Hydro power lines and their effect on prices

I live in Westboro, which is a very popular area in Ottawa. There is a corridor of hydro lines that runs not far from my home, but thankfully, it’s a good few blocks away. Why thankfully? Because hydro transmission lines devalue property, and it doesn’t seem to matter whether they’re new or existing: sellers whose properties are near one take a major hit on price.

I saw this firsthand recently when I went over to see a couple of gorgeous condo units in a good building. I was surprised that they were priced so low, well below what I thought was market value.  The building has wonderful amenities: a 24 hour concierge, a beautiful pool, incredible security, and for most of the owners in the building, gorgeous views.

But on the west side of the building, the view is pretty awful: there are a bunch of hydro transmission lines. Which explains the bargain prices: along with the rather ugly view of wires and transmission towers, some people are afraid that electro-magnetic waves  cause health problems.

Now from what I can see, having reviewed the medical literature, the jury is out as to whether there really are health risks associated with electro-magnetic waves or not, but I don’t think it matters.  People perceive a heightened risk, and that makes these properties hard to sell.

I had a couple show up at an Open House a year or two ago at a listing I had that wasn’t immediately beside hydro lines but within a block or two of a hydro easement. The  husband said he suffers from headaches when he’s near hydro lines and swore he felt nauseous already just being in the neighborhood.

That perception — that hydro lines can cause health problems — can have a seriously negative effect on sale prices, ranging from just over 5% to as high as 53%, according to this study. It’s like owning property when there’s a garbage dump in the area: the closer you are, the more you get hammered.

After I saw them,  I told my client they were nice units that showed well, and that even with the hydro transmission towers, I thought they were probably undervalued relative to market. But at the end of the day, I can’t advise a client to buy a property that I wouldn’t feel comfortable purchasing myself. Buying one of those properties at a good price may seem like a deal, but selling it later on could be a problem.

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