Buying a house on a busy road
October 13, 2009 1:37 AM   Subscribe

I have been trying to buy a house in the inner-west in Sydney, Australia for several months. Contrary to what's going on in the rest of the world, Oz houses are effing crazy high and have jumped between $20-$100k (esp in my area) in the past year. I have found a good house for a price I can do - but it's on a fairly busy road. Would you want to go to there?

The suburb the house is in is great. The house itself is in excellent condition. It is just on an arterial road, which sounds bad, but the section the house is in is just like a big street, plenty of other houses surround it. It gets busy at certain times of the day, but you can park on the street and it seems fine...I think. The noise seems OK, but what about air-quality? I am a little concerned that my love for this house is partly due to my despair over long term house-hunting. If this particular house was one block away, it would easily fetch $100k over what it's likely to go for.

Do you own a house on a busy road? What's it like? Is living on a such road not a big deal, or is it a deal-breaker?
posted by mooza to Home & Garden (20 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Best answer: I'm living in Sydney at the moment and I'm curious as to what suburb it is, it might help to know. (I'm also househunting but in Manly.) Having said that I can answer the other part of your question. I own a house that faces onto a busy street, though you enter from a back street. It's currently rented out. In the year I lived there, noise was an issue and I always had plans to plant tall trees in an effort to block out it out. If I had to enter and exit from the busy street instead of the back street, that would be an issue. I also had a cat and was always scared he would run out onto the busy street and get hit.

As a property investor, it doesn't affect me. Living there, it did. However the proximity to the city, transport, unis etc made up for the inconvenience (and led to its drastic increase in value). It depends on your personal situation and why you're buying it, eg to live, to rent it out etc. I also had a street light that shone right into my yard. That was one of the most annoying things...
posted by Jubey at 2:30 AM on October 13, 2009

Oh, just to add what I wish I had done at the time was go there during peak traffic periods to see what the traffic noise was really like because if you're viewing it on a Sunday morning or such thing, you won't get a real sense of the noise. Go out to the yard, you may find it's much noisier than if you're in the house. I found it really affected my ability to enjoy my backyard and entertain there.
posted by Jubey at 2:33 AM on October 13, 2009

I reckon the road is relevant. I'm in the inner west too and some of the big roads I'd happily live on, and others... not so much. Parramatta Road.. never. One of the Canterburys...maybe... but the parking would be an issue. King Street... never

Want to share the suburb if not the road?

And I hear you with the search... we've given up and are going to try looking again in 6 months. So tiring... and everything's a bloody auction!
posted by taff at 2:42 AM on October 13, 2009

Best answer: I grew up on a busy road. I never *smelt* pollution, but the dust that can collect on the windows sills and in the curtains is something. I've had to stop movies/rewind and replay them so as to catch something I missed while the bigger noisier trucks went by, particularly at night -- not constantly, but enough to be a pest (I'd check that if you're on an arterial road that connects to a freeway, as this place was: truck drivers work all hours of the day and night). Like Jubey says, the street light thing's something to look out for, particularly if you're a bad sleeper; if your bedroom's lit up like it's daytime when it's night, you might need block-out blinds (or a taller duvet--like, the kind you can pull over your head!!) to sleep, but that may make waking up harder because it's dark when you do. Driving out the driveway may be hard in peak times. The area's safety for wandering kids might be something to also take into account if you have or are planning on having any; I wasn't allowed to leave the yard as a kid which sorta sucked.

I think Jubey's got the right idea: go check it out in peak traffic times. And at night. Get a good idea of what it's like at all times so you can evaluate it against what's important to you.
posted by springbound at 3:09 AM on October 13, 2009 [1 favorite]

I lived on Colesville Rd, Silver Spring for about a year. It was a 4-6 lane road that had traffic all hours. I got blocked up most mornings. The night I moved in I realised I'd made a huge mistake and was never going to sleep properly there. The night after that I slept a bit more. On the third night I almost slept through the night. On the fourth night I slept through and it didn't bother me at all for the rest of the time.

