They say it's too close

hadleyFebruary 9, 2009

As we prepare to go back on the market, we are thinking about the main (pretty much the only) objection we heard back from previous showings: that the house is too close to the road.

It's an antique, and it was actually built before there was a public road, when a lot of land and several houses were in one big homestead.

Anyway, the side of the house, not the front, actually faces the road and angles toward it at the back of the house. Over a 75-foot length including the closest point at the end of the garage, the proximity ranges from five feet to about 35 feet at the front corner of the living room. A screened porch ranges from about 8 feet at the closest point to the road to about 15 feet.

There are, maybe, 40 car trips past the house in any given day. Despite its long frontage, the house is oriented away from the road; we rarely hear it and better views draw the eye away from the road at all times when in the house.

So--Do you think that some kind of visual separator, starting at the porch area, whether small stone wall, fence, partial wall or fence, or even minor landscape in the spring (a running flower bed or some spaced out privet bushes) would improve the impression of being too close/vulnerable or make it worse?

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Five feet??? This is rural property, isn't it. No wonder you are having problems selling the place. Is that five feet from the pavement or the property line?

Is the road on state, county, or city owned property, or is it on an easement? If it is on an easement, how wide is the right of way?

Have you checked to see if you can legally plant or build something that close to the road?

    Bookmark   February 9, 2009 at 11:29AM
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Hadley, real estate is local and if someone is not used to a house set like that then it's not going to work for them.

By my old house was an older town, houses from 1700 & 1800's IIRC. On one main road the houses are so close, all you have separating the house and street is a few feet of grass, sidewalk, then possibly another few feet of land. I refer to it as the concrete jungle because that's all that you see, no one has a yard.

Someone looking for a house such as yours isn't going to mind how close it is to the road. You bought it, what drew you to the house?

Hang in there and don't stress out about things you can't change.

I'd like to see a photo of the road/side as well as if there is an easement before commenting about what to do.

    Bookmark   February 9, 2009 at 12:35PM
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There are people who may be looking at rural properties for the first time and think it unappealing -
I think it means that you must to do a better job of communicating about right up front especially if it was the only comment from before.

If there has been a DOT traffic study that points to the low volume of traffic (40 cars is pretty low) I'd see if I could get a copy. Or just put the words "very low traffic volume" right in the MLS description along with 'quieter and more private that it looks" or something.
You need to get people to stop and have their realtor call to ask vs. just checking it off their list as they wade through internet sites. Make sure your realtor includes those terms on all the's etc. and is prepared to speak to the issue if someone's buyer agent calls.
I have been looking for a rural property for awhile now - right or wrong if I see a privacy fence in the picture - I pass. If I see the words 'privacy fence" in the MLS description - I pass.

    Bookmark   February 9, 2009 at 3:53PM
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Thank you. Um, not a privacy fence at all. I'm thinking of a knee-high stonewall, pickets, or a bit of landscape, say some small privet bushes and roses.

I'd actually have to go out and take a new picture to show you. Maybe I will do that. All our others have been carefully cropped to not show the street.

Deed records show our bounds do not include the road although on the survey, but not IRL or by the pavement, the far corner of the garage is technically in the road. In actual fact, there is a bit of "not road" between the garage and the pavement.

Ordinance says you can put things within three feet of the road. Road agent goes by the pavement, not the surveyed bounds of the road, for the setback.

    Bookmark   February 9, 2009 at 4:15PM
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In my experience, being so close to a road, especially since most of your buyers are going to be ones that want privacy, is a BIG deal.
I am starting to see why agent #1 knocked off 20% from the original listing.
For a property that is really close to a highway, I recommend about 7% adjustment. (assuming that all of the other comps are not close to a road). Ask any agent here... they will probably agree that the only true way to overcome this is by smart pricing. And a hedge row might help too.
If that is the only negative feedback that you were getting from the other 8 buyers, then you need to address it.
Sounds like agent #1 was the only one that did so.
Good luck.

    Bookmark   February 9, 2009 at 4:30PM
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Deed records show our bounds do not include the road although on the survey, but not IRL or by the pavement, the far corner of the garage is technically in the road. In actual fact, there is a bit of "not road" between the garage and the pavement.

I'm not sure what IRL means, but if the survey shows the garage is where the road is supposed to be, you have an encroachment. Every place I have lived, that must be disclosed to the buyers, although a lot of people don't do it.

Encroachments cause all sorts of problems, especially with title insurance. As it stands now, I would expect that the title company would refuse to cover the garage, if it is detached, and possibly the entire structure, if it is attached to the house.

Absent any other information, I suggest you look into getting the road boundary corrected in the deeds/survey so that it reflects where it actually is, if at all possible.

You really need a very, very sharp real estate agent advising you on your situation. A consult with a real estate attorney might not hurt either.

