News from the Tennessee Valley State, Local and National news
MONDAY, APRIL 16, 2007

This house on Mark Street Southwest has a boat parked in the front yard.
Daily photos by Jonathan Palmer
This house on Mark Street Southwest has a boat parked in the front yard and clutter on the side, below.

Marina on
Mark Street

Even code-compliant homes can hurt neighboring property values

By Paul Huggins · 340-2395

Gail Warren shakes her head in disbelief as she rides up and down her street and views neighbors with as many as four vehicles or a large cabin cruiser on the front lawn.

Plus there’s the neighbor who has seven window air conditioners stacked under a backyard carport, another neighbor with an old truck under a tarp in the backyard and another who keeps piles of wood scraps in the backyard.

“It just doesn’t make any sense to me,” said Warren, who lives on Mark Street Southwest.

It confuses her that some homeowners don’t keep their properties looking good and don’t see how the blight emerging from their neglect hurts other neighbors.

This past year, one of her neighbors in the Larkwood Subdivision felt the sting of an $11,200 loss in home sales revenue. It was a well-kept house with new carpet that should have sold in 30 to 60 days but remained on the market for about 10 months, said Mary Ann Scott, Re/Max Realtor. The reason for the hard sell was a house across the street with excessive vehicles and poor curb appeal.

To close the deal, the seller had to add $2,200 in new appliances, lower the price $5,000 and agree to pay the $4,000 in closing costs, she said. Together they probably cost the seller about 15 percent of the property value.

“I’ve seen that happen so many times over the years,” Scott said. “You drive up in front of a house and (the potential buyer) won’t go in because of the house across the street. It probably affects value some, but what’s really tough is it affects market times. The houses will sit on the market longer.”

Property appraisers said there’s no set rule for how much one blighted house can affect the value of another house. Each situation will have different results.

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Warren has several main concerns on her street.One is that many homeowners are parking as many as six cars at their homes and with the small driveways, many are parking on the grass. Thursday night, for example, found one house with four vehicles parked on grass, two houses with three vehicles on grass, four houses with two vehicles on grass and eight houses with one car on grass.

Nearly all of the vehicles appeared to be in working condition and in regular use.

But other neighbors appear to be keeping vehicles and other old items, and Warren wonders if they ever intend to use them. Many are in backyards and apparent only from the back alley. One house that particularly bothered Warren was at 305 Mark St.

The homeowner, Don Dial, has a cabin cruiser parked in his front yard that Warren said she has never seen moved. It also has a boat trailer and camper in a side yard, as well as several lawn mowers. The backyard has another cabin cruiser. Dial said he agrees with Warren on the growing number of eyesores on their street, and until recently the worst was a rental house next door where a family constantly threw trash in the yard that blew into his yard. The neighbors, who moved recently, also were vocally rude and sometimes tried parking in his front lawn.

He said he’s building a house in the country to get away from what he thinks is a growing bad element in his neighborhood and that doesn’t leave much time to keep his yard straight. Dial also pointed out that he laid gravel on a side yard to make a driveway for the camper and other boats.

Boat used as barrier

As for the boat in the front yard, Dial said he decided to keep it there as a barrier to his former unruly neighbors. He said he didn’t see the point of spending a few thousand dollars to build a privacy fence because he planned to move.

“Why should I clean up when you can crawl through a hole of this house next door and where they’ve cleaned off paintbrushes on the brick?” he said.

His other next-door neighbors said they don’t have a problem with Dial’s boats and camper, and described Dial as an ideal neighbor.

David Lee, code enforcement officer for Decatur, said in reference to Warren’s complaints that the only thing that might pose a violation is if the vehicles are not current with license and registration. Otherwise, working vehicles, whether cars or boats or utility trailers, parked in yards are not considered a public nuisance, he said.

Warren said she often wonders whether the city is blind to the problem of random neighborhood blight, but also thinks it shouldn’t require city intervention but be the responsibility of the homeowners and tenants.

From a Realtor’s perspective, Scott said she hopes Decatur will do more to ensure residents take care of their properties.

“It really does almost spoil a whole block when you got one house that’s just trashed,” she said.

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