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Evidence inconclusive as to whether turbines affect property values

Since the controversy started over the wind turbines more than three years ago, property values in the surrounding area have been a major concern for residents. But whether there is actually cause for concern is an open question.

Patricia Favulli, acting assessor for the Town of Falmouth, has seen no evidence that home values have been affected. In the years following the installation of Wind 1 at the Falmouth Wastewater Treatment Facility, she said, homes have sold for close to or more than the assessed value. “There are no sales in that area that showed a significant reduction of value,” Ms. Favulli said.

Wind 1 began turning in March 2010 and nine sales were recorded in 2011 and 2012 within a half-mile area of the first turbine, ranging from 8 percent below to 6 percent above the assessed value, she said. The sample size is small, she said, but indicates that there are people willing to buy the homes nearby the turbines. If the turbines were affecting the property values, Ms. Favulli said she would have expected to see a 30 percent drop in value in the area.

Sales in other areas of Falmouth fall within a normal range, she said. Ms Favulli prepared those figures in advance of Town Meeting last month, but was not asked to give a presentation. “Until we start seeing a drop in value in all of these neighborhoods, we can’t attribute it to the turbines,” she said.

One neighbor of the wind turbines, Neil P. Andersen of Blacksmith Shop Road, has filed for a tax abatement. His application was denied because there was no evidence of lost real estate value. He appealed the board of assessors’ decision, but that appeal was also denied, she said. But while there may be no sales data that show property values going down, some houses in the immediate vicinity of the turbines have been on the market for more than a year.

A little over a quarter-mile from Wind 1 and Wind 2 in the Craggy Ridge neighborhood of West Falmouth, four homes are on the market, and two of those have been for sale for more than a year. Carol Burgess of William Raveis Real Estate, a listing agent for one of the homes, said she believes the wind turbines are making it difficult for the owners to sell. “I think it has a lot to do with the stigma of the wind turbines,” she said. If those homes could be moved down the street away from the turbines, they would sell quickly, she said.

The homeowners are selling because they want to downsize, she said. “I do feel badly for them, because they are all people that are retired and they paid a very big penalty, and the turbines have definitely contributed to that,” Ms. Burgess said.

For buyers who are new to Falmouth, the turbines are a complicated and confusing topic. “You try to do your best to explain it and what is going on, but it is a challenging question,” she said. Many buyers would rather purchase a home elsewhere at a similar price, she said. The turbines become a topic of conversation because realtors must disclose anything that could impact the value of the home. “Obviously when you drive up there you can see them. They’re right there,” she said.

The homes on the market in that neighborhood have been for sale for months, some with large reductions in price. A home at 64 Ridgeview Drive was listed for sale in August 2012 for $649,900 and is now on the market for $519,000—a 20 percent drop. Another home at 118 Ambleside was first listed in February 2011 for $489,000, and has twice been removed from the market and re-listed at a lower price. Last month the home was listed for $409,900 – a 16 percent drop from the original price. A home at 110 Ambleside Drive was first listed in March 2012 for $429,000 and has dropped 4 percent, to $410,000. A home at 114 Ambleside was first listed in June 2012 for $465,000, removed and then relisted in February for $449,900—a 3 percent drop from the original asking price.

But Ms. Favulli said all four of those homes are being listed for 6 to 15 percent above the assessed value. Realtors know the comparable properties that have sold, she said, and suggest prices that they believe will draw interest.

During the Falmouth Wind Turbine Options Process some neighbors expressed concerns that the wind turbines would create a “toxic neighborhood,” which could lead to a massive drop in prices. An anonymous survey of 78 neighbors showed that property values followed noise and negative health effects as the primary concerns of neighbors.

Margaret Gifford of Sotheby’s International Realty said there is some anecdotal evidence that turbines keep away buyers. She listed one of the homes on Ambleside Drive and held an open house during the winter when the turbines were within view, “I counted 36 cars that drove by” without stopping, she said. Eventually the home was listed with another broker, but a house on Westmoreland Drive in the same area sold fairly quickly, Ms. Gifford said.

The distance from the turbines is one factor in selling a home, but not the only one, she said. “Some people don’t care about the wind turbines, they care about price,” she said. In general the inventory of homes for sale in Falmouth is very low and it is a good time to sell, she said. There are about 370 homes on the market now, compared to more than 500 houses for sale a year ago. Properties that are priced well will sell, she said. “If a house is priced well, you get a lot of offers on it,” she said.