Smart Moves by Ellen James Martin

How to Sell a Home on a Busy Road

Before Eric Tyson and his wife had kids, they spent five carefree years living in a townhouse on a busy thoroughfare in a noisy, vibrant part of San Francisco. But after their twin sons were born, they traded this starter home for one in a tranquil Connecticut suburb.

Although the couple look back fondly on their San Francisco years, they also remember the difficulty they had selling their first house because of its intensely urban location.

"Some people aren't noise-sensitive and don't care if they live in a main road. But most people want to avoid the traffic, pollution and lack of privacy that comes with such a location. They also fear more crime," says Tyson, co-author of "House Selling for Dummies."

He cautions that those attempting to sell a property set on a busy artery must price realistically or risk having the place languish unsold on the market for a lengthy period.

The good news for sellers of well-priced homes is that many cash-strapped buyers in their 20s and 30s are now eager to exit their rental units. To shoehorn themselves into their first property, many must compromise on location to obtain an affordable place, says Svenja Gudell, the chief economist at Zillow, the online real estate database company.

Sid Davis, a veteran real estate broker and author of "A Survival Guide to Selling a Home," says empty-nesters may also appreciate more urban homes. They like a location that lets them walk to coffee shops, restaurants, grocery stores and movie theaters.

Also, he says some foreign-born buyers are less resistant to living on a main road than are those who grew up in this country.

Still, Mark Nash, author of "1001 Tips For Buying and Selling a Home" says it's not unusual for homes on major roadways to sell for at least 15 percent below nearly identical houses on quiet streets in the same area.

Here are a few pointers for those trying to sell a place on a heavily traveled road:

-- Select a listing agent who sees the positives about your property.

Nash tells the true story of a couple of young homebuyers who were eager to leave the apartment they'd been renting for years in downtown Chicago.

They pair fell in love with a Tudor-style house that met all their requirements, including a gourmet kitchen. It also had the large yard they were seeking for their puppy. But it was located on a heavily traveled road.

Nash says the couple pondered the pros and cons of the purchase for several days before agreeing with the listing agent who convinced them that its positives outweighed its negatives.

"A key selling point was the very reasonable price for this house," Nash says.

When selecting a real estate agent to list your roadside home, he says it's important to choose a diligent person who exudes confidence about your ability to sell, assuming you've agreed to price your home realistically.

"You want someone who will talk up your place and work really hard to get it sold," Nash says.

-- Make the most of the visibility of your property.

Traffic congestion has one advantage for the sellers of homes on busy roads. That's because their "For Sale" signs are more visible than those who are trying to sell their houses on less traveled streets in the same community.

With so many drivers passing by, you're bound to attract the attention and curiosity of many people. With this in mind, Nash suggests you ask your agent to attach "riders" to the main sign that focus on the positive points of your property.

"Pull people into your house with signs that point out, for example, that you have mahogany built-ins, a new gourmet kitchen, two fireplaces or any other bells and whistles," Nash says.

-- Highlight the accessibility of your home to commuters.

Even in areas where traffic congestion has stayed steady in recent years, many people still loathe their long highway commutes. The result is that relatively more commuters are now willing to live on major thoroughfares, assuming this will shorten their drive to work.

"People who have to get to work quickly ... are especially keen about quick highway access. This is one positive feature of living on a main road," Nash says.

Does your roadside home offer easy access to a popular light rail line or subway system? If so, you have an even stronger positive to highlight for potential buyers, according to Tyson.

"Many people hate driving to work. So if your location makes it easy to use alternate transportation and that public transit is of good quality, this could be a huge selling point in your favor," he says.

(To contact Ellen James Martin, email her at