Considering much bigger house but busy street. Hmmmm...

theresseMarch 1, 2010

Hi all -

Sorry for going into such great detail below!

I'm not sure about this. We live in a desirable historic neighborhood on a quiet street. We're a family of 5 w/ 3 boys in a foursquare house (which if the basement were finished - which it's not - would make it almost 4,000 sq. ft) w/ 4.5 bedrooms; one's a sun porch small room w/ no closet which we use as a guest room. We finished the attic (one long carpeted room and we added a doorless closet) though it's used mostly as a play room. My oldest boy has his own room and his 3.5 year-old brothers share a room. This is TMI but my husband usually sleeps in the attic (there's a "guest" bed and dresser on one end) cause of his extremely loud snoring/sleep apnea!

The problem w/ where we are now:

While our house looks big and tall, only the living room is big. The rest of the rooms aren't (just one bedroom is decent sized, and the attic is okay-sized though more long than anything) and we can't afford to finish the basement, which would at least allow the kids to run around and jump without driving us nuts. We have 1.5 baths and a small, dark, North-facing kitchen which we also can't afford to expand. The upstairs hallway is something like 5.5 x 8 feet big with all the rooms off that. The hardwood floors are really loud/rattly also - which I've never understood cause it's a well-built house in all other ways. The house faces East which is fine but I MUCH prefer a house that faces West. The house I grew up in did and it's like a religious experience for me, facing the setting sun out the main windows. The only windows that face West are too small in our house. The bigger issue may be that we're suffocating having our neighbors so near by cause there's not a lot of space between the houses and to make matters worse I feel very self-conscious about having 3 loud boys (there are precious, quiet little girls everywhere) - even if that's silly and I'm probably projecting my own fears. This is beside the fact that the neighbors are extremely unfriendly - not all, but the ones next to me, unfortunately, w/ whom we more or less share a driveway; most of our neighbors are so wonderful but the ones next to us can ruin my entire day, very easily (and they keep dinging my car, but that's another story). What can I say - I'm uncomfortable in the one place in the world I shouldn't have to be. I wonder if a busy street would make me feel less self-conscious about all the noise we make?

I love my neighborhood and all our friends here and really want to stay in the hood. But to move into a house that's the same size as the one we have now, on another quiet street, wouldn't allow for any upgrades and we couldn't afford the realtor's fees either way. Also, imagine the disappointment of others if a family w/ 3 loud boys moved in! :-o

The house I can't stop thinking about is 5,030 sq. ft. (that includes the unfinished basement) 2 blocks away from our house, on a busy street that's something like 30 mph. I never would have imagined considering a house on a busy street but...


it's an incredible 1910 amazing beautiful house w/ 7 + original bedrooms and 3 bathrooms that needs $150-200k worth of work but costs less than the value of our home, so w/ our equity + fixing up the new house, the mortgage would end up being about the same. It has a lot of original details still - if not most: original copper craftsman lighting; oak floors throughout; original marble counter in the pantry, yes pantry (I've always wanted a pantry...and it's attached to a nook); dumbwaiter; a button on the dining room floor to call "the servents" - haha; leaded and stained glass built-ins, etc. 3 of the bedrooms are all in the attic and the attic is like most people's 2nd floors - very nice and finished with long open hallway and it's all original (no framed-in walls but has always been 3 bedrooms) w/ nice big windows and tall standing room. My friend laughed that she got lost on the 2nd floor for few seconds. It has 3 bedrooms in each corner and a sun porch in the 4th, plus another big bedroom in between two of the corners (attached to sun porch - so that sun porch could be converted to a nice bathroom and already has some of the plumbing since it was converted into a kitchen and has the 2nd-floor bathroom on the other side of its wall. There is a double garage w/ old fashioned doors and while the driveway isn't double, there is more space between the houses somehow. I think everything East of that side of that street - the side this house is on - has slightly bigger lots than where we live a couple blocks West. The basement is unfinished but enormous and dry and with outrageously tall ceilings - oh and it has a shower in it (!). The kitchen faces East (hello morning - I'm used to facing North) and the living room has a den off of it, at the back of the house. Not really a sun room as it's not full of windows but still a great space for an office and faces mostly South (and East). Living room faces West and South which to me is ideal since I love sunsets and really miss that. Dining room faces West too which is perfect at dinner time. I have a theory that all perfect houses have a kitchen that faces East and a dining room that faces West. :)