    Bookmark   February 9, 2009 at 4:47PM
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In Real Life. :)

Thank you, I will keep an eye on the road/garage situation if we progress with marketing it, but am thinking it probably won't be a legal issue. The garage, which was a small attached barn in another life, has been there at least 125 years. I have a feeling it predated the connecting el on the house. The town is well aware of it and many others like it in town as well as stonewalls in the same situation. The footprint is grandfathered; a buyer could actually tear it down, leaving one structural element, then rebuild a new one on the same footprint. Our attorney grew up in a similar home in town about two miles away. Title on this property has not been a problem thus far. We bought in 1986 from an investor who bought from the original family in the early '60s. That family had been on the land (when it was a large homestead parcel) since at least 1760. The road was a function of the house, not the other way around--it is where it is because that's where the occupants wore down a path. The present "highway" is paved, but it is just a small country road, no sidewalks, no real shoulder in most places. The road is actually pretty fully developed with few subdividable parcels. There should be no need or desire on the town's part to ever widen it.

I don't remember having to disclose it before beyond the fact that the plot plan already shows it, but will double check that.

So--to the question, would a bit of separating landscape help (in the spring if we're still on market) or hurt?

    Bookmark   February 9, 2009 at 5:30PM
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    Bookmark   February 9, 2009 at 6:53PM
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It will help, but not if you overprice the property.

    Bookmark   February 9, 2009 at 7:57PM
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ingrid_vc so. CA zone 9

Something green and alive will soften the look and make the house look more attractive and give the illusion that the house is protected from the road. I would definitely plant something as soon as possible. When it's warm enough I'd also plant colorful flowers where they're visible from the road to add curb appeal.

    Bookmark   February 9, 2009 at 10:41PM
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lilac bushes would be nice, but would take years to grow tall..... :o(

I definitely think flower borders or pretty hedges would be great. Good luck with your sale. You'll find the right buyer when you find the right price. :o)

    Bookmark   February 9, 2009 at 11:46PM
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If you are in an area where you have municipal removal of snow on the roads, I wouldn't waste money on a row of shrubs. They'll just get destroyed during winter. I'd put in some colorful annuals when weather allows and call it a day.

    Bookmark   February 10, 2009 at 12:16PM
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You might want to try to play up the antique aspects of the house by adding a "dooryard". Many old houses near me in the Plymouth Ma area include a small picket fence (just enclosing a small area near your porch perhaps) with a charming old gate, low wildflower plantings or very naturalized look. A brick walk, old style light post, or perhaps a hand pump there are tons of possibilities. It's hard for me to picture the layout from your description but you might be able to make it work for you and may breakup the look of the whole side of your house running along the roadway.


    Bookmark   February 10, 2009 at 12:16PM
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I like the idea of a fence/wall you mentioned. or the dooryard mentioned about sounds nice too. Something other than plants that can make it seem more private very quickly. Plants take time to grow, plus some buyers might be afraid of maintenance of plants.

A brand new wood privacy fence might look too new also. Maybe a painted one or the plastic privacy fences. but white might draw attention. You want to have this look private but not draw attention to this area.

the place sounds lovely.

    Bookmark   February 10, 2009 at 4:13PM
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In my neck of the woods, almost all old farmhouses are very close to the road and the road usually separates the house and barn. This was a very practical setup before autos. Then as people moved out from the cities/towns, the roads became bigger and the traffic moved faster. My own house, while only 60 years old, has fallen victim to a widening road. When built, maybe 10 cars a day would pass - now it is over 10 cars a minute. Also, when a house it that close to the road, it is possible for it to be involved in a traffic accident. I've known several people that have been very thankful for the tree that stopped a vehicle from crashing into their house.

IMHO, a visual barrier would not be beneficial. The house is what it is. If I were buying, the land that came with the house would have to be the selling point. I do agree that the house appealled to you, and it will appeal to someone else. I wish you the best of luck.

    Bookmark   February 11, 2009 at 10:49AM
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I've lived in old houses close to high-speed roads and it made me crazy (and was dangerous). Your road sounds pretty quiet (for now) but I think you do need to put up some sort of barrier. At best, a stone wall topped by a picket fence. Or at the very least, a picket fence. Or, if you can't do that, several big boulders. Don't bother with annuals or widely-spaced evergreens. You need a structural barrier that looks pretty.

    Bookmark   February 26, 2009 at 10:12PM
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Door yard is nice, but I think a few cypress trees planted close together would be lovely.
Almost all old homes that are no longer part of vast farmland are right on the road.
That's one of the reasons we chose not to look at 1700's and 1800's homes.
People who are looking for that kind of home know that being on the road kind of goes with the territory.
Good luck

    Bookmark   March 21, 2009 at 8:48PM
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I like the idea of a low stone wall. One just higher than most cars' bumpers, LOL!

    Bookmark   March 21, 2009 at 10:25PM
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Fenced door yard with nice plantings. Definitely old fashion plants. Has the Historical character been maintained?

    Bookmark   March 22, 2009 at 7:25AM
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