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Train tracks by your potential home? The pros and cons

Train tracks might seem like a negative for homebuyers, but better building techniques have mitigated previous noise and vibration problems.

So you’ve found a home that seems perfect. It has just the right number bedrooms and baths, and space for entertaining family and friends. It’s in a great neighborhood; it fits your budget. But one thing makes you nervous — it’s located near train tracks.

Of course, both freight and passenger trains offer big benefits to the public at large. Locally, the Metropolitan Atlanta Rapid Transit Authority (MARTA) moves thousands of Atlanta-area residents to work and school every day. But as a homeowner, do you want those tracks within earshot, or even eyeshot? For buyers considering a home near railroad tracks, this information will help guide your decision.

Impact on home values

In its comprehensive review, the Center for Housing Policy (CHP) looked at passenger rail lines’ impacts on neighborhoods and property values. Research conducted in Boston, Philadelphia, Portland, San Francisco, San Diego and Atlanta considered a variety of factors, including:

  • Housing age and type
  • Strength of the housing market
  • Nature of the surrounding environment
  • Proximity and reliability of the system

The conclusion: it’s a benefit. Despite worries about noise levels or potential pollution, CHP’s evaluation concludes that residential properties in close proximity to rails had average of 10 percent added to home values.

As for freight rail tracks, however, the results are less positive. Entrepreneur Magazine’s widely cited study of values shows that small homes near freight tracks lost about 5-7 percent of their value, while larger homes had a more mixed outlook.

Train tracks and nuisances

Putting property values aside, one of the primary drawbacks for homes located next to train tracks may be the amount of vibration from passing trains. Over time, vibrations can cause the earth to move, which may cause minor cracks in the ceiling or wall. Nonetheless, a well-built home should not have structural issues.

Another concern is noise. Like other communities, Atlanta has regulations regarding the sounding of horns and today’s trains are quieter. Nonetheless, locomotives can still generate a deep and annoying roar as it moves along the tracks. And the last thing you want on your first night in the new home is to be jarred awake by the 3:10 from Decatur barrelling through.

Benefits of living near train tracks

On the other hand, homes near freight rail lines tend to be more affordable compared to houses in other locations. Remember that newer and remodeled homes have features that can better withstand sound penetration, including insulation and double pane windows. You should also consider that window treatments, trees and hedges will block the noise.

For passenger rail lines, the upsides are obvious: Home buyers who rely on public transportation can more easily ditch the car and get around town or beyond if they can just walk to the nearest MARTA station.

If you have any questions about purchasing a home located near train tracks, ask your real estate agent. A professional can give you more information about the neighborhood, including historical property values near the rail line.

Image source: Wikimedia Commons

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