Power Lines and Property Value: What You Need to Know

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There are certain real estate “rules” we tend to take at face value without looking into the issue on our own. One of these rules is that you don’t want to buy a house near power lines. You may have heard warnings all your life about how power lines decrease the value of a property and in this case, the rumors are true. You should expect property that is located by power lines to sell for significantly less than similar homes not near property lines. 

The effects of power lines on property values may be enough to scare some potential buyers off, so let’s look at why power lines damage property values, how much value one should expect to lose, and if health issues truly are a concern. 

Do power lines decrease property value?

The short answer? Yes, power lines decrease property value. Whether or not that fact is truly as bad as it seems is something we’ll examine a bit further on. But for now, let’s try to understand why power lines cause property values to drop. 

The main reason why power lines make your property worth less is simply because most people don’t like how they look. Not only are power lines not super aesthetically pleasing, but they tend to block views. Sound plays just as big of a factor as sight. If a property is too close to a power line, the residents have to listen to the humming sound they produce when trying to relax in their own backyard. 

While these concerns may be easy to overlook for some, one aspect of power lines that many can’t ignore is the rumored health concerns. We’ll break these health concerns down shortly, but for now it’s worth noting that no research has proven any solid links between the proximity to power lines and medical issues.

One of the biggest hurdles when you live near power lines is quite burdensome. If a home sits right under power lines, there will be restrictions regarding how the homeowner can utilize their property. Landscaping especially causes complications, because trees can become tangled with power lines.

How much do power lines decrease value?

How much power lines decrease the value of a home varies, but many studies have been done on this issue and can give you a ballpark idea of what to expect. 

A 2018 study from the Journal of Real Estate Research found that vacant lots near high-voltage power lines sell for 44.9% less than equivalent lots that aren’t located near power lines. If you take a step back, a lot that is located within 1,000 feet of transmission lines tends to sell for 17.9% less. 

Other studies confirm similar numbers, but of course a home value is determined by many factors. 

Pros and cons of living near power lines

While there are both pros and cons of living near power lines to consider, many people tend to focus on the negatives here. While the negative aspects of power lines are hard to ignore, in some cases the benefits that come along with living near them may truly be worth it to a homebuyer. 

Pros 

  • They make a property more affordable. Those that struggle to afford a home in an expensive area may find buying in neighborhoods with power lines more attainable. While your resale value may be worth less than other homes in the area, you’ll also spend less when it comes time to buy the home. Plus, the less your house costs, the less your property taxes are. 
  • You’ll have less competition. In a competitive housing market, buyers may find that homes near power lines are easier to place a successful offer on. Some unsightly power lines may be worth not getting caught up in a bidding war. 
  • Avoid high HOA fees. Power lines tend to be a fixture in older neighborhoods, which usually have lower HOA fees than newer neighborhoods, if they have them at all. If you want to save on housing costs, you may appreciate not paying HOA fees in perpetuity. 

Cons

  • You’ll have lower property values. If you rightfully view real estate as an a type investment, you probably won’t appreciate the negative affect power lines have on property values. 
  • They’re not aesthetically pleasing. Power lines aren’t super attractive and block nice views. 
  • People have health concerns. There are widespread concerns that the electromagnetic radiation generated by power lines causes cancer. Even though scientific research has yet to strongly confirm these claims, these fears are very damaging to property values. 
  • There are restrictions. You need to plan landscaping and certain construction projects around power lines. If a power line goes directly over your property, you may run into a lot of annoying property restrictions to accommodate them. 
  • Noise can be an issue. If you buy a home very close to power lines, you may be stuck listening to humming noises on an ongoing basis. 

What are the health effects of living near power lines?

There is widespread concern about the health effects of the electromagnetic fields (EMFs) that are generated by power lines. Unfortunately, studies have not been able to disprove these concerns. On the flip side, no research has indicated that these concerns are valid either. The World Health Organization (WHO) and other major agencies have looked into this issue and have yet to confirm adverse health consequences caused by the EMFs associated with power lines. 

There are rumors that EMFs cause cancer, miscarriages, birth defects, heart abnormalities, and other health issues, but there is no conclusive evidence to support these claims. While some studies have found correlations between power lines and cancer, these studies did not confirm how much distance from power lines is considered to be safe or how much exposure leads to health issues. 

If you have your heart set on a property near power lines and are concerned about potential health effects, you can contact your local electric utility company to request an on-site reading to better understand what the properties EMF levels are like before you buy. 

Even if there aren’t power lines directly over your property, if you are concerned about potential health effects, you may want to know just how much of a distance you want to keep between you and the power lines. Once you know what type of power lines are nearby, you can determine just how far your property needs to be from them to avoid potential EMF effects. 

  • 133 kV Power lines: 100 feet distance
  • 230 kV Power lines: 150 feet distance
  • 345 kV Power lines: 250 feet distance
  • 550 kV Power: 350 feet distance

Once you’re 500 feet away, it’s no longer possible to measure the EMF effect of power lines, so you should be able to rest a little easier knowing you're a good distance from them. 

The takeaway

Even though power lines negatively impact the value of a property, they don’t necessarily make or break your ability to sell a home. There are plenty of house hunters who would be willing to overlook power lines in favor of skipping out on bidding wars and paying HOAs. 

Want to learn more about other factors that can negatively impact the value of a home? These are 11 factors that can impact your home appraisal

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