How Does Your Street Name Affect Home Values?

We’ve touched on this topic a few times over the years, and often had fun with some silly street names.

But there’s one street name, right here in Ontario, that’s not so funny.

Residents in rural Puslinch, Ontario are fighting to change the name of a particular “offensive” street name in their township right now, and meeting a little resistance along the way.

Let’s discuss, and then perhaps look at some of the more bizarre street names here in Toronto…

Street-Names-Matter

I sold a house last week on Runnymede Road in Bloor West Village, and the name of the street actually helped my clients secure the property.

Runnmede Road, as you probably know, is a busy street.

Busy streets, as you also know, affect the value of a home.

Apples to apples, nobody would choose to live on a busy street!  And thus an identical house on a busy street, compared to a quiet street, would undoubtedly sell for less on the open market.

Runnymede Road is a busy street, but moreso north of Bloor Street.

The property my clients purchased is located just south of Bloor, and as Runnymede only begins one block south at Morningside Avenue, there is far, far less traffic on the street than on the section of Runnymede located north of Bloor.

I figured there were likely a lot of buyers, and perhaps buyer agents, who didn’t stop to check whether this house was south of Bloor, and simply assumed it was on the “really busy” stretch of road that takes you up to Dundas Street.

In the end, we figure the negative conotation of “Runnymede Road” may have saves us a bit of money, and probably saved us competing for the house.

I have all kinds of stories about street names in Toronto, some good, some bad.

You may have heard this one before – but years and years ago, I had a client who refused to look at a house on Gooch.

My clients were looking in Bloor West Village, and the proverbial “perfect home” came onto the market, and I sent them the listing.

The guy was all jazzed about the house, already asking about closing dates, and potential selling prices.

The girl, on the other hand, put her foot down.

“There’s absolutely no way in hell I’m living on a street called Gooch.”

I didn’t think she was serious at first; I figured it was that sort of “no way in hell” where maybe you’re just expressing your first impression, and then eventually you’ll warm to the idea.

But she explained, “The word ‘Gooch’ sounds like a combination of crotch, hooch, and one other I can’t even say out loud.”

She added that she feared what her grandmother might say when she told her the address.

So there’s a story about a bad street name, that you kind of have to laugh at.

If you read the papers over the weekend (raise your hand if you still get home delivery?), you probably read the story about the residents of a street in Puslinch, Ontario, who have petitioned the city to get the street name changed.

The street name in question?

Swastika Trail

The street was named back in the 1920’s, when the swastika was still a religious symbol, synonymous with good luck and prosperity.

As we all know, the Nazi Party in Germany eventually adopted the swastika as their dominant symbol, and the rest is history.

Swastika Trail has been in existence in this rural part of Ontario for nearly 100 years, but only now are residents trying to get the name changed.

There have been a half-dozen articles on this over the last few days, but the CBC article was the most complete.  Check it out HERE.

I read that B’Nai Brith Canada was involved, and petitioning the Township of Puslinch to change the name, but it wasn’t until I read the CBC article that I became aware it was the residents themselves who reached out to B’Nai Brith Canada, and not the other way around.

Interestingly enough, there are residents who are against the name-change!

Who’d have thought?

Now is this the same thing as people being against the idea of changing the name, “Washington Redskins?”

Different?  Same?  Not the right topic for a real estate blog?  Right.

Some interesting tid-bits from the CBC article include one resident on the street who encountered a seller on Ebay who wouldn’t honour her purchase, because the seller was Jewish and thought the resident was a white supremacist.

Another resident claims that a real estate agents have claimed people “didn’t have to use the street name Swastika Trail, they could substitute the rural route address.”

This proved to be false, of course.  Imagine that – real estate agents being dishonest…

So I suppose the bigger question here is, “Should the street name be changed because it’s offensive?”

But as I said, then we get into a 2-part debate about whether the Cleveland Indians, Atlanta Braves, Washington Redskins, Kansas City Chiefs, Edmonton Eskimos, Florida State Seminoles, and a host of other teams need to change their names, as well as (and this is the more contentious part of the debate), which names and/or logos are offensive, and which aren’t.

