How Crime Rates Affect the Real Estate Market

Many factors affect a potential homeowner’s decision to buy a house, but one of the most important is safety. Neighborhoods with low crime rate are much more attractive than those with a higher tendency for crime.

Crime and the Real Estate Market

Because housing markets fluctuate due to a plethora of different factors, it is difficult to pinpoint the exact role of crime rate in the overall health of a market. However, there is one common thread that was discovered in a 2010 study by researchers at Florida State University. They found that robbery and aggravated assault most highly influenced housing values across different neighborhoods. Another study from the University of Troy found that an area’s home prices fell 0.25% for every 1% increase in violent crime.

Another interesting trend is that sometimes crime rate in one city can affect the real estate prices in another. For example, if City A slashes their police force in half and crime rates rise, neighboring City B may experience a spike in home prices because of people moving to that city. This happened in California back in 2008.

Potential Homeowners

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It’s not uncommon for homeowners to research an area’s crime rate before house hunting in that region. They would rather know in advance than be surprised after they move in. A history of high or rising crime rates may also take these areas off a homeowner’s option list entirely. When this becomes a pattern, it leads to the overall decrease in an area’s property value.

Pittsburgh Crime Rates

Unfortunately, Pittsburgh has one of the nation’s highest violent crime rates across all communities. In the entire state of Pennsylvania, you have a 1 in 316 chance of being a victim of a violent crime. In Pittsburgh, your chances jump to 1 in 126. Pittsburgh residents also have a 1 in 30 chance of becoming the victim of a property crime, such as burglary, theft or motor vehicle theft.

Crime Prevention Methods

When the residents of an area understand how crime affects their property values and other aspects of the community (such as business, school quality, etc.), they’re more invested in finding effective methods for crime prevention. Two common examples are neighborhood watch programs and after school programs to teach good habits from a young age. If you’re concerned about your neighborhood’s safety, get involved with the community to find solutions.

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Tips for Building Your Perfect Privacy Fence

If you have a yard but live in close proximity to your neighbors, a privacy fence could give your outdoor space the peace and seclusion you’re looking for. Any chain link fence would keep your pets safe and give them a place to roam free, but a privacy fence adds a level of sophistication. The right privacy fence could give your yard the backdrop for an outdoor sanctuary of your dreams.

Primary Materials

There are numerous options for your privacy fence, but it boils down a handful of options for your primary material. These are wood, vinyl, masonry, composite or vegetation. Each has their own pros and cons based on cost, maintenance and aesthetic appeal.

Wood

Wooden fences are a classic option for privacy fences. They’re generally affordable for most homeowners. The cost varies depending on the quality level of the wood you purchase, but good sealant and proper installation is key regardless of what wood you purchase. Because of the nature of wood, you can paint or stain the wood any shade you choose. For a uniform look and quicker installation, you could purchase wood panels so your fence is partially pre-assembled upon arrival. Or, you could buy your own wood to create your own personalized fence with some design flexibility.

The biggest drawback of a wooden fence is that it requires yearly maintenance. It will need to be re-stained or refinished with sealant that protects from UV rays and water damage. Otherwise, the wood could rot, warp or fall victim to fungus. If you’re buying the wood or panels from a hardware store, you should also sort through to ensure you’re buying the best of the bunch. Look for pieces that are already warped or misshapen and avoid picking them for your project.

One pro tip for the craftier of homeowners: use recycled wood! If you can find pallets, mismatched wood, and other materials at a cheap price, you could use your creativity to turn it into a unique masterpiece. With poor craftsmanship, it could turn into a mess. However, when these fences are done properly, they create an artsy, rustic space that is perfect for some homeowners’ styles. Pinterest has some great inspiration for creative privacy fences.

Vinyl

Vinyl fences are an alternative to the look of standard wood. The fences are usually white, gray or cream-colored, providing a neutral backdrop for your outdoor area. They’re resilient to termite damage, fungus and dry rot. Cleaning is a breeze because they can easily be sprayed off to remove dirt and grime. Installation is also reportedly very easy. The biggest disadvantage is the cost. The initial investment is higher than that of a wooden fence. The material can also become distorted with extreme temperatures or wind.

Vegetation

If you live in an area with the proper climate, a living vegetation fence could be a great option for privacy. A wall of columnar evergreens at the edge of your property adds life to the space while providing a visual barrier to passersby. Tall hedges are another great option. These fences are also usually unrestricted by local bylaws and building codes that limit the height of a fence on residential property. If the upkeep of natural vegetation is too time-consuming for your lifestyle, you might also consider artificial hedge paneling for your fencing needs.

