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Buying a "fear factor" house

Posted by Rona Fischman May 18, 2010 04:59 PM

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This spring, clients of mine questioned whether they should avoid houses near TV towers. Was there a danger to them? Was there a problem with resale based on the perception of danger? A quick Google search led them to conclude that it was enough of a deterrent to skip houses close to towers.

Last week, I got an email with a similar question:

… I found a house in [deleted] that I really love. My negotiations with the seller have sort of stalled. Our counter-counter offers are about $12,000 apart… My family (mother & uncle, who won't live with me) are concerned about the home's proximity to two cell-phone towers (one is about 200 feet away, the other is about 1,000 feet away). Their primary concern is the difficulty of re-selling the house. The house has been on the market for about 3 months. When it was sold in 2001, it was on the market for 17 days… Would this be hard to re-sell?

When I repeat my clients’ Google search, I come to the same conclusion that my clients did: it is not a bad idea to avoid these houses based on how easy it is to find hysterical information about the danger. Try it yourself; put these words into your favorite search engine: “cell phone tower, danger.” You will quickly read “facts” like this:

…all of us MUST [emphasis his] keep in mind that the human body...is affected by, outside RF energy fields that can promote unwanted nerve stimulation, cancer, heating effects, and many other unwanted effects… cell tower antennas which operate at power levels of about 10 watts FOR EACH ANTENNA [emphasis his]…

From another site, I read a paragraph from the Food and Drug Administration that sees ground-level exposure to RF signals near towers as “within normal limits.” Then I read a series of bullet-points about childhood leukemia, miscarriage, cardiac disruption, sleep disturbance and chronic fatigue, cardiac problems, especially of the arrhythmic type, and cancers, especially brain tumor, vibroacoustic disease. (I never heard of vibroacoustic disease, but I don’t want it! Symptoms can include mood swings, indigestion, ulcers and joint pain.)

The statement that caps my search is this one:

Dr. Gerard Hyland, a physicist who was nominated twice for the Nobel Prize in medicine, [emphasis mine] says, "Existing safety guidelines for cell phone towers are completely inadequate ... Quite justifiably, the public remains skeptical of attempts by governments and industry to reassure them that all is well...

I wear a whole lot of hats, but epidemiologist is not one of them. I have no idea whether these scary statements sit on solid information. I am a real estate broker; I do know that buyers read this information and, rightly or wrongly, make buying choices based on it.

Some will be turned off. If demand for a house goes down because it’s near a tower, then the price will go down, too. Is there a discount big enough to make it worth buying a house with this kind of “fear factor” problem? Why would you buy a fear factor house?

This blog is not written or edited by Boston.com or the Boston Globe.
The author is solely responsible for the content.

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About boston real estate now
Scott Van Voorhis is a freelance writer who specializes in real estate and business issues.

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