location, location, location!
July 3, 2009 8:31 AM   Subscribe

Am considering buying a house both on a bus route/busyish street and a few houses down from a school. What should I be aware of before I make this purchase?

Found a very reasonably priced house in downtown toronto - almost TOO reasonable. One of the reasons is that it right next to the pretty tree lined streets, but it is itself on a decently-busy street. Not afraid to cross the road busy, but one lane each way, wait for a couple cars to pass busy. On that road is a bus. While I know this drops the price, I actually think this is convenient and will help in my commute to work, but I was wondering if anyone had any thoughts both positive or negative about living on a busy-ish street with a bus route.

As well, another positive (or negative) is that the house is a couple doors down from a school, kindergarden to grade 6. While this would be very convenient when we have kids, is there anything we should worry about due to the proximity, or is there any way to effectively check out if this is brings bad elements out in the neighbourhood?

A third question - any idea how much these factors above would influence price (either percentage-wise, or something like 'greatly', 'hardly at all' would be helpful).

Other than those issues, we like everything about the place. So, should we be nervous about them? Thanks!
posted by evadery to Home & Garden (26 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
If you have a bus stop right in front of your house, it can be noisy -- especially if you're at a traffic light (or stop sign). Also, backing your car out from the driveway into the street will be difficult, especially around the time school starts or ends; and if you have to go the "other" way, you'll have to back out onto the opposite side of the street (which can be slow and perhaps dangerous).

The value of this house probably reflects the reduction attributable to these factors, but perhaps you can use it to bargain down the price.
posted by Simon Barclay at 8:40 AM on July 3, 2009

We live on a similar street except for the school. We are used to the bus noises, but not used to the bus sideswiping our parked car like it did a couple of weeks ago. Other than that it has been fine. If you have off-street parking then no worries.
posted by procrastination at 8:45 AM on July 3, 2009

The speed limit sometimes drops precipitously in a school zone, so you may spend a lot of time driving Very Slowly in your neighborhood during certain hours, even when there is no traffic.
posted by cabezadevaca at 8:48 AM on July 3, 2009

Agreeing with Simon; if you'll have street parking rather than a driveway, see if you can ask one of the neighbors how much competition there is for parking space during dropoff, pickup, and special events. If you'd care about kids who walk to and from school cutting through your yard, that's something to consider.

Other than that I don't see a downside on the school angle. I'd think of it as a plus, personally. As for the bus, an early/late route and a light sleeper may be a bad combination, but it's never bothered me to live in a slightly noisy area.
posted by lakeroon at 8:49 AM on July 3, 2009

I'll assume it's not a school bus stop since you say you're that close to the school. So you'll have public transportation buses as well as school buses. I'll assume the logistics of them moving around each other have been worked out between the buses involved.

Depending on which way the single kid in the car mommy parade goes down the street you might have to fight your way out of the driveway. So check with neighbors to see if that goes toward or away from your house (or both) and see if that would conflict with your getting to work at all. If you're riding this bus to work then it makes things a lot easier.

Also, don't forget about those after school events. Where do the people attending them tend to park? I've been to a few schools where the surrounding houses turned into parking lots.

On the plus side, you've got the summer and school holidays where nothing is going on.
posted by theichibun at 8:55 AM on July 3, 2009

If you're on a busy street, it can be a problem opening your front windows in the summer, because vehicle exhaust from passing cars and trucks blows in.
posted by Chocolate Pickle at 9:02 AM on July 3, 2009

I grew up with my elementary school at the end of my block (4 houses down).
Upsides: I could walk to school starting at age 5
The school playground doubled as the neighborhood park, to which I could also walk
Elementary school kids, so not the kind of vandalism the houses near the junior high had to deal with

Downsides: School zone just out of our driveway
School pickup time = lots of moms in cars parked on our street
Neighborhood bad kids taking over the park in the evening and late at night

Could go either way: The sound of kids on the playground during the day -- I loved it, as it was close enough to be charming and not so close as to be shrieky. But if it would disrupt your concentration, it could be bad.
posted by katemonster at 9:07 AM on July 3, 2009

I've lived across the street from an elementary school. And now I'm someone who lives on a very busy canadian street with a bus stop outside her bedroom window. I know these things:
* you do get used to the noise, however there will always be a couple loud drunks outside at 1am (or for as long as the bus runs), typically on Friday and Saturday nights.
* people will have loud goodbye "see-you-tomorrow/next-week/whatever" conversations right at the bus stop.
* buses here beep obnoxiously when they lower their steps to let people on. It's more annoying than the drunks.
* off street parking is a must
* I take the bus to work, and my work is a block from one of it's stops, and it's ridiculously handy. It's almost as fast as driving, without the stress of driving downtown.
* schools have bells. They ring in the morning, at recess, at lunch and when school lets out. You can hear them for a good couple blocks. Not a huge deal, but if you're sleeping in while at home sick, it can be a jarring awakening.

