First Time Buyers: I Looked at a House That is Next Door to a Power Substation. Should I be Worried About That?

Written by Posted On Wednesday, 23 April 2014 05:17


Answer – You are correct to have concerns, but I’m not sure they should extend to worries. There are easements and above ground equipment locations for electricity, gas and water/sewer utilities. Most of these are not really dangerous to be next to; however they can have a stigmatic impact on resale value. Perhaps that’s why the house you looked at seemed to be a good deal.

Electric transformer yards or power substations seldom really blow up, although they may occasionally have what sounds like an explosion (and is) if one of the transformers in the yard blows up due to a short. They may also emit a humming noise, which can be annoying if loud enough. Some sub-stations seem to also attract more lightning strikes than surrounding areas, which is of course loud and frightening in itself, but modern sub-station yards are designed to deal with them. They just tend to look ugly and some utilities don’t do as good of a job as others at landscaping to hide them from view.  It’s the unfounded concern that many people have (and persistent urban rumors) of transformers blowing up and causing damage to the surrounding area that stigmatize the homes that are built right next to one of those stations. It doesn’t mean that they can’t be sold, but the potential buyer pool is sometimes  restricted by fears or concerns about the appearance of them and it can have a negative impact on the resale value.

It is also possible that you will visit houses built almost right under what are called high-tension transmission lines – those big power lines on the huge, high towers. Some people believe that those lines give off such powerful electro-magnetic fields that they can affect your health, so they refuse to live that close to them. At a minimum they are unsightly and ruin the view where they pass through a neighborhood. There are electromagnetic fields under those lines and the EPA has done extensive research on them and the effects that they may have. Click here to read some of the EPA reports, including their warnings about them being potential causes of cancer. The main danger there is if a strong storm or heavy ice buildup brings the lines down, maybe across the house. Again, it’s rare, but not unheard of.

Large diameter gas pipelines also do not explode very often, but when they do they can take out a pretty big area around them. The gas pipeline companies buy up and keep clear a fairly wide swath of land for these pipelines to cross through populated areas; however, it is possible to be within a couple hundred feet of a major pipeline. It is even possible to buy home sites where the pipeline will be in your front or back yard. In those cases there will usually be very clear guideline where you can build and how much you have to keep clear (not even any trees) so the pipeline companies can fly over and still see the ground above the pipeline. Click here to read a report by the U.S. Department of Transportation about the state of the U.S. pipelines and the dangers. It’s fairly dry reading. If you live near a gas pumping station for one of those large diameter pipelines there will be noise and maybe vibrations that you’ll need to get used to. Those are big pumps!

The smaller diameter gas pipelines that hook up the homes in the neighborhood are something that you can’t avoid. They are actually the source for more explosions that the big lines and almost always because someone was digging with a backhoe or augur and had not marked the location of the gas line. Generally if there’s a gas leak you will know it because the utilities put an odor gas in with it that smells like rotten eggs. You don’t smell that when cooking because it is consumed with the gas.

You probably won’t see many indications of the water and sewer lines above ground. Occasionally there may be a pumping station that is visible, but water never blows up, so that is one worry that you needn’t have. You major worry should be about pipeline failures – water main breaks mainly – and the potential for failure of the pipes leading to and from your house, especially if you are looking at an older or historic home.  Occasionally you will seem stories about sink holes opening up in streets or lawns because of broken water mains underneath; however, most people, including potential home buyers never really think about that,, since they can’t normally see anything above ground.

If you live in an area that has storm sewers you may occasionally experience backups (maybe into your basement) or overflows if a really bad storm dumps more water in a short period of time than they can handle. You may find that your insurance won’t cover any damage, so check with your agent to see what’s covered and what’s not. Neither the water or sewer lines have much impact on home prices unless you get a buyer who is freaked out about having to pay the water and sewer bills. People moving into an area with city water and sewers are often shocked at those bills because they seemed to be paying nothing for their well and septic systems.

The bottom line here is that there are some real and many imagined dangers when living next to any of these utility sites or underground easements. The real danger is that the home that you might be considering will have a stigma attached because of them that will impact the resale value when it’s time for you to sell. Ask your Realtor what he/she thinks the impact might be at re-sale time.


Rate this item
(0 votes)
Norm Werner

Norm Werner is a Realtor at the Milford office of Real Estate One serving the southeastern Michigan area of Oakland and Livingston Counties. Norm specializes in residential real estate. Norm lives and works in Milford Michigan and is married to Carolyn Werner. Norm and Carolyn live in a historic home just three blocks from downtown Milford, with their two dogs - Sadie and Skippy. Norm specializes in the historic homes of Milford and the surrounding area and is on the Board of Directors of the Milford Historical Society. Norm especially enjoys working with first time buyers and those at the other end of the real estate spectrum who are downsizing into their retirement home. 

In addition to his web site, Norm also owns and m,aintains web site, the web site. He is also the webmaster for and the web site and the MilfordCar web site, as well as his church web site - In addition to blogging about real eastate, Norm has a personal blog - - on which he shares inspirational messages and the occasions personal observation about life.

Agent Resource

Limited time offer - 50% off - click here

Realty Times

From buying and selling advice for consumers to money-making tips for Agents, our content, updated daily, has made Realty Times® a must-read, and see, for anyone involved in Real Estate.