It might be a problem for kids or pets, but other than that it shouldn't be that much of an issue.

You spend most of your time inside, particulate emissions from roads shouldn't be that bad. Google around a bit and try and ask a medical researcher if they can look over the literature for it. Try the NSW EPA.
posted by sien at 3:12 AM on October 13, 2009

D'oh, the third sentence should say it not I referring to the road.
posted by sien at 3:13 AM on October 13, 2009

++++ Jubey's comment about going there during peak periods.

But also go there on a Saturday night, about 11pm.

I just sold a house in Glenmore Park, far west, just below the blue mountains and just south of Penrith. It was on the main street through the suburb, and while the general hum of traffic noise was bearable, on Friday and Saturday nights, the DOOF-DOOF cars and general hoonism made the noise level UNbearable when trying to sleep. Of course this doesn't matter if you go out a lot :)

Traffic noise doesn't affect some people, but it affects me, so I wouldn't live there.
posted by flutable at 3:14 AM on October 13, 2009

Best answer: Is it in Crystal Street Leichhardt? If so, the reason it's so cheap is because the Comancheros blew up the Hell's Angels clubhouse there last year and everyone around is selling out. (I'm just speculating. I've been wondering about buying in myself).

If it's Parramatta Road, Enmore Road, King St/Princes Hwy, Liverpool Road, Old or New Canterbury Road, or even Salisbury Road, forget it. You might be able to live with the noise but all your washing will be coated in black sooty residue. My friends who lived on King St Newtown testify to the constant cleaning horror.

On the other hand, there are lots of properties in the Inner West that got Federal subsidies fifteen or so years ago to seal up against the third runway; you'll note them by their double-glazed windows and surprisingly effective ventilation. If you see rubber seals in the windows, snap it up, and don't think twice.

If it's not one of the horrible few streets which still allow truck movements at night, and if it isn't under the Leichhardt-Stanmore-Sydenham-Tempe flight path I'd say go for it. The Inner West is a noisy place, and if you wanted to live somewhere quiet, you'd move to Goulburn or Bathurst. It's not that bad and the city's a great place to live. Good luck!
posted by Fiasco da Gama at 3:27 AM on October 13, 2009 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: It's Dulwich Hill.

Taff - you know, I'd say you're on the money waiting another six months (seriously, nothing is out there), I would do the same if I could. Damned first homeowners grant!

Thanks for the tip re: truck movements at night Fiasco - it's a good call.
posted by mooza at 3:38 AM on October 13, 2009

Best answer: Wife and I bought a house in the inner west (about as far west as you can go, and still be in the inner-west) about six months ago, on an arterial road just like yours. It's 2 lane dual carriageway, but you can park on the outside lanes outside of peak times and weekends, so it's one lane most of the time.

We did the same thing, checking out the house during peak hour, to see if it'd be hard to back out of the driveway, checking it out on saturday night to see if there were neighbourhood hoons, asking the neightbours about break-ins and stuff. Not many bars or roller-shutters on neighbours windows.

I haven't noticed pollution as a problem, but the noise is mildly concerning. Wife has trouble getting to sleep cos of the noise, which has been temporarily alleviated by putting a foam mattress in the window of an evening. We've considered double glazing the bedroom windows to fix this more permanently - this would also help to sell it later on. You get used to noise.

If you have young kids, or plan on having any soon, I'd reconsider living on a busy main road. Kids can wander.

Other than that, I'm just happy to own a house (not a flat) and still be relatively close to all the amenities of the inner-west. The busy road is only a minor thing.

In Sydney you either have trains, traffic or flightpath. Choose one and get used to it.
posted by robotot at 3:46 AM on October 13, 2009

Best answer: I have lived on Stanmore Rd, Pyrmont Bridge Rd and the Crescent. You do get used to the background noise, but the doof-doof-yoof and people revving their engines at the lights were annoying and often loud enough to disrupt conversations indoors. Not being able to park outside your own house at certain times of the day is a pain. The black dust inside used to bother me as well.

