Is that suburban home really quieter than the urban condo? A walk-through with your real estate agent might not give you an accurate answer to that question – or even prompt you to ask it. Although noise levels can have a huge impact on your quality of life, few people get an objective view of what their home sounds like before they buy.
If you’re curious what your potential Boston Beacon Hill home sounds like, you don’t have to stake the place out all day to see how many airplanes fly low overhead or whether the freeway gets louder during rush hour. Instead I recommend the following steps:
1. Ask your real estate agent.
Don’t be afraid of appearing picky — trust me, I’ve heard it all! Unlike a search engine or MLS listing, your agent knows the neighborhood and can help you figure out whether the shop down the street will have early morning deliveries and how many construction projects are likely to spring up around you after the deal is closed. If you’re specifically looking for a home in a quiet neighborhood, that’s just as important as how many bedrooms or square feet you need, and your agent should adjust your search accordingly.
2. Check out howloud.com.
This howloud.com website is a great tool for getting an overall picture of the noise level at any given address in the United States. You can compare homes using the simple Soundscore tool. This rating combines the effect of vehicle traffic, air traffic and local noise sources (restaurants, schools, stores, etc.) to a single number that is averaged out over time. It ranges between 0 and 100, with 0 being the loudest and 100 the quietest. My real estate office in Portland, for example, gets a Soundscore of 66 or “Busy” as you can see in the image here. Not bad, and if I go just a dozen or so blocks north into the Irvington neighborhood, it goes into the 70s, to “Active”.
3. Watch the flights.
In just about every major city, airports are a major — and annoying — source of noise. If this is a concern for you (or if you enjoy being mesmerized live maps of air traffic), you can see where the flight patterns are by checking WebTrak.
You’ll notice that after taking off and on their way to land, which is when they are loudest to people on the ground, most planes fly over the Winthrop. That’s one of the reasons Boston Beacon Hill is such a nice, quiet place to live despite being home to a busy international airport.
Everyone has their own noise tolerance level and some may even prefer to live in a lively place. Some people are bothered by a freeway’s hum, others are comforted by it. If noise is the only thing holding you back from the home of your dreams, your real estate agent can also advise you on noise barriers that might be effective. Listen up before you buy – your ears will thank you!
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