The Cleveland Indians baseball team were established in 1901, and it was around 1932 that the team started using a characature of an indian as their primary logo.

The most well-known version of “Chief Wahoo,” which is a giant, smiling, red-faced indian cartoon, has appeared on the baseball team’s apparel since 1951, and is still in use today.

In recent years, there have been calls from all kinds of people, from all kinds of places, to cease using the “offensive” Chief Wahoo logo.  The Washington Redskins took their battle to federal court.  The Edmonton Eskimos are having their day in the court of public opinion as we speak.

So what do you make of the residents of Puslinch, Ontario, who don’t want the name “Swastika Trail” to be changed?

A pessmist would say, “They’re racist, or at the very least, insensitive.”

An optimist would say, “The swastika was made into an awful symbol, from what was formerly a great symbol.  We want to make it great again; make it the symbol of prosperity and good fortune that it used to be.”

Some believe that the street name was established before the swastika logo was hijacked by evil.  Now how does that compare with the idea that the Cleveland Indians logo or Washington Redskins’ name were created “in a different time,” that somehow shouldn’t be relevant today?

Are these situations the same?  Different?

So that’s the part of the debate that we can’t solve, and forgive me for straying way off topic on what is (primarily…) a blog about real estate, but some context is necessary.

As for whether a street name can affect the value of homes in the area, well, I think that should be quite obvious at this point.

For the life of me, I don’t know who would buy a house on Swastika Trail.  Even if the buyer doesn’t care about the name, they surely have to consider the implication it would have on resale value.

If I can tell the story of a buyer who wouldn’t buy on “Gooch Avenue,” then surely you can imaine the impact that “Swastika Trail” could have.

I wrote a blog back in 2015 where I talked about things other than the street name, such as the “half” street numbers, ie. 112 1/2 Main Street, the letters, ie. 97A Main Street and 97B Main Street, and the numbers of cultural significance, ie. the positive reaction to “8” and the negative reaction to “4.”

You can read that blog HERE if you’re curious.

And then there’s my 2013 video on funny street names in Toronto.

Have a look, and maybe even question why I decided to film this in the alleyway at my office, rather than just about any other place in the city that would have looked better…

Whether it’s the street name or the street number, they both can have a positive or negative affect on the valuation of the property.

I’ve seen home-owners who live on a corner lot go out of their way to change the address from one street to the other.  “Sutherland” vs. “Bessborough,” for example.  I recall a neighbour in Leaside undertaking to change the address of his/her house over a decade ago, and I honestly think it had a significant affect, maybe as much as 10%.

I often mock the idea of “luxury goods,” since I would derive zero added marginal utility from owning a Louis Vuitton bag, compared to one I bought at Sporting Life.  But that’s me, and maybe I don’t represent the masses.  If a majority of consumers do recognize an added utility and added value from a brand-name consumer good, then I can’t argue the value is real.

I’m no expert in consumer goods.

But I am an expert in real estate.  So trust me when I say that the “brand name” of a particular street is a real thing.

Forget about Swastika Trail, or many of the ridiculous names you’ll find by Googling “funny street names” (most are related to male/female anatomy), but rather think about something more realistic in terms of your property search.  Would you pay more, or less, for a different street name?

There are “brand name” streets in every neighbourhood.

Heward Avenue is often referred to as a “prime street” in Leslieville, so much so, in fact, that I believe there’s a premium placed on houses on that street, compared to, say, Winnifred Avenue, two streets over.

I mentioned “Bessborough Drive” above.  That’s another great example of a real, identifiable premium for a street name.

So who, ultimately, creates that premium?  Who decides on how much it is?

Buyers, of course.

So if you’re a buyer, the decision is yours.

Would you pay more, or less, for a given street name?

I’d love to hear about some real-life examples from the readers.