Composite

Composite fences are visually similar to wood fences, but require less maintenance and hold up better over time. The only downside is that they are far more costly.

Bamboo

Bamboo is another great alternative because it is tough, grows quickly and can withstand most temperatures and treatments. For environmentally-friendly homeowners, these fences are a great option. If you frame the bamboo sections with black metal, it adds a sophistication to your yard that is hard to replicate with other materials.

Stone, Brick or Concrete

For homeowners who want a unique design with maximum privacy and security, they may consider a fence made of stone, brick or concrete. Concrete is the cheapest of the three options, but stone and brick fences look more natural in some landscapes. With a high enough fence, it is nearly impossible for intruders or unwanted animal guests to break into your private space. These fences are also extremely durable and require little maintenance.

Additional Considerations

Before you start your fencing project, be sure that you’re confident about your property line. If you build your fence on a neighbor’s property, it could result in a tedious legal battle and ultimately removal of your fence.

If you’re not confident in your ability to build a fence on your own, consult a local contractor or landscaper. They will be familiar with your area’s building codes and have the raw skills needed to get the job done right.

Carefully consider all your options before jumping into the project. With all the fence materials available, you can pick one or combine them to create a unique border for your space. Shop around for the best price and materials. If you’re choosing to outsource the job, consider the reputation of the workers you’re hiring.

A nice privacy fence is a big investment. In some cases, is better to save up for an end result you’ll be happy with instead of rushing for the quickest fix. If you need a barrier while saving for your dream fence, invest in a chain link fence for temporary use. They are cheap and easy to install in comparison to other fence types. They also sell slats for your chain link fence that would give you some additional privacy. This option isn’t as aesthetically pleasing as the other options mentioned above, but it is a great choice for homeowners on a budget who want some privacy in their yard.

Best of luck with your new fence! If you have any additional tips, tell me in the comments or connect with me on social media.

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Jason Cohen (Pittsburgh) originally posted this content at JasonCohenPittsburgh.org.

The Ugly Truth About Foreclosed Homes

For anyone who has ever been looking for a home within a tight budget, you may have had the opportunity to consider a home that went through the foreclosure process.

The length of a foreclosure process varies by state. In Pittsburgh and the surrounding areas, a lender must use the judicial foreclosure process because that is Pennsylvania law. The judicial process in Pennsylvania reportedly takes 90 days.

Purchasing a foreclosed home isn’t always a bad decision. You can often find diamonds in the rough at a low price. If the home is in the pre-foreclosure stage, you could get it through a short sale. If a bank is motivated to sell the property quickly, that could be a good negotiation tool for you. It is also a plus that you won’t be responsible for any liens or back taxes from the previous owner since the home’s title is cleared.

Dangers of Purchasing Foreclosed Homes

Although foreclosed homes are sometimes great deals, there are some potential pitfalls that you should be cognizant of.

Occupants

When dealing with a foreclosure, the occupant is often still in the home throughout the foreclosure process. How would you feel if you were losing your home because you couldn’t afford the payments? Some people would take it with grace, but that’s unfortunately not always the case. There are many instances where the occupant damages the home out of spite and hurt feelings. For example, they may leave holes in the walls, destroy appliances, let their pets urinate and defecate on the floors, etc. If you ask a real estate agent, I’m sure they could tell you some horror stories.

Repairs

The bottom line is that you don’t know what condition the home will be left in. If the property is at auction, you won’t even get to see the interior until you’ve already paid in full. Even if you are able to see the property’s interior prior to the sale, you may not be able to request repairs before buying the home. What you see is what you get. If the property is in bad shape or not up to code in specific ways, it may limit the possibility of some loans, such as an FHA loan. Although this varies on a case-by-case basis.

Competition

With the recent surge in real estate investors who flip property for profit, you may find yourself competing with other potential buyers for the same property. This is especially true at an auction. Before going in, set a hard budget for yourself and don’t pay more than you would earn from the property in the end. To give yourself an edge, have the required funds available to pay a foreclosed property’s outstanding mortgage balance to the lender.

For all the information you’ll need about risks and potential benefits of purchasing a foreclosed home, consult a trusted local real estate agent.

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Jason Cohen (Pittsburgh) originally posted this content at JasonCohenPittsburgh.com.