Nicole Javorsky is an editorial fellow at Mother Jones, and a former editorial fellow at CityLab.
Live near the dead. You just might get a discount on your home, and have (very, very) quiet neighbors.
It might sound like a morbid joke, but you will likely pay less for your home if the next-door neighbors are lifeless. Homes within a quarter mile of cemeteries, funeral homes, and mortuaries tend to be more affordable in most U.S. metro areas, according to a new Trulia report.
Alexandra Lee, Trulia Data Analyst, arrived at this conclusion by evaluating September 2018 home prices, GeoNames location data on cemeteries, and Yelp business data on funeral homes and mortuaries in 96 of the top 100 U.S. metros by population.
Before you get goosebumps, the concept of demand elasticity helps explain why this ghostly effect on home prices is especially pronounced in some areas like Allentown, Pennsylvania, rather than others. When consumers have more substitutes, their demand is more elastic. It seems that if homebuyers have options for homes farther away from corpses, they would rather not live near the deceased. That is: Live near a cemetery? Over my dead body!
With demand elasticity in mind, it makes more sense that metros that are already more affordable are where ghosts will likelier scare away the dollar signs. The top five metros for increased affordability near cemeteries, funeral homes, and mortuaries are Allentown, Pennsylvania; Columbia, South Carolina; Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania; Albany, New York; and Rochester, New York.
“Allentown is a Rust Belt city, in an area that was hit hard by the recession. Homes right now are still among the most affordable in the country,” Lee explained. “When faced with more choices, it seems like consumers are shying away from cemeteries. We’re saying that if all these homes are affordable and we just don’t want to live near a cemetery, they’re willing to pay just a little bit more to be farther away.”
In some places in the U.S. though, cemeteries do not spook homebuyers. In Philadelphia, Pennsylvania; Silver Spring, Maryland; Richmond, Virginia; and New Orleans, Louisiana, homebuyers will pay steeper prices to live near the dead.
The likely reason for this isn’t so creepy: “Before the era of public parks, cemeteries served that function. So these earlier cemeteries that are well-kept and historic, the home values are higher near them,” Lee told CityLab.
“Looking at some of these places that have high premiums near cemeteries,” Lee continued, “we think it’s because these cemeteries are focal points in their neighborhoods. People want to be near them instead of shunning them away.”
The broader picture across the U.S. though, is one where we don’t want to live near tombstones. Unless you live in a historic neighborhood, you’ll likely pay more to avoid being reminded of death on your walk home. But we will all die eventually. Why not rest in peace knowing you saved extra bucks on your mortgage?