Probably worth checking how the noise is in the back yard too - no point having a yard where you can't have a conversation.

If it were me, I'd wait and get somewhere quieter, and just let the first homeowners go. It's spring, there will be more houses coming onto the market. You've already missed the 1 October cut-off, so the difference between now and buying after 1 January is $3500 or $10 a day for a year... personally it'd be worth that to me to have some quiet, but then, I like quiet, which is partly why I no longer live in the Inner West.
posted by girlgenius at 4:00 AM on October 13, 2009 [1 favorite]

Best answer: We looked for five and a half months and bought - you can do it!! Don't be too depressed. I've lived on two busy roads, one in QLD and one here in Sydney in Strathfield (Beresford Rd). Traffic, I totally can deal with, with some caveats.

Are there any traffic lights or roundabouts etc outside your prospective house? Traffic lights etc (in my experience) are far more disruptive than the almost ocean-like noise of steadily moving traffic. Also, people are more likely to honk, burn-off etc where there are lights or anything that forces traffic to slow down.

The other, surprisingly important thing - the road may be busy for traffic, but how is it for pedestrians? In my experience in both places foot traffic was far more problematic than car traffic. Young bogans getting drunk and stumbling home at one, two, three in the morning, screaming at each other, kicking over signs, being pains in the arses. That was the real problem with the old Strathfield place.

Traffic is usually quiet during the times you really want it to be, it's the other things that bother you.

Air quality is another question entirely, if you're looking at Summer Hill or somewhere on a slope that'll catch a bit of a breeze, not such a big deal. In general, though, it seems there may be some affect but the results seem kinda ambiguous. It makes sense to me that there would be a correlation, how much you value that is a personal thing. Sydney, thanks to the blue mountains, is reasonably good for smog considered how much we produce.
posted by smoke at 4:07 AM on October 13, 2009

To address air quality - From working on computers at offices on busy streets - the insides were always blacker than your average computer interior.
posted by backwards guitar at 4:09 AM on October 13, 2009

Best answer: I've lived in Glebe, Petersham and Stanmore, but always one block back from the busy road. I've contributed to the traffic if you are looking at Illawarra Rd or Marrickville Rd.
I reckon if you already live in the area you can handle the noise, the planes were a bigger issue for me. They would stack up in a holding pattern then scream in over our place every 90 seconds for half an hour at 6am.
That said, the flight paths get moved around, so even if it isn't an issue today it can change *shrug*.
I really do want to second what girlgenius said about the first home buyers grant. I strongly suspect that after Christmas there will be many fewer first homebuyers looking, as they have all moved their plans forward. I'm not suggesting prices will fall, particularly, but if you are competing with one or two other buyers it is a lot more manageable than 10.
Certainly, I've seen prices being pushed up $20k on properties that get the grant. The tapering off (see really does mean it is peanuts in difference between now and next year.
My only other comment, is if you have reservations about where you are going to settle down, at least for a few years, it might be better to go on looking. The transaction costs to move and buy elsewhere are very high, so it is nice to get things right.
That said, we are now living in a house near the train line and highway. Inside, we can't hear either, but sitting on the front deck it is an ongoing buzz. We chose the house with the noise that was $100k less than similar with less noise (even dead ends have some noise). We've been here a year and a half and I don't notice the traffic. My partner still wishes we had the extra $100k to get the nicer place, but since it was this or substantially worse in a quieter spot, I'm happy with the choice.
Bear in mind noise probably also means close proximity to stuff that is a benefit too, like shops, cafes etc. and the convenience of being 5min walk from the train station, bakery or pub is something I would be reluctant to swap for a quieter place in the 'burbs where a car was needed to venture out.
posted by bystander at 4:44 AM on October 13, 2009

I lived on an arterial road in Melbourne (Hoddle Street) for a year. Great house, great suburb (Richmond), great rent, but it was possibly the worst year of my life. Because I didn't sleep the whole night through for the entire year. Not once. Not with earplugs. Not with Xanax. Not with white noise. Not with all three at once. I'd always lived in the inner city so I wasn't looking for deathly quiet, and I'm not a particularly light sleeper but this was just endless and really, really hard to deal with. It wasn't regular or rythmic so you were always being woken by random loud noises - truck air brakes, car horns, car crashes. It was sheer, unadulterated hell.

