Some Realtors to begin warning buyers about All Aboard Florida
Posted on February 18, 2016
By Lisa Broadt
Like structural damage or a termite infestation, All Aboard Florida is a liability real estate agents should disclose to potential Treasure Coast property buyers, according to one Stuart real estate agency.
That's because the 32 daily trains All Aboard Florida plans to eventually send through the region could affect quality of life and property values, according to RE/MAX of Stuart, which in May added Brightline passenger rail to its list of legally required disclaimers.
It could be the start of a trend: Other local Realtors say they may consider similar action, and the Realtors Association of the Palm Beaches and Treasure Coast for more than a year has discussed adding the disclosure.
The National Association of Realtors' code of ethics stipulates Realtors must avoid “exaggeration, misrepresentation, or concealment of pertinent facts” about properties. All Aboard Florida meets that criteria, according to Patrick Stracuzzi, of RE/MAX of Stuart.
"This could change our cute little town," said Stracuzzi about the $3.1 billion Miami-to-Orlando railroad. "I sell homes right on the railroad track and the noise and shaking could totally affect" livability and value.
When it comes to ethical disclosures, Realtors should act with an abundance of caution, according to broker Jim Weix, who owns The Real Estate Company, in Stuart.
"The question I have to ask is: 'If I was this buyer, would I want to know?' I would want to know about All Aboard," Weix said.
Until now, Realtors have hesitated to spook buyers about the developing project. All Aboard still is considering its financing options and while it has begun work in Miami, Fort Lauderdale and West Palm Beach, the company has not broken ground on the Treasure Coast.
Increasingly though, "it's looking like a yes," Weix said about Brightline.
Waterfront property near the St. Lucie River trestle bridge could be particularly vulnerable to decreased value, according to the Realtors.
"Say someone buys a waterfront home west of the railroad bridge and then they find out they can't get their boat out because the bridge is down all the time," Weix said. "The property value drops, and the owner starts thinking maybe he should sue someone."
Together, Brightline and freight trains from Florida East Coast Railway — the sister companies would share the existing tracks and a new, second track — could require up to 50 daily closures of the drawbridge, which takes about 20 minutes to open and close, according to Martin County data. Most boats cannot pass under the low bridge; when closed, it has 7 feet of clearance at its center, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.
Some Treasure Coast property appraisers, however, warn it's difficult to quantify the damage, if any, of Brightline.
Martin County last year examined the railroad's effect on property values, finding that perceptions of the project already are negatively affecting high-value, waterfront real estate. St. Lucie and Indian River counties, however, have not performed formal studies, because "it's awfully difficult to do a study of what's going to happen," according to David Nolte, Indian River property appraiser.
Though the project "certainly does not appear to increase the desirability" of living near the tracks, there are too many variables to make a firm prediction, according to Nolte.
"Prices could increase dramatically, or not at all. Would price increases have been twice as good without AAF? It's hard to say," Nolte said. "We don't want to speculate."
An All Aboard Florida spokeswoman on Thursday said that a federal review of the project concluded Brightline "would not significantly degrade the quality of life along the rail line" and that it "would not introduce significant new disruption, noise, traffic, or other effects that could affect property value."
"We remain committed to working with each community along the rail corridor to advance public safety, decrease noise and interruption and find ways to continue to coexist," the spokeswoman said.
The Realtor Association of Martin County has been on record in opposition to All Aboard Florida.