Your bus problems might not be the same as mine, as it sounds like you'd be on a more suburban route, but I thought i'd contribute anyway if the off chance it'll help someone googling later on :)
posted by cgg at 9:11 AM on July 3, 2009

I used to live in front of the school. Note the times school starts, what time the students are dismissed for the day, and what days the students are let out early. The traffic and parking situation be really, really disruptive. This may be difficult to gauge right now if the school is on summer break, but keep this in mind if you plan on leaving or arriving home at 7:30-8:00 AM or 2:30-3:00 PM.

I will note that I actually enjoyed living next to the elementary school. The sounds of children at recess was actually nostalgic but not disruptive; you'd be surprised how much children scream as part of play, though. Additionally, holidays were a joy as I would hear the students practice singing daily for about a week various holiday tunes, and then heard their final performances in front of restless parents. Hearing kids sing "Monster Mash" every morning for a week was highly amusing.

The other great thing about living next to the school was the fact that schools are often voting stations. Very convenient to just walk over and vote.
posted by jabberjaw at 9:16 AM on July 3, 2009

I lived on a very busy three lane (one-way). Semi trucks used it to go through town. There was an accident at the corner one block away (major light) every few days.

You will get used to the noise, except you will probably not want to sleep with your bedroom windows open.

You will get used to backing out onto the street. Learn to back out and place your car only in the lane you want, and then GO. You will want to learn to do it fast. It's easy.

The kids will throw crap in your yard as they walk past. You will have to clean it up. Sixth graders will have silly fist-fights and other dumb kid stuff, but probably won't really cause much trouble. They leave that to the older kids!

I recommend you visit there during different times of day, including the middle of Friday or Saturday night, and when school is just getting out. If you can sit quietly in the house for a while and listen, do -- some houses insulate sound better than others.
posted by fritley at 9:29 AM on July 3, 2009

One more negative. By 5th or 6th grade, children start walking on their own. So you'd not only have cars, but a steady stream of children as well. This adds to the noise level. You also would end up with trash in front of your house, as many kids eat their snack on the way home, and not think twice about dumping the wrapper or gum on the sidewalk. Plucked flowers from the front yard or window box should also be expected. Also, if the house has a porch, stoop, or anything like that that would be inviting to passers by, be aware that the front of your house might become a hangout.
posted by jujube at 9:36 AM on July 3, 2009

Living on a bus route or a busy street has always meant more dirt and grit in my house. Windows open will, of course, make that worse but even in winter you just seem to end up with lots of grime from the street inside. Also, be sure you check out the house when school is starting for the day and/or letting out in the afternoon. It will be the peak usage time in terms of both pedestrians and auto traffi, which is useful to see. Also, recess can be really loud if you're close enough to the school.Given that it's summer and the school probably isn't in session, it may not be possible to see the house when the school is at its peak time but then again, that's probably why it's on the market now.
posted by otherwordlyglow at 9:43 AM on July 3, 2009

I lived across the street from a school for a couple of years. Kids get dropped off in the playground quite early in the morning. If you plan on sleeping past the time when school opens minus 1.5 hours, this can be a problem. I like kids but kids scream. High pitched, piercing screams, for hours at a time. They're as bad as sorority girls.

Also, be prepared for the Good Humor/Mr. Frostee truck to park nearby and play its lovely haunting melodies for hours.

School buses idling out front or converging on the school can cause exciting traffic problems.

None of these factors are deal breakers for me - it takes a while to get used to them, but they're mostly happy noises.

The one thing that actually got the neighbors out and yelling was the time that the weekend janitor decided to play music to make his work go faster and he didn't realize that he was broadcasting lite jazz on the outside speakers as well at 6:30am. I haven't forgiven him yet. He did this twice, although once was later in the day. I was seriously considering getting a ladder and some wire cutters and disabling the speakers.
posted by sciencegeek at 9:58 AM on July 3, 2009

I don't know the parking laws in your location, but I live two houses down from a bus stop and there are random cars parked on the street in front of my house all day, every day. The rest of my neighborhood generally has nice clean streets. It annoys me a bit.
posted by aliasless at 10:01 AM on July 3, 2009

In addition to lower speed limits, you may wish to consider that the law punishes certain other offenses more harshly if committed in proximity to a school. This probably won't bother you, but it did come to mind.
posted by onshi at 10:06 AM on July 3, 2009

I lived next to a bus stop on a 24 hour bus route. I'm a relatively sound sleeper, but I'd occasionally get woken up by squealing bus brakes or the roar of the engine when accelerating after a stop. It's fairly noisy, so I'd recommend finding out :

1. How late the bus runs.
2. How noisy they are. Maybe arrange to be in the house in the evening when it's relatively quiet.

