The True Value Of A Train “In Your Backyard”

Talk about timing!

A few weeks ago, I wrote a blog that featured a home backing onto the Go Train tracks, complete with a video of not one, but two trains passing by simultaneously.

We debated the pros and cons of buying a home that backs onto the tracks, but of course, the only “pro” is the discount you get.

Now what is that discount?  We had absolutely no way of knowing.  Until now…

Train

Seriously, the timing here is amazing!

This undeniably answers the question, “What sort of a discount should you expect for the house backing onto a train?”

If you didn’t watch the video last month, here it is again:

 

And as though the real estate Gods were reading my blog, they provided us with a perfect example only weeks later.

Two houses came out last week, and sold this past week, that we can use to find the “discount” for a home backing onto the train tracks.

These two houses:

1) Are on the same street
2) Sold during the same week
3) Have an identical interior layout

There are some differences in lot size, style/upgrades, and of course – the train, but we can compare and contrast, and figure out what that train is “worth.”

Here’s the first home:

MLSBPhoto01

And here’s the second home:

MLSBPhoto02

So the house that does not back onto the train tracks sold for $215,000 more than the house that does back onto the train tracks.

Right there, you could call the difference $215,000.

These homes are identical in layout on the main and second level, to a “t.”

They are both 4-bedroom, 1-bathroom homes.

But there were a few differences that should be noted:

1) Lot Size

Without Train – 40.87 x 110 feet
With Train – 29.5 x 91 feet

The house without the train probably gets $75,000 for the larger lot.

You might suggest it’s more, but the houses themselves are the same size, so you’re not really getting any additional marginal utility.

The house without the train, that had the larger lot, didn’t really seem to have a larger backyard.  In fact, it was only 40.87 at the very front of the lot, and it narrowed significantly at the back, and you could see all the neighbours.

The house with the train had more privacy, but of course, a train.

2) Basement

Without Train – “Finished”
With Train “Unfinished”

I’m using quotations there because “finished” and “unfinished” appear on MLS, but it’s quite misleading.

The house without the train claims a “finished” basement, but it’s poorly finished, and cheaply at that.

The house with the train does truly have a fully “unfinished” basement, but for some reason, there’s 8-foot ceiling height down there!

Do you know what it would cost to under-pin a basement?  For a home like this, probably $50,000, maybe more.

So I’d rather have the house with the 8-foot, unfinished basement, than the house with the 6-foot, poorly-finished basement.  And the “finished” basement in the home without the train, probably only cost $5,000 anyways, so there’s no added value there in my opinion.

3) Condition

Without Train – rated a C-
With Train – rated a B+

Both houses featured a lot of original character and charm, with gumwood trim, stained-glass window, and original hardwood flooring.

But the house with the train was in much better shape overall, with a fully-renovated kitchen, and fully-renovated bathroom.

Ignoring the basement once again, which warranted its own point above, I’d say the house with the train had about $30,000 in upgrades in the kitchen and baths.

So now let’s recap:

Sale Price Difference: $215,000
Lot Size: -$75,000
Basement: +$50,000
Condition: +$30,000
Discount For Train: $220,000

That’s a huge number!

But I followed both sales closely, and while the house without the train sold with a bully offer on the second day of the listing, the house with the train sold on offer night with only two offers.

It seemed as though everybody who walked into that house thought, “Love this place; can’t live with that train.”

So let me ask the question from last month’s blog video again: would you buy the house with the train for a $220,000 difference in price?

6 Comments

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  1. Pete says:

    While the dollar comparison works here, it’s unlikely there would be a $220K difference in house that sold for less money. I’d be interested to see if the percentage was the same, regardless of the sale price. In this example, it’s roughly a 16% discount for the train. That’s a pretty huge savings, regardless of the selling price.

    1. Natrx says:

      It is, but there are many people who think Trains are bad for health, dangerous for kids despite it being fenced off. So I could see that discount for a house that backs on to a busy line (the premiums are those with young kids or the thought of having a family soon).

  2. JD says:

    I think that buying a house with a flaw (tracks, busy street etc) allows you to get into a neighbourhood that you otherwise couldn’t afford. I for one would absolutely choose a house like this over a smaller one, a semi or one in a lesser neighbourhood. We’re on a fairly busy street now and you really do get used to it. I know that we will sell it at a discount but bought it at one.

  3. Marina says:

    To me it’s similar to the busy road question. We live near Lawrence Park. A house right on Lawrence would be 2-300 K cheaper than even a few houses in.
    But I’d rather get a smaller house on a family street than a bigger house on Lawrence.
    Same for the train.
    Or a fire station, bus depot, subway station etc.
    But those houses sell every day so to each his own.

  4. WENDY says:

    Shouldnt the basement calculation be -50k? it’s finished and the lots its so much bigger. The one without train have the unusual wide lot compare to other detaches in the area. So much potential for rebuild later on. Dont think the 220k is a true reflection on how much influence the train had on the property

    1. @ Wendy

      The basement with the 8-foot ceiling is worth more than the basement with the 5’10” ceiling, even if the latter is finished.

      The cost to underpin the latter is $50,000.

      Their “finishing” consisted of 2 x 4, drywall, and paint. It was a hack job, hence why I put “finished” in quotations.

      The idea above is that the $220,000 difference is straight up, but the larger lot is worth $75,000 more, so you subtract that from the $220,000 – because it helps explain the difference. But the house with the train has a $50,000 BETTER basement, and $30,000 in upgrades to the kitchen and baths, hence you add that back.

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