Sunday, July 21, 2013

CLUCK asks: Do Backyard Hens or Coops Affect Real Estate Values?

"I won't be able to sell my house!" "Is the government going to pay me for the reduction in value?" These are the plaintive arguments we hear when local governments consider relaxing chicken ordinances - the fear that chickens negatively affect property values. And we hear it from some realtors.

I'm not sure I would say realtors are skittish, but they all probably have a story about a seemingly minor detail costing them thousands of dollars of commission fees when a hot prospect discovers what they think is a fatal flaw.
Photo from Center for Biological Diversity (not a New Jersey deer). 

True Story: My father was an experienced salesman who worked in Manhattan. One summer he thought he would try his hand at real estate after he came home from work. So one evening he was showing an urban couple a new home in a subdivision carved out of former New Jersey farmland. The couple was clearly interested and my observant father, hoping to seal the deal, drew their attention to a magnificent buck standing bathed in the setting rays at the edge of the woods. The woman froze, turned to her husband and demanded to be taken back to the city immediately, opining that she had no intention of living where there were wild animals. The sight of the animal that so thrilled my father, terrified the woman -- so you never know. Probably some people immediately walk out of homes with spas or granite counters.

Consequently, I'm sure that somewhere in the US a modest coop in a neighbor's yard has made a deal head south. There are alektorophobes out there. But that's a far cry from the inevitable allegations that allowing backyard hens will "obviously" depress property values. What depresses property values is the behavior of  irresponsible neighbors that color outside the lines of the neighborhood norms or standards -- and people don't need chickens to do that. There is no dormant irresponsible neighbor gene that only gets expressed when chickens enter the picture. Jerks will be jerks with or without chickens. 

A prominent realtor here in Sarasota told me that if your neighbor paints their house pink or has three lawn ornaments in their front yard, that will affect your ability to get your price more than a few hens in your backyard. For people who don't want to take that risk there are mandatory Residential Community Associations (RCAs) that uses codes, covenants, and other restrictions to enforce standards.

The rest of us live in neighborhoods with no neighborhood associations or voluntary associations that lack the power to enforce. These neighborhoods rely on municipal codes to set limits on what is acceptable so you run the risk of having a neighbor with a pink house, or three lawn ornaments. (You also have a lot more latitude to do what you want on your property.)

As far as CLUCK knows, no one has produced any data that suggests backyard hens lower property values. But there does seems to be some indirect evidence that coops are either neutral or potential assets. One real estate brokerage (Redfin) has named "the top five chicken cities" based on homes recently listed in MLS that mention coops as a feature. These cities are not Camden New Jersey or Detroit Michigan, but places people want to move to and live:

Portland: This graphic may say it all:
This wikipedia graphic shows Portland has a strong housing market
in spite of (because of?) being the most chicken friendly city.
California cities in the top five are Ventura, San Diego, and Sacramento. Seattle rounds out the list.

Some might say advertising a coop is simply attempting to make a virtue out of a necessity, but if coops were clearly deal-killers, they would not be mentioned (or owners would get rid of them before putting the property on the market). And if chickens poisoned the real estate market, would 19 of the 25 largest cities in the US allow backyard hens?

Not only does Redfin identify chicken-friendly cities, they post listings for properties that feature coops. Last time I checked, there were 75 properties FEATURING chicken coops (with photos). Check it out. 

An enterprising researcher, Anna Altic, looked at a 2010 Forbes article profiling the top ten housing markets appreciating in value and found nine allowed chickens. Then she looked at the ten sickest housing markets. Guess what? Only three allowed chickens. Does that prove anything? No, but it suggests chickens need not be a drag on a housing market and than banning chickens is not a key to a strong market. Read her article here.

So what are the top four reasons backyard hens or coops appear to be neutral or assets when selling a home?

1) Some MLS properties are now FEATURING chicken coops. - You don't advertise a problem.

2) Cities with strong real estate markets are chicken-friendly. And places young people want to move are chicken friendly. See also the data in Can Backyard Chickens Make Sarasota Hip?

3) The vast majority of large/major US cities allow backyard hens. If they were deal-killers, this number would not be so high. (This urban reality also punches a gigantic hole in the "farm animal" or "livestock" argument).

4) No one seems to have produced any data (that's different than a random anecdote or supposition) that backyard hens or coops by themselves depress real estate values.


Chicken Chick said...

This is perfect! Thanks again for your insightful findings.

Uptown Grange said...

Thank you so much for you work on the post. We are in Glendale, AZ and are in the final stages of trying to get backyard chickens legalized. Your points will help us out tremendously!