Does noise make a difference when buying or selling a house? Of course – just ask anyone who has had to put up with blaring horns and squealing brakes, or a neighbour playing dark ambient music just when they’re trying to nod off.
But just how much of an actual discount are buyers looking for when it comes to settling for a little bit less peace and quiet?
According to a recent study by Realtor.com, several major noise factors are taken into account when calculating the price difference between homes located near significant noise sources and the median price of homes in the surrounding neighbourhood.
Transportation remains a major sore spot
The leading offense for those with sensitive ears: Airports, followed closely by railway tracks and major highways – and the subsequent price difference could be significant.
Sellers of homes within a three-kilometre radius of an airport should be prepared to knock off as much as 13% off the going rate in the rest of the area, the study suggests.
Similarly, homes on major roadways could sell for at least 11% below nearly identical houses on quiet streets in the same neighbourhood.
The report acknowledges that noise alone may not be the only reason for such a hefty discount, but still labels it a major factor.
Airport noise is seldom a surprise
Recurrent noise is certainly tricky: Some prospective buyers find the travel and transit perks of living close to an airport an advantage, while others would do anything to avoid being under a flight path.
When Porter Airlines announced it wanted to move beyond regional flying by buying a new series of jets, which would allow much longer ranges from the downtown Toronto airport, local residents went nuts, arguing that property values would plummet.
After numerous consultations and studies, the idea was eventually nixed by the Trudeau government when it took office – but that doesn’t mean the locals weren’t on to something. Ask anyone who lives near Pearson.
Residents in Derry West Village, for instance, know they’re likely to hear several planes per hour, and that the noise may continue until 2 a.m – but prices have been fairly stable in the area. And not everyone in the neighbourhood falls directly under a flight path to begin with.
The good news for sellers is that many anxious buyers are still clamouring to enter the Toronto real estate market, no matter what. To shoehorn themselves into their first property, that means compromising on things like traffic racket.
Traffic noise simply a fact of life
That’s why younger buyers in particular have been competing for condo units, pushing prices up 15% year over year – even if that means being within spitting distance of the crumbling Gardiner Expressway and its endless repairs.
Of course, a lot of this still comes down to location and curb appeal. Prospective buyers may be more concerned about the number of lanes, lights and speed of traffic, rather than the actual decibel level of cars and buses.
In many upmarket neighbourhoods, “busy” streets like Indian Road, because they don’t look like main thoroughfares, seem less likely to spook buyers. Widen these and throw up a few traffic lights, however, and the equation changes.
That’s why you need to have a candid talk with your agent about the marketing plan for your particular home.
Manage noise during viewings
Truth is, most people become accustomed to ambient noise over time. However, prospective buyers will certainly be more attuned to even moderate sounds since they’re hearing them for the first time.
If you feel noise might be an issue as you’re getting ready to sell, get a jump on things by:
- Installing double or triple pane windows in trouble areas
- Planting plenty of sound-buffering shrubs to minimize street noise
- Adding a wall or fence to create a visual barrier and dampen road or train noise
- Scrubbing windowsills if they’re grimy with soot and road dust
- Ensuring windows and outside doors are closed during viewings
- Scheduling visits when noise is at a low ebb
In such an under-supplied market like the GTA, noise quickly becomes less of an issue – really just one more aspect of urban life. Ignore it altogether though and buyers may be turned off.
You might as well level with them. They’re going to find out anyway.