The nation's energy problems could begin having impact on real estate again this year, but professional appraisers here and elsewhere around the country doubt the reverberations will be as sharp as they were in the oil embargo crunch of 1973-74.
Even the trickiest residential real estate appraisal question of 1979-the fallout from the Three Mile Island muclear accident on property values in rural areas with similar installations-may not have as many negative answers as widely assumed.
"I think the entire energy crisis is vastly overrated in terms of its effects on real estate values in today's economy," says Joseph P. Curran, a member of the American Institute of Real Estate Appraisers based in Harrisburg, Pa. Properties that are located far from fuel supplies-or very close to nuclear plants-may not gain in value as rapidly as more centrally located properties, Curran says, "but anyone who thinks they suddendly go backwards is misinformed."
Curran's appraisal work covers homes and other real estate in the Harrisburg area, including the Middletown-Royalton area immediately neighborhing the Three Mile Island nuclear plant.
"You'd probably guess that there's been a lot of panic selling among the folks in those town, with for sale signs going up all over the place. But there simply hasn't. There's been relatively little change in transaction levels or listings from past years-and that's because property owners in those towns are toughing it out. People are unhappy about the plant, no doubt about that, but they intend to stay in this area. There's been no demonstrable drop in land or home values."
Middletown broker R.C. Kaufmann says that he knows of only one household that wants to sell out because of the nuclear accident. And he's seen do decrease in the market value of homes in the area.
"Prices have stayed at what they'd been before (the plant) blew; a $33,000 property still sells for $33,000. I have a little trouble with sellers who want to squeeze out the top dollar-asking $37,000, say, for a $33,000 house-but that's not new."
The head of the National Association of Independent Fee Appraisers, Warren E. Mulcock of Salt Lake City, says no formal, statistical investigations have been done in the impact of nuclear installtions on property values in their immediate vicinities.
"I doubt that having one of these plants as a neighbor ever pushes up anyone's valuation," he noted, "but we really can't be certain to what extent you get a retardation effect."
Studies do exist, however, on impacts of gasoline shortages on outlying properties. "There's no question," Mulcock said, "that in a protracted period of fuel shortage you get a tapering off of normal market value increases in distant recreational area properties like second homes and more serious impacts over the long haul on commercial properties (in resort towns) that depend on a heavy tourist trade.
"At the other end of the spectrum, you see upward pressure on the prices of prime, close-in properties like center-city condominiums, larger detached homes in the city, and neighborhood shopping centers."
The outlook this year according to Mulcock and other appraisers, appears to be less gloomy than it was in the crunch during the embargo. The fuel supply situation appears to be better-a 3 to 4 percent shorfall nationwide-and the economy is less prone to deep recession than it was five years ago.
Area of spot fuel shortages that are more severe than the nationwide figures, like California and the Washington-Baltimore area, could experience disruption in resort area trade nonetheless.
Ocean City, Md., real estate brokers, for example are bracing for a challenging summer season. "If they shut down the gas pumps on weekends," says Kenneth Tyler, immediate past president of the Ocean City realty board, "we're going to have definite problems here.
Kenneth R. Harney is executive editor of the Housing and Development Reporter, Published by BNA, Inc., and author of Beating Inflation With Real Estate, to be published this month by Random House.