And re parking, one of the car crashes was my housemate's boyfriend's car getting cleaned up when he was parked infront of our house in an outside lane (not in peak hour and parking was legal). So I'd be careful about that too.

Also the pollution was beyond belief. I couldn't leave clothes on our washing line for more than a night or they would be freakin' grey with soot. Soot covered every surface of the house in black grime, no matter how frequently we dusted and how careful we were about always keeping the windows closed. When I blew my nose, it was black. Nasty.

Also our house had funny structural cracks that our landlord said were due to the volume of traffic moving past causing things to shift. He was kind of nuts, so I don't know if that was the real cause or if the house was just old. But the place did actually shake when trucks went past. So not impossible.

I would strongly recommend against living on a main road if you value your sleep and sanity.
posted by t0astie at 4:48 AM on October 13, 2009 [1 favorite]

Non-Australian anecdata here. I lived for a year in a quite nice house on an arterial. It seemed fine when we were deciding to take it. After living there for a while, we discovered that not only was it an arterial, it was the shortest distance between two industrial parks, one of which contained a scrap-metal recycling yard. (Really noisy, rattly trucks.) We also found that a few miles down the road, the arterial turned into a highway, making it a perfect conduit for commuters who were late to work and winding up their engines. In short, make sure you do your homework, especially if you're not perfectly familiar with the neighborhood. Find out what's at either end of that arterial.

IMHO one should never buy a house that one isn't entirely happy with, just because it's cheap. If you hope to live there for years, a few thousand dollars won't matter much in the end.
posted by scratch at 6:07 AM on October 13, 2009

Best answer: Both houses I lived in during my time in the inner-west were busy (Enmore and Camperdown). At the time I thought I was handling it okay - though I would always sleep with earplugs. But eventually I realised it was creating a sort of constant low-level, background stress for me. I'm now overly sensitive to traffic noise to the point where it's inconvenient - even walking along busy streets for more than a few minutes sometimes freaks me out a little. King St has definitely lost some of its appeal.

Oh and I totally agree with girlgenius - if you're not sure, maybe wait for the stupid first homeowners' grant to end. As far as I can tell (this is just keeping half an eye on the situation from the other side of the world) that damn grant has had a big inflationary effect on house prices and who knows what will happen when it ends, especially now that interest rates are going up. If you are considering buying a place that you're not likely to live in, happily, for many years to come, I would be cautious about buying right now. But that's probably why I still don't own a fricking house.
posted by 8k at 1:44 PM on October 13, 2009

Damn there is a lot of inner-westies here!

I went to school on Parramatta Road - it wasn't the cars that were the issue, it was the trucks using their air-brakes as they went down the hill.

If you are happy having the windows closed most of the time you'll be OK.

Now we live right next to a train line and we get black dust from that on the windowsills, so you can't escape it easily.
posted by trialex at 8:37 PM on October 13, 2009

That's hilarious, we're in Dulwich Hill now, looking to buy in Dulwich Hill.

We live on the corner of Wardell Rd... and there are a lot of hoons driving along it.

Let's keep in touch about this.

My email address is in my profile!
posted by taff at 11:47 PM on October 13, 2009

Response by poster: Hello to the Mefite inner-west massive. I'm pleasantly surprised at how many of us there are.

Thanks all for your advice and input - it has been super helpful.
posted by mooza at 1:29 AM on October 14, 2009

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