Cons: busy street w/ a bus line. Hello. Show stopper? Bus stop is 3 houses down and across the two-way street, on the corner. I think it's a 30 mph zone. There are a lot of cars at rush hour, it seems. Children's safety isn't a concern just cause they're old enough plus we'd fence it in. But what does living on a busy street w/ a bus line do to one's lungs, much less one's ears? It's fairly quiet at night - especially when most people are sleeping as is the case on any busy street I imagine. Am I allowed to imagine that in a few years automobiles will stop being gas-run (buses at least?) and will be quieter/less toxic? Or does the increase in population make it a wash (says the lady w/ 3 kids)?

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When I was a real estate broker, I took a 30ish couple to see what turned out to be a pretty battered rental home backing onto a massive embankment topped by a main rail line. As we left, I was tempted to apologize. But the husband turned to his wife and said, "What do you think, Babe?" She nodded. They bought it. Turns out she had been raised in a home backing on a rail line and it made her feel all warm and nostalgic.

Only you and your family can decide how busy is busy.

    Bookmark   March 1, 2010 at 8:48PM
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The house you described sounds like it would have all the space you need for you and your family. How far away from the street is this property? My mother has a Victorian that is about 100 feet from a pretty busy road with a 45mph speed limit. Her property is on a corner, so the side facing the busy street is tree lined. In the summer if I was there I would sleep in the room facing the main road. With the windows open, you could hear the trucks go down the road. However, this property has windows original to the 1907 build. I would surmise with more efficient windows, and maybe a fan in them in the summer, you would drown out any of the noise. If people drive on this road at the posted speed limit, I don't think it would be all that bad, depending upon how many rooms were facing the road.

    Bookmark   March 1, 2010 at 8:49PM
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Thank you both for your replies!

Tonight I went there at rush hour and sat on the porch and took a listen. Wow - it's loud. The speed limit is 25 mph and the average driver goes about 30 (no big deal) but it's just too many cars, trucks, and buses! The bus starts to slow down just beyond the house and between the sqeeeeak and the pSHHHH of its breaks, I could go nuts. There's also the bus on the house's side which has a bus stop about a house's worth further (other side of intersection) beyond the one across the street and it goes past the house trying to gain speed after having stopped so there's a real grrrrrr sound of the engine sort of revving up to speed.

The other thing I noticed is all the lights hitting the house! Even though they're just going past both directions, it's like a laser light show on the porch and probably inside, too! Made me laugh. Also there are more pickup trucks and delivery trucks of course too - not just cars and buses. Ugh.

So for now I'm turned off. It's makes me think of that old children's book called The Little House. When this house was built it was so grand, and the "busy" street (horses and buggies of course) - which is still wider than all the other streets to this day - was the street two up from this house. Then eventually I assume someone w/ power decided to convince others w/ power that their street should cease being the busy street and that this one up a couple of blocks should. I don't remember reading what the reason was. It would be fun to find out and maybe see old pics.

Anyway, thanks for reading the rant. I don't see how I could justify that lack of serenity. Not that I'm feeling very serene, next to toxic neighbors. :(

    Bookmark   March 2, 2010 at 12:30AM
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How often would you be sitting on the front porch? I wouldn't necessarily rule it out due to the noise during rush hour. Generally speaking, you aren't going to be home sleeping during the time of the most heavy traffic. If you plan on doing some updating anyway, why not look into double pane windows for the front of the house? I would use the traffic noise as a bargaining chip to negotiate a better price, but I do understand your desire for a quite place.

    Bookmark   March 2, 2010 at 7:54AM
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Just wanted to say, don't underestimate your family's charm - the sound of three noisy boys playing would not bother me at all. I think people are more bothered by their neighbors' dogs barking/wandering, late-night noisiness, and lack of regular maintenance. Lots more posts about those issues, than about noisy kids.

    Bookmark   March 2, 2010 at 9:18AM
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The noise of the bus and noise of the cars will become non-issues within 2 weeks of moving in.

My childhood home was on a street that had a bus/bus stop on the corner, just 4 houses down from our home. My father used the bus to get to work each day. My parents picked this home due to the proximity to the bus stop. When I was a teenage, I used the bus to get around as well. It was wonderful.

