You have no doubt heard the timeless real estate adage, “location, location, location.” The translation is that a home with positive environs pays financial and lifestyle dividends.
A home in a bad location can become a burden that is hard to escape.
Location will make or break your real estate purchase. Your lot and its surroundings is perhaps the most important factor when selecting a desirable home that is easily sold in a few years.
What if the home next to the graveyard is cheap?
It is tempting to pick off a discounted home in a shinier subdivision with a compromised location, but it is probably priced that way for a reason. Look closely at the Days on Market (DOM) metric for a home in a bad location. It has probably been on the market far longer than the metro Phoenix average of 74 days.
Below is a list that I have compiled over the years. These are home locations that, in my opinion, can be a drag on your financial investment and emotional health.
Avoid buying a home:
- at the entrance to a subdivision
- adjacent to the community swimming pool or playground
- backing up to a commercial area or local business
- with a shallow back yard
- an angular back yard incline or steep front steps
- on a busy corner lot
- under high-voltage electrical power lines
- below a rear neighbor’s home in elevation with compromised privacy
- backing up to a busy highway or interstate
- positioned below the level of the street
- adjacent to a graveyard
- with a difficult, severely inclined or tight driveway
- within earshot of an outdoor concert venue
- next to a Superfund environmental cleanup site (there are 5 around metro Phoenix)
- in the flight path of a private, commercial or military airport
- with a shared driveway between neighbors
- in a flood plain
- near firing ranges or gun clubs
- near known sink holes or fissures
- with a back yard that is dominated by a pool and lacking play space
- within proximity to a prison or correctional institution
- with a private (community) water well that resides on a neighbor’s lot or that lacks a written maintenance agreement
- near a landfill
- downwind from a commercial livestock operation or water treatment facility
- near railroad tracks or a railroad crossing
Builder in deep water
Another cautionary sign worth mentioning in new construction is a subdivision where a small scale builder does not own all of the lots. Infrastructure and amenities may not be completed if the builder falls on hard times. This is generally not an issue with the large Arizona builders and national firms like Pulte, Maracay Homes, Taylor Morrison and CalAtlantic Homes due to their size and purchasing power.
In one case leading up to the housing crisis, I saw a reputable production builder stall for over a year on his promise to build the neighborhood pool, pour sidewalks, pave the residential streets with a final top coat of asphalt and plant trees in the common green spaces. I was representing a family and attempting to sell their 3 year old home in the neighborhood. This subdivision of $300K homes looked incomplete. Homeowners were livid.
In retrospect, it was a sign that the builder was running out of money and that construction would be derailed there for several more years. He declared bankruptcy in 2011 and the assets were purchased by David Weekley Homes. Residents eventually received the promised amenities thanks to the new builder.
Like builders on a thin budget, a condo development of less than 25-ish units may not have sufficient capital reserves if there is a major unexpected special assessment. Surprise expenses would include funds for a leaking roof, street repair or a cracked pool. Ask to see a copy of the last two years’ annual budget and interview an elected officer in the HOA.
Older condo developments are notorious for having a short supply of guest parking spaces. Note how far from your prospective new condo that parking spaces are. Watch to see if they are mostly available or always full.
Good luck in your home search. Call me if I may be a resource to help you find a great location for your next home.
If you have something to add to my list above based on your experience, please email, comment or call. I will be expanding this post with your feedback.
I rant and rave about noise pollution. – Robert Carlyle, Scottish actor and narrator