Oh – and weigh in on the Swastika Trail issue too, if you’re up for it…

17 Comments

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  1. Foreign Lady says:

    Forget street names. Think bigger. I cannot stand city names: Missisauga and Vaughan (and I live here!). I used to live in North York, and it was very easy to pronounce and explain where I live to my foreign relatives. Now I’m in Vaughan and I always say I live in Woodbridge. Yes, English is my second language, and my first language does affect my perception of these names. so be it. I will never move to Missisauga. Richmond Hill – oh yes! Much better pronunciation and easier spelling 🙂

  2. Condodweller says:

    Aside from obscene sounding names I would not want to have an address with a long difficult to spell street name. I’d hate to have to spell it out multiple times every time I have to provide it over the phone as an answer to a security question.

  3. paul says:

    i think it does have an impact. There was a house listed that we liked on PAUL STREET. i overbid 100k over asking to secure the house.

  4. Marina says:

    I think the Redskins controversy is different. Swastikas used to have a positive meaning. Redskins simply came from a time when it was OK to be racist.
    That said, we don’t live 100 years ago. Change the name. For those who want to keep it, they can name their house. I for one will not be living at Swastika Cottage or Swastika Grange, but they are welcome to it.

  5. Mark N says:

    After the outbreak of WWI in 1914, there was considerable controversy about the name of the City of Berlin, Ontario. A referendum was held in 2016, and as a result Berlin was renamed Kitchener.

  6. Paully says:

    Clansman Blvd. in North York is another lousy street name.

    Then there is Wynn Rd. That one is just plain scary.

  7. Tommy says:

    They should change the name of the town while they’re at it. PussyLynch, Ontario doesn’t sound like a great place to live in.

  8. Shazz says:

    I really wanted to live on a street with a fancy name but accepted my fate when the house that I liked was on a street called Lynch st.

    My kids were actually embarrassed by the name. I tried to convince them that its a noun not a verb but they still find it quite distasteful.

  9. Ralph Cramdown says:

    “Even if the buyer doesn’t care about the name, they surely have to consider the implication it would have on resale value.”

    So you pay less when you buy, get less when you sell, and enjoy lower interest costs while you live there. The stigma is going to gradually fade over time (oh yes it will…) and you get free upside optionality: If you can get your neighbours to petition to change the name (to something other than Mould Avenue), you get an uplift.

    P.S. What added marginal utility do you get from leasing a Lexus?

    1. GinaTo says:

      That’s the example I had in mind – I chuckle every time I see a house for sale on Mould Ave. Having said that, if the house had enough of what I want, it would never stop me from buying.

  10. Libertarian says:

    I’m glad your clients got a house for a decent price on the quieter part of Runnymede, but won’t that experience repeat itself when they go to sell, i.e., they won’t get many interested buyers?

    1. Geoff says:

      I’d say theoretically yes, but then again it depends on the time horizon. If it’s home for the next 2 decades, it’s less of an issue as there’s so many other factors at play by then as well.

    2. Kyle says:

      If they hire a good Agent when they go to sell, the Agent will market that it is on the “quiet” part of the street.

    3. Ralph Cramdown says:

      Exactly it, right? If you boil down this post and take out all the sports analogies, what do you get? ” I got my buyers a great deal because [problem that will probably still be there when they sell], but who would ever buy a house with [problem that will probably still be there when they sell]?

  11. Sardonic Lizard says:

    Huh! Nothing but entitled buyers with unrealistic expectations.

  12. Geoff says:

    Hmm interesting. I can understand the swastika thing, the gooch thing I think I’d live with. If I could get a house in rosedale for $500K I’d happily live on Satan Boulevard.

  13. XYZABC says:

    Oh, the abuse of the poor swastika. We are from India where the swastik is still the symbol of good luck and well-being. We had put it (temp red ink) on our door (facing outside) when we bought our new house back in 2010; and then we had a Jewish gentleman come by for a door replacement who was jarred a bit by it. But we did talk about it and he was super understanding of how what the swastika meant to us in India versus what it has become in the West….

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