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“They” Say – So it Must Be True, Right?

By Hank Miller | April 1, 2013

Where does the line between empirical research and hyperbole exist? “Research shows” or “Data Proves” are frequently the opening line to something that ends up making a reader wonder just how “they” know that and if that certain conclusion can really be supported.


© alexskopje -

© alexskopje -

Public transit within walking distance results in a 42% boost in home value. Neighborhoods near MLB stadiums cost more – especially if the team has a better shot at winning the 2013 World Series. A sex offender living next door to a family renders their home "virtually unmarketable". Is there really any way to support these types of claims? Common sense has to come into play of course, along with the understanding that location trumps everything when it comes to real estate. Location is a prickly thing – it makes generalizing anything “real estate” very difficult.

Let’s take the National Association of Realtors report titled “The New Real Estate Mantra: Location Near Public Transportation”. To be certain, this is exactly what you expect; a detailed and lengthy analysis of property values close to vs. distant of public transit hubs. There are ample pages of data and explanation along with the requisite number of graphs and charts. However, the study looked at five metro areas – Boston, Chicago, Minneapolis-St Paul, Phoenix and San Francisco. Is it accurate to take the data from this study and apply it broadly with a headline that can lead readers to misinterpret the results? Especially when the study ignores the entire southeast and central United States?

With as many major league baseball teams as there are, everyone in the county probably has some experience with being at and around ball parks. How many of these are in areas that can be considered highly desirable? Well Trulia will answer that question with their post “Take Me Next Door to the Ball Game”. I think this article is generally accurate; obviously cities like San Francisco, Boston and Washington are highly desirable areas. Despite a team that seems to be competitive, areas around Turner Field in Atlanta are considered second to last in expense – something I know to be true as I’ve worked the Atlanta real estate market for almost twenty years. This is an article that intuitively makes sense; the specific data might be open for discussion but the gist of the post is sound.

The AP article “Molester Should Buy Victim's House So She Can Move, Suit Says” relates a nauseating story. A neighbor molested this family’s daughter, went to prison and returned to live in the home next door that he owns; clearly not a good situation. However, how can the adverse impact on value due to a sex offender next door be determined? It shocks many people to log onto registered sex offender sites and look at where these people are living, there are more than a few out there. Would paired sales analysis be used? How can you conclusively determine that $XXX was lost due specifically to the sex offender?

Caution must be exercised when seeing headlines that scream “Adding Granite in Your Kitchen Adds 15% to Value” or “New Garage Doors Shorten Marketing Time”. Channels like HGTV can be intoxicating with their advice and recommendations, but the fact remains that while generalizations might be fine, it’s misleading to get too specific. The public is a pretty smart group; as long as common sense is maintained when reading how to “Sell Your Home in a Week Using Aroma Therapy” everyone should be alright. In the end, the real estate market determines the value of a home, nothing more.

Hank Miller is a full time Associate Broker and Certified Appraiser in Atlanta. He is known as much for his attention to detail as he is for his candor. Visit for all things real estate.
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