Should I buy a potentially noisy house when I hate noise?
November 16, 2010 10:34 AM   Subscribe

Should I go through with this house purchase? I'm worried about the noise from next door.

We live in Scotland and have put in an offer on a house. In Scotland, this offer is legally binding and if we retract the offer we may have to pay damages.

However, I'm freaking out about moving into this house. I guess part of it is that it's the largest purchase I've ever made so it's natural that I'm feeling unsettled. But what really worries me is the noise that's going to come from next door.

The house is out in the country and the only neighbours we'll have are the people who're fixing up the old barn next door. We went over the other day to look at the house again and heard hammering the whole time we were there. It didn't register too much at the time, but now I'm thinking there's going to be constant hammering while we're living there.

I'm very sensitive to noise (for example, noise is a problem in my relationship because my partner is noisy, I wear earplugs every night or I can't sleep, and I notice dripping taps and the like way before anyone else does). If I have to have constant hammering in my life I feel like I may go insane.

On the one hand, the windows are double-glazed and the living room is on the opposite side of the house from the neighbours so I don't know whether we'll hear the hammering while inside. On the other hand, we plan to do a lot of work in the garden and I'm guessing it will be during the warm weather when the neighbours will also be doing a lot of work on the house. I can wear earplugs while outside, however.

So my question is - is this a dealbreaker for this house, to the point where I should suffer the legal consequences of retracting the offer? Or am I freaking out for nothing and it will be fine when we get there? The house is really great apart from this one issue - or potential issue.

Input from anyone who's lived next to a barn conversion or other fairly intense building project and how they coped would be especially helpful.
posted by hazyjane to Home & Garden (19 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
This seems temporary. If it a problem wear earplugs and use a white noise machine need to until they are done.
You could retract the offer and move somewhere else and have a metal band start practicing in the garage next door.
posted by beccaj at 10:37 AM on November 16, 2010

How far into the barn renovation project are they? If you don't know, can you have a chat with the neighbors to find out how long they plan to be under construction? Then, weigh that against the length of time you plan to be in the house. 3 months of noise out of 20 years of owning the house is a very different situation than 2 years out of 5 years.
posted by decathecting at 10:38 AM on November 16, 2010

Assuming the barn fixing is a project with an endpoint, and not a permanent way of life for your neighbors, it seems unlikely that this is worth scrapping the deal over. After all, you can't control what your neighbors do after you buy a house, so temporary annoyances like this are probably inevitable for you no matter where you live, no? In other words, what's your better option? Is it feasible that you move to some extremely remote location with no neighbors at all? If not, are you really likely to do better than this?
posted by jon1270 at 10:41 AM on November 16, 2010

Response by poster: Looking at the state of the barn, it's going to be a fairly long haul. There's a big patch missing in the stonework with a blue tarp over it in front, for example, and it's a big building that doesn't look even remotely waterproof yet.
posted by hazyjane at 10:42 AM on November 16, 2010

Yes, temporary. It may not be "fine" when you get there but I can't imagine a person working on their barn for eternity. They could have been hammering on that particular day only. They may have months of hammering planned. We do not know. Even if it is a long project, it will end.

Enjoy your new house.
posted by Fairchild at 10:42 AM on November 16, 2010

Can you ask them how long they expect it to go on? Building projects are usually temporary.

My back-diagonal neighbors have had a three-summer-long deck-building project ongoing, 8 to 4, every day from April through Septemberish, including while I studied for the bar exam. I, too, am very sensitive to noise. To be honest, I mostly tuned it out after a while, and played music otherwise. My studyin' window pointed right at their deck. It didn't interfere with my sleep because they finished at 4. For outdoor entertaining, I scheduled late afternoon or later for parties to avoid the hammering.

(And no, they have no yard left. It's ALL DECK. It's the craziest thing you've ever seen.)
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 10:42 AM on November 16, 2010 [3 favorites]

Over the summer two (maybe three?) years ago, our back yard neighbors had an addition put on to their house. It was really, really noisy, every day, five days a week. Our master bath window looks out over the backyard, and the master bath is attached to the master bedroom, so I knew when the construction started each morning. Usually around 7:00AM. I'm really sensitive to noise, too. I have to have white noise to sleep and if one of the kids gets up to use the bathroom, I hear it no matter how quiet they are and in spite of the white noise. I hated that construction noise.

But it didn't last forever. It ended and I got over it. I doubt the barn conversion is going to last more than a few months; you can handle that. At least you know about it going in and can take measures to alleviate some of the discomfort.
posted by cooker girl at 10:45 AM on November 16, 2010

Go meet your future neighbors. Not only will you get information about the house, but about the area, too.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 10:47 AM on November 16, 2010 [4 favorites]

My first thoughts were exactly what Cool Papa Bell suggests. I wouldn't start right off asking about the noise. Rather I'd say hello to get an idea how easygoing they are, and then you can ask about their projects, whether they do a lot of work, and so on. If they are gruff or won't answer the door, then that's good information too. Without actually going over there, you don't have anything with which to base a decision.
posted by crapmatic at 10:51 AM on November 16, 2010 [1 favorite]

(Also if you ask about the people that used to live in the old house, the focus is not on them, and you can get an idea if they have a chip on their shoulder with other neighbors)
posted by crapmatic at 10:52 AM on November 16, 2010

In Scotland, there's fairly strong legislation about noise nuisance, and local government has the ability to send in environmental officers. So if having a friendly chat with the neighbours won't work, there are alternative routes.
posted by scruss at 10:53 AM on November 16, 2010 [1 favorite]

I'm no expert, so I'll throw out and idea and let the hive correct me...

Don't electric hammers make less noise than regular hammers? I seem to remember when our roof was built