The bus brakes and bus were not ever a problem. My bedroom was at the front of the home and my window faced the street where the bus was. You hear the bus and know it is the bus, but really, it was not loud at all and you really get used to the sound and learn to ignore it.

I took a psychology class at a college that bordered an Amtrak train track. The first day of class, the train went by and the horn was loud and the fast train was very loud and it rattled. That day or professor told us that humans get used to sounds very quickly and we would very soon not even notice the sound while in class and that we would just continue on with our studies and it would be a non-issue.

Sure enough, after a few classes, the loud Amtrak was a non-issue.

    Bookmark   March 2, 2010 at 9:33AM
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Life is short, so if you don't like your house and hate your neighbors, then move.

As for noise, some people are more sensitive than others, but most people rapidly learn to ignore background noises. It isn't that you won't hear them, but human brains automatically are drawn to things that are different and ignore the things that are the same.

The red flag for me is $200k in improvements. You don't have the money to finish your basement, but you are willing to dive into a potential money pit? What happens if repair costs go to $220k or $250k or $300k? Most homeowners go significantly over budget in major remodels.

    Bookmark   March 2, 2010 at 9:47AM
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I've lived on a few busy streets, and it's soooo ANNOYING! - the only thing worse is to have your house directly facing a stop sign - headlights in your eyes all night is not fun...

Plus, they are very difficult to sell, so if you plan on living there forever, and you think you can handle it, go for it... I, personally, will never do it again. :-P

    Bookmark   March 2, 2010 at 9:49AM
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We sold our house last year and it was on a very busy street which our realtor told us would be the biggest stumbling block (and obviously something we couldn't do anything about unlike all the other things you do have control over when you are staging to sell...)
It took some time to find someone who didn't mind the busy street. It was the single biggest obstacle to finding the right buyer.

    Bookmark   March 2, 2010 at 12:30PM
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I read your description of the perfect house and was enthralled. You think like me. ;-) Those are all things I take into consideration as well when I look at houses because they are things that all people really do notice and their bodies react to, even if on an unconscious level. It is often what makes a house enjoyable or not and strikes me as being sort of a psychic fung shui. Light and when and how it strikes is important. I was also impressed you took the time to go visit the prospective house at different times to see what the experience would actually be like. However, if you have three active little fellows, I don't understand your sensitivity to noise levels. LOL.

I am a person who hates closed windows, so I do not own AC. I want to breathe fresh air and bring the outside in as much as possible. So soundproofing windows would not be an option to me to decrease background noise.

However, that being said, even places you'd think weren't noisy can be. I live in the country and our property abuts a state route and continues on that side to a township road. When I moved here, the road was so quiet that human generated noise of any kind was rare, especially at night. Also there sky was inky jet black. The use of the state route has skyrocketed, and it is also a route for coal trucks. The light pollution from a new industrial park makes this look like the land of the Midnight Sun. I often thought I could not live in a suburban situation or a town's residential areas, but if I coudn't live in the country, could live right smack downtown. Since the mall was built, the downtown area is practically deserted. At night, it's as quiet as a tomb. If someone wanted peace and quiet that would be the place to go.

As for pollution being greater in the prospective house. No, if it's two blocks away from your present house, traffic or not, the air over a city will have pretty much the same quality that close, whether you smell of diesel fumes or not.

Good luck on your home search. Now's a good time to be in the market for a home. And believe me, I understand some of your criteria. Those things to me are way more important than granite countertops and stainless steel appliances. Things like environment, and light and house orientation and well planned-out living areas are things you are stuck with from the get-go.

    Bookmark   March 2, 2010 at 1:07PM
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"It took some time to find someone who didn't mind the busy street. It was the single biggest obstacle to finding the right buyer."

You know what Realtors always say, right?
After we say "location location location", we say "resale resale resale".

Even if you could live at the end of an airport runway without a qualm, think about who would buy your home next time.

    Bookmark   March 3, 2010 at 10:55AM
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I grew up on the flight path of Kennedy Airport. We would wave to the people on the plane, it was that low. The house would shake and all conversation stopped until the plane landed. Two blocks away was Aqueduct Raceway. As a kid, we would climb the fence and play in the underground tunnels. When the races were on you could hear the horses and the crowds screaming.

I thought it was normal, so did my family. When guests would visit, they were amazed we could live with the noise. It was a grand, old house and when my mother put it up for sale it sold in 3 days. The convenience to the City, airport and public transportation made it a hot property.


