Sometimes there is more to a pleasant park than meets the eye. In fact, on some occasions you may actually lose value in a property if the recreational area is poorly policed or badly maintained.
Particularly in today’s housing market, which sports many vacant houses and localities in which property taxes simply do not cover park maintenance anymore, it is vitally important that you are able to effectively and accurately evaluate local parks and recreation areas.
For starters, check out the vacancy rate in local homes. If the rate is high, then it’s likely that the parks may be suffering as well simply due to a lack of traffic. When fewer people use these areas they are more likely to attract criminal elements, so check out the local police blotter as well just as you would when you evaluate a neighborhood’s crime rates.
Don’t rely on Google maps to tell you about all local parks; drive through the areas and check them out for yourself. In some states many state parks have been closed due to lack of funding so you may find that what looks like a great recreational area is actually locked down. Also, check out the maintenance in the area. Are playgrounds safe? Is the grass cut? If there are soccer goals or basketball courts, are the facilities clean and neat or run-down with broken goals and baskets? If the latter is the case, then your park may not be adding the value to the property that you think it is.
Next, look for “invisible” parks. These are recreational areas not yet developed, and you can find out about them in local community plans. A community that not only is planning on developing public space for community enjoyment but also has a viable, concrete plan in place to do so and a timeline on which to do it is a community that is likely to grow in desirability over time.
For example, several communities in the Atlanta, GA area opted several years ago to turn runoff-water reservoirs into park areas. These parks do double-duty during heavy storms, holding rainwater to better protect local homes and serving as beautiful, enjoyable play spaces when they are not on “reservoir duty.”
As a result, the communities around them have grown significantly because the areas are well-maintained, offer additional property security during severe weather and indicate that the local community is involved in maintaining property values. Also, on a purely aesthetic note, the reservoir-parks are far more attractive than the more-common fenced-in holes in the ground commonly used for holding excess runoff water. Property owners who bought in the area before the recreational spaces were developed have experienced appreciation in many cases despite the down housing market.
With the term “green space” becoming ubiquitous in descriptions of what homeowners want near their properties, more and more communities are working on developing these attractive parks and recreational spaces. Spotting an area that will soon have this type of amenity can be a great way to hedge your bets when buying investment property for the long- or short-term.
Conversely, spotting poorly-managed parks can save you from a purchase that you may have cause to regret in the near future. Do you factor in parks and recreational space or green space when you buy?