How to find out if apartments will be noisy
December 20, 2008 3:11 PM   Subscribe

How can you determine if an apartment is noisy before moving in?

Is there any good way to determine if an apartment will be noisy before moving in, e.g. neighbors playing loud music, thin walls, people stomping around upstairs, etc.?
posted by pravit to Home & Garden (14 answers total) 12 users marked this as a favorite
Hang out by the front door of the building. Accost building residents as they wait for the elevator/check their mail/dash out, be friendly and non-creepy, and inquire as to their experiences and opinions. Tell them why you're asking, of course. Added bonus: you'll meet your potential new neighbors, and maybe be able to put a face to all those clomping boots and blasting speakers you're sure to endure on down the timeline.
posted by carsonb at 3:16 PM on December 20, 2008 [1 favorite]

A lot (most?) of local police departments now post their incident records online. Search it for the apartment address for evidence of noise complaints, domestic disturbances, fights, gunshots, etc. Too many visits by the local law enforcement is not a good sign.
posted by COD at 3:45 PM on December 20, 2008 [2 favorites]

Ask the landlord/agent if the floors/walls are concrete. It makes a huge difference. Age and construction is probably more of an issue than noisy neighbours. I've lived in the extremes...a fully concrete, modern-construction high-rise in Vancouver that I could have set a grenade off in and nobody would have heard. I played my electric unplugged all the time and you could just barely hear it through the door in the hallway.

At the other end of the spectrum, I lived in a wood-floored, wood-construction tri-plex where you could hear the people talking on the floor above. Walking in heels was a knife to the brain each step. Anyone's gonna be loud like that.

I second the research, especially if it's an older building.
posted by jimmythefish at 3:49 PM on December 20, 2008

edit to above...played my electric plugged-in, of course.
posted by jimmythefish at 3:49 PM on December 20, 2008

Make sure to visit the apartment in the evening, when your neighbors are most likely to be home and active and possibly doing the kinds of things that will make unpleasant levels of noise.

Also, make sure to open the windows during your evening visit. This will give you a sense of what the levels of sound are like outside. There might be some sources of noise -- obnoxious drunks coming out of a bar across the street, a nearby highway, etc. -- that you can't tolerate.

Good luck.
posted by jason's_planet at 3:51 PM on December 20, 2008 [2 favorites]

Try to view prospective apartments around dinner time/early evening. That's when most residents will be home and when you are likely to get a reasonable picture of how loud the building is, and can ask the current residents (if there are any) about it (of course, it won't tell you if your neighbour plays Loverboy all day and sings along at the top of his lungs EVERY SINGLE WEEKEND...).
posted by biscotti at 3:51 PM on December 20, 2008 [2 favorites]

Ask the current tenants, if you can speak with them before they move out. Have a friend walk up and down the stairs (if there are stairs) while you're checking out the apartment. Examine the windows--single pane is bad, but can be mitigated against with storm windows.

If the building was built before 1920, expect little to no sound insulation between the floors (wood)--the trade-off is that you should get better-than-average sound insulation between the walls (plaster). Naturally, these are just generalizations and will not necessarily represent what's available to you.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 4:07 PM on December 20, 2008 [1 favorite]

To add on Civil_Disobedient's comments about old buildings, find out about how the building is heated (watch out for steam -- it sounds like baseball bats against pipes when heating up and takes getting used to), where the elevators are in proximity to your unit (have a friend use it while you are inside the place), and if hallway noise is audible.

Lucky me, my place has all three types of noise... but it's a killer pad in a killer location
posted by bumblebeat at 4:24 PM on December 20, 2008

I would also suggest going with your gut. I once looked at an apartment across from a roast beef place, and the restaurant had some sort of fan/generator thing that was making a high pitched whirring noise very audible in the apartment. I asked the realtor: "Does that noise happen all the time?" Realtor: "What noise?"

I also looked at an apartment that was very near to where a rooster lived. When I asked the current tenant if the crowing bothered him (it was the middle of the day and it crowed the entire time I was there), he said, "Oh, I don't even hear it anymore".

So, knowing that different people have different noise tolerances and motivations is important to keep in mind.
posted by FlyByDay at 7:03 PM on December 20, 2008 [3 favorites]

Go there also at night! Or Monday morning at 5,6 AM. This can make A BIG DIFFERENCE!
posted by yoyo_nyc at 8:08 PM on December 20, 2008

Ask if the apartment up stairs (And possibly next door) are carpeted. It can make a huge difference. The more concrete the better, even if its just the outside walls it will be quieter than all wood.

Check the doors and windows. If they don't close tightly and/or are single pane they'll leak noise from outdoors and hallways.

Check to see where fire, police, and hospital ERs are. I once moved into a place that unknowingly was a block from an ER and a block from the fire station. It took some getting used to.

Look at what walls you share with your neighbors, and ask what walls are shared with living rooms (which are usually the loudest rooms) of other apartments.

Check what's out the windows and light wells. See if any other windows are close and open.

A top floor apartment on the back side and at the end of the hall will be quietest. First floor front will be the loudest.

If you're feeling like a super spy you can set an alarm on your phone for a minute in the future, leave it in the bedroom, close the door and see if you can hear it from the living room or kitchen, and how loud it is.

If you've got the time oo check city records for anyone in the area asking for a noise ordinance variation. It can tip you off if there's a band practice space sharing the back alley.
posted by Ookseer at 8:44 PM on December 20, 2008 [2 favorites]

find an apartment you like and return at night. have a coffee at a corner shop and just stake out the location for a while, say between eight and nine p.m. - you will soon know if the area is loud. a friday night should work best. also ask the neighbors about walls, etc.
posted by krautland at 3:40 AM on December 21, 2008

My brother and his wife took a portable stereo with them when they were looking for apartments. One of them would stand in the unit they were considering and the other one would go into nearby units and crank the stereo. If they could hear the stereo through the wall, they passed.
posted by Fuzzy Monster at 8:05 AM on December 21, 2008 [2 favorites]

I cannot stand external sound, and I go around knocking on people's doors asking them. Maybe it was the good ole' fashioned Southern Hospitality, but they never had a problem and more often than not, offered to show me around their apartment. I also found tenants are generally honest with reports of noise- what do they have to loose by being honest?

I'd also make sure the area is not in a college part of town. There's a definite college-part of town where I live now, and a coworker who just moved here got an apartment in that area without realizing it is going to get fairly noisy at night.

I like Fuzzy's idea. My old apartment was solid concrete walls and I could blare my stereo and nobody noticed. My new one, I barely turn it up and my upstairs neighbor lets me know (though I'm gladly trading that since my current apartment is nice and quiet).
posted by jmd82 at 9:02 AM on December 21, 2008

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