The other aspect of being next to a bus stop is people hanging out in front of your house at all hours. It can be ok because there are more eyes outside in your neighborhood, but it can also be a magnet for trash and vandalism too.
posted by electroboy at 10:06 AM on July 3, 2009

We live two houses from the corner of a medium-sized (one lane each way) cross street; directly on the other side of the cross street is an elementary school. I was leery of moving so close to a school at first, but surprisingly very few kids seem to walk to school these days (or this school, anyway). There is some heavy traffic in the AM and late afternoon when school lets out, with school buses and parents picking up their snowflakes, but no streams of kids on the neighborhood sidewalks. Sometimes in the morning I'll hear a shriek or two from the playground (the first time it happened I almost dialed 911 because I thought someone was being attacked), but I've learned to tune it out. They're not outside that long. The kids aren't as noisy as the adults who use the school's playing field for softball and lacrosse games during the summer.
posted by Oriole Adams at 10:08 AM on July 3, 2009

We just moved into a place with exactly the same details. Bus and traffic noise is not so bad after 7, and you can hardly even hear it on the opposite side of the house or in the yard.

The big prob is soot for bus and car exhaust - it coats everything, especially deckchairs, the sundeck surfaces, the windows and window screens....
posted by KokuRyu at 10:17 AM on July 3, 2009

Oh -- and the factors mentioned above will all affect price, and the reasonable price you report has almost certainly priced-in school proximity and the avenue & bus route.
posted by onshi at 10:17 AM on July 3, 2009

In another neighbourhood I used to live on the walking route to a elementary school. We had a cute dog that spent a lot of time out in the yard. We were a very popular house.
posted by KokuRyu at 10:18 AM on July 3, 2009

I have previously lived a block away from a middle/high school and currently live on a very busy 2 lane street. 3 points:

1) Living near a school can equal hell for parking and traffic if there is an event at the school. I hated Friday nights - because of football games, I could barely get down my street, and could never find parking.

2) Living on a busy street = ungodly amounts of trash in your front yard. At least once a week, I have to pick up beer bottles, fast food bags, and every other thing that people throw out of the cars. It gets annoying.

3) The noise can be very bad. Not just normal traffic noise, but also ambulances and police that are using the very busy street to get somewhere.
posted by tryniti at 10:32 AM on July 3, 2009

I live in an apartment across from an elementary school. The school bells ring all day long, sometimes into early evening. I have gotten used to it but it has woken guests up. Kids set out road blocks in front of my building in the morning and afternoon to stop traffic. This means lots of cars detouring into the alley behind my place, honking and kids playing/talking at the barriers under my window. School buses are really loud when they drive by. It all doesn't bother me too much as I've gotten used to it.

A friend lives across the street from a bus stop and he says its pretty loud. Its not the sound of the bus driving so much as the beeping and announcements coming from the bus (telling the next stop etc.).
posted by Bunglegirl at 11:07 AM on July 3, 2009

katemonster writes "Downsides: School zone just out of our driveway"

I don't see this as a downside rather as a positive. You trade ever so slightly longer drive times, and then only during school times and days, for slower traffic in front of your house which means less noise, vibration and more safety when you or your kids are out on the side walk. I've got a dawn - dusk 7/365 playground zone outside my place and the only irritation is one of my neighbours who occasionally stands in his front yard yelling at traffic he thinks is going to fast.

Also I've always backed into driveways that connect to busy streets to avoid all the backing into traffic problems.
posted by Mitheral at 1:52 PM on July 3, 2009

Hmm, I've lived opposite both a primary school and a 24-hour bus stop, but my instinctual reaction is that the school was much more annoying. There was the sound of screaming all day long. Not the children-playing noise that you'd expect, but screaming literally all day. I don't know if they staggered the class recesses, but there never seemed to be one minute of quiet.

The bus stop was not so much of a problem except for when buses sat on the stand in the middle of the night with their engines idling for half an hour before they set off. That was quite loud and irritating at 3am.

Of course, I may just be more cranky than you (possibility: likely) so you should bear that in mind.
posted by cryptozoology at 3:03 PM on July 3, 2009

Find out whether the school is used after hours for other purposes (AA meetings, choir singing, bingo, whatever). That might make a difference to how you feel about it, if you know there will be cars and people coming and going at all hours.

Is there a janitor's house next to the school? That would also be a good sign that someone is around to keep an eye on the premises at night.

I lived directly opposite a high school once, and it only bugged me if I was having a day off or home sick, because I could hear the shouting from the playground (at break time and during sports lessons).
posted by vickyverky at 6:54 PM on July 3, 2009

Air pollution from the idling buses and cars would concern me.
posted by LuckySeven~ at 11:29 PM on July 3, 2009

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