    Bookmark   March 4, 2010 at 11:06PM
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I'm confused. On your driveway thread, you were concerned about the cost of a survey to determine exactly where the lot lines are and the expense of a fence, and now you are casually talking about buying a house that will need hundreds of thousands of dollars of work?

You didn't talk about the noise your children make on the driveway thread.... could they be really annoying your neighbors and they are "getting even" by dinging your car?

As for your question here- yes, you get used to those street sounds. And like Jane said above, the location of the house could very well cancel out the sound. I would be more concerned with lights shining into the house at night. (The house next to our last house had that problem.... our realtor pointed it out so we came at night to see if our house would be affected the same way and it wasn't. But people's tolerances vary, so you have to do what is best for YOU.)

    Bookmark   March 6, 2010 at 11:12PM
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This may really de-romanticize the dream of the big place, but I now think about things from one more viewpoint - that of getting older, and therefore more tired and less able to clean and maintain a larger place, let alone anything like 5,000 sq'. I'm sure it's very tempting, but once the novelty has worn off I wonder how fast the reality would set in.

    Bookmark   March 7, 2010 at 5:47AM
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"The noise of the bus and noise of the cars will become non-issues within 2 weeks of moving in."

Unless defects in the paving occur (and they will) on the street that result in vibration being created and transferred to the house.

Cat iron soil stacks are a common way that the heavy vibration from large vehicles (buses and trucks) can be transferred into and damage an older house.

A bust street is an 'incurable defect.'

Just as you are having second thoughts, so will any subsequent purchaser, and traffic rarely decreases.

    Bookmark   March 7, 2010 at 9:06AM
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Most road noise is actually from the air trying to get out from between the tires and the road as the wheels turn so a busy road will always be noisy despite the technology used so long as rubber tires are involved. Besides, buses are just as likely to switch to biodiesel as they are to compressed natural gas or hybrids.

My concerns with a busy road would be where guests would park. If the front yard is large enough to accommodate a circular driveway with parking spaces than that may not be an issue but you do need to ask yourself if your visitors will have to park a street over and walk to your home. A busy road may be an advantage if you want to hang out a shingle and work out of your home so it's difficult to say one way or the other. However, if it was me, I would go with the quieter street and smaller home, location is everything and if your kids are already old enough that busy streets aren't a safety issue then it won't be very many years till they will be moving out. Basements can be renovated very inexpensively with little more than a circular saw, a staple gun , hammer and nails.

    Bookmark   April 13, 2010 at 1:53PM
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Our rental house is on a busy street and I love it. I know it's a personal preference thing but I often remark to my DH that I would love to grow old here because there would always be something going on and things to watch in front of our house. I imagine myself sitting on the porch "watching the cars go by." He of course said no. We are building on a one way circular street in a historical neighborhood. But we do have the hospital helicopter sounds and the train tracks down the street!

    Bookmark   April 15, 2010 at 10:12PM
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ncamy -- I can relate. As an adult, I'd love a house on a quiet street with a private yard. As a kid we lived on a somewhat busy street (still 25MPH) and I wouldn't have had it any other way. Quiet and private translates to BORING to a kid and especially a teenager!

    Bookmark   April 17, 2010 at 7:11PM
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Rail lines are a lot different than busy streets. Rail lines are somewhat charming and trains are boy magnets. Busy streets bring noise and air pollution. That said, can you plant trees to screen the noise and the smog? I have three boys and noise doesn't bother me much, but I considered buying a house within walking distance of their school once; the street noise was just too much for me, it was a major artery to the highway and constant traffic.

Another big red flag is the renovation cost. I saw a warning that renovation costs in a house more than 50 years old could easily be 3x what you project initially.

Good luck!

    Bookmark   April 18, 2010 at 5:07PM
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our house faces a culdesac, but the side is on a "busier than i'd like" street
i'm very sensitive to noise and it did take about a year to become accustomed to "hearing the traffic" if i listened to it
since the house was 30 years old and had the old aluminum windows, we replaced them with low e windows and also replaced the siding with hardiplank
now i have to struggle to hear traffic
it's great!
we have a .7 acre lot, most of the neighbors have bigger lots
the lot behind us (facing the busier street) sold last summer for 160 thousand-so i guess it didn't hurt the value much

    Bookmark   May 7, 2010 at 10:36PM
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