Smart Moves by Ellen James Martin

Selling a House on a Busy Street

Michael Crowley still speaks fondly of the tiny, pale yellow cottage he bought in Spokane, Washington, in 1993. He was just 29 at the time, and both he and his black chow dog were excited to escape the cramped apartment where they’d been living. Plus, the cottage was a quick walk to a lush park where both could romp.

Crowley, a longtime real estate broker, paid just $57,500 for the house -- a fraction of its current value. But even decades ago, the house sold for less than SIMILAR properties in the same upmarket area. Why? Because it faced a heavily traveled road.

“When you buy a house that fronts to a busy roadway, you’d better get a discount. Don’t forget that when it’s your time to sell, you’ll also have to swallow a discount due to location,” says Crowley, who’s affiliated with the National Association of Exclusive Buyer Agents (

The reason that selling a home on a busy artery is problematic is that many buyers fear heavy traffic will translate to noise and fumes. They also fear their pets or children will run into the roadway.

Despite buyer objections, it’s very possible for the owners of a property on a busy roadway to receive full market value of their place when they sell, so long as they take a realistic approach, says Sid Davis, a Utah-based broker and author of “A Survival Guide to Selling a Home.”

“One obvious step is to bite the bullet on price to some extent. ... Usually about a 5 percent price break is enough in a strong market,” Davis says.

Here are a few other pointers for sellers:

-- Stress road access as a positive.

Granted, most buyers wouldn’t relish living near the noisy entrance ramp to a major highway. But a location just a mile from that ramp could be a plus to purchasers who are fed up with their time-consuming commutes, says James W. Hughes, a housing expert at Rutgers University in New Jersey.

If your road leads directly to an important thoroughfare without being too close, Hughes says this point should be emphasized in your marketing materials. Also, if the home is a short walk to public transit, stress this point as well.

“Walkability is of growing importance, especially to baby boomers. They’re less fond of driving than when they were younger, and more eager to exercise. They like to walk to restaurants and movie theaters,” Hughes says.

Though most Americans still prefer green suburban living to an in-town setting, Davis says recent immigrants are often less resistant to life on a bustling street than those who’ve always lived in the United States.

-- Underscore the benefits of strong neighborhood schools.

Is the community where you’re selling served by a network of outstanding schools? And are most would-be buyers people with young children who need extra space for their growing families?

If so, Davis says it would be a smart idea to promote the purchase of your home as a way to gain entry to top-notch schools at a relatively low cost.

“[Buyers] need to see how inexpensively they could break into a prime family neighborhood if they buy your place,” Davis says.

To stress the point that your home is a better value for the money, he recommends you ask your listing agent to give prospects a list of similar properties on sale in the area, along with the relative prices shown on a per-square-foot basis.

“This is a graphic way to underline how buyers could get a bigger house for less money, along with excellent schools,” Davis says.

-- Look into the cost of fencing your yard.

Some heavily trafficked roadways seem particularly risky to children and animals. These include avenues with multiple lanes and freeways used by large trucks and other commercial vehicles. If you’re living along this sort of roadway, Davis says you may wish to fence your yard in hopes of lessening the fears of potential buyers.

Your listing agent can advise you on whether the fencing of your yard would constitute a warranted pre-sale expenditure. As one money-saving option, the agent might recommend you fence your backyard only, creating a protected area where small children and pets could play.

If you decide to invest in a fence, the choices may seem daunting.

“When selecting your fencing, choose something in wood or vinyl. Stay away from one of those chain link fences that looks like a military installation,” Davis says.

-- Ponder a deeper price cut if your home won’t sell otherwise.

Suppose your roadside home went on the market months ago at a price slightly below that of comparable homes in more tranquil areas of the same neighborhood. But while the other places are selling, your home continues to languish unsold.

In this case, Davis says one of your few remaining options is to cut your price more steeply, reducing it to 10 percent or more below what’s being asked for comparable properties on calmer streets nearby.

“Getting nailed on price isn’t fun. But sometimes that’s your only choice if you really want to sell that house on a busy street,” Davis says.

(To contact Ellen James Martin, email her at