the quality and availability of schools in the neighborhood is either “somewhat important” or “very important.”

As the article notes, what an individual homeowner can do about these situations might be limited. Perhaps the best way to avoid this is simply to do one’s homework before moving into a neighborhood to assess what has happened or might happen in the future. This could involve checking community websites, reading local news, and talking with current residents. But, there are always trade-offs involved in this process. If someone desires a cheaper home, perhaps they might move into an area that has one of these conditions.

At the same time, there are plenty of land uses or neighbors that are not cited in the article where homeowners band together to protect their community. Here are a few recent situations in the Chicago region: a battle over affordable housing in Winnetka (with an update here), Naperville residents opposed to Show-Me’s and Evanston residents opposed to a Tilted Kilt restaurant, and a debate over lighting in Barrington Hills. Compared to a power plant or landfill, these uses seem much less obvious and yet are important concerns for residents of wealthier communities.

On the whole, this article illustrates that one of the primary goals of a homeowner is to protect and/or grow their property values. In order to do this, a homeowner may have to be in opposition to larger neighborhood or community goals. After all, power plants and landfills and sex offenders have to be somewhere. But, if you have the economic means in the United States, you generally move to nicer and nicer neighborhoods where these NIMBY concerns are likely reduced. It would be interesting to track how people’s neighborhood or suburban moves over the years progressively place them further and further away from such property value lowering uses.

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