Not many home buyers are excited about the prospect of a pipeline in their backyard. Whether or not this lack of enthusiasm actually affects property values is unclear, though. Studies around the US have found results as different as a 50% reduction in home value versus “no statistical effect” on home value.
The bottom line is, we don’t know what pipeline construction actually does to home values. That uncertainty is unsettling, especially for homeowners in Chester and Delaware counties.
The $5.1 billion Mariner East project will deliver 675,000 barrels of volatile liquids across Pennsylvania per day. The plan is to lay two additional pipelines along the path of an existing pipeline. Though the pipelines transect the entire state of Pennsylvania, Chester and Delaware counties are the most densely populated communities in its path.
Opinions on how the pipelines will affect property prices in the area are mixed. On one hand, the market in this area is competitive enough that many homes right on the pipeline are still being sold at asking price, or even entering a bidding war. At the same time, some realtors and homeowners have run into people that will walk away as soon as they find out there’s a pipeline project.
Realtors seem to be in agreement that tactful disclosure is key when selling a home on a pipeline, though they will be careful not to violate their fiduciary agreement with their clients. Several new homeowners in the area stated that they were not told about easements when they purchased their homes. This drives home how important it is to carefully read through all documents when looking at homes, in case they casually mention an easement.
Reporting done by the Philadelphia Inquirer reporter Andrew Maykuth followed several families in the area who were personally affected by the pipeline. Maykuth interviewed the Cibelli family, who purchased a dream home in the Exton area in 2016. Just two months later, they found out – thanks to a Sunoco representative who came knocking – that their backyard was directly in the path of the pipeline.
The Cibellis had no idea this construction would take place. Maykuth’s reporting revealed other families that were upset for the same reason. Shannon Healy, a new homeowner in the Middleton Township, didn’t know that Sunoco had paid the previous owner for the easement.
Both the Cibellis and Healys reported they wouldn’t have bought these homes if they’d known.
The reality is, pipeline construction leaves a bad taste in the mouth of buyers – especially if they weren’t given fair warning at time of purchase. Publicity regarding the refurbishment of the pipeline (and its expansion from 75,000 barrels per day to 657,000 barrels per day) didn’t reach many potential buyers, or they didn’t realize the exact area that would be affected.
Nevertheless, many real estate professionals remain optimistic. The market is still competitive thanks to a housing shortage, which likely will dampen the impact of construction. As the projects wrap up and the grass grows back, home prices are likely to rebound even more.
Everyone admits that the heaps of dirt and beeping construction vehicles aren’t attractive for buyers. One problem: the project’s completion is indefinite. Again, this brings more uncertainty – and markets hate uncertainty. The first of the two new pipelines is nearly complete, but there is no date for the third pipeline.
Perhaps it’s uncertainty and active construction that’s the real problem, since the properties already stand alongside an existing pipeline.