Examining Subtle Factors in Home Value

When determining a home's market value, there are major characteristics that rightly command most of the attention; things such as square footage, neighborhood, and the number of bedrooms are both obvious in importance and easy to quantify. However, there are an almost innumerable amount of more subtle factors that also come into play, a fact examined in a recent study by real estate analytics company HouseCanary. They sought to determine the effect of 5 "hidden" characteristics on a home's value. These details might not always receive an obvious, or even conscious, emphasis, but they are nevertheless connected to the market value of the home. In fact, significant correlations not only exist for things like frontage length and backyard slope, but they also show distinct regional trends.

HouseCanary analyzed home value data from across the nation in conjunction with 5 "hidden" factors: view angle from backyard, frontage length, backyard exposure to neighbors, privacy score, and backyard slope. They also attempted to control for other, well-known valuation variables, such as lot size and square footage, in order to determine the effect of each hidden factor. Here are their findings, ranked according to degree of influence observed:

1. View angle from the backyard

For this measurement, HouseCanary measured the angle (from 0-180°) of the backyard view that looked on nature or scenery as opposed to other houses. Nationwide, greater view angles correlated with higher value in over 95% of counties, with the greatest effect being observed in the Midwest.

2. Frontage length

This factor refers to the length of the side of the home's lot which faces the street. A positive effect was found in over 88% of counties, meaning that a longer frontage length tended to result in higher home value. The authors believe that simply having more frontage grants more total curb appeal. Frontage was most important in the South.

3. Backyard exposure

This is essentially the inverse of #1, measuring how much of your backyard is visible to neighbors. As you would expect, more exposure equaled lower home value, an effect which appeared in 83% of counties. The negative effect was greatest in the Northeast.

4. Privacy score

HouseCanary developed a "privacy score" by combining backyard exposure, distance to neighbors, home density, and other metrics to see how much overall privacy was valued across the country. About 72% of counties showed values increase with added privacy, particularly in rural areas.

5. Backyard slope

Simply put, would you prefer your backyard to slope up, slope down, or be flat? This effect was the most varied from place to place, but in general an upward-sloping backyard was less desirable and a downward-sloping backyard was more desirable, with flat falling somewhere in between. The effect was strongest in places with a mix of hilly and flat terrain.

You can learn more about the methodology and results of the study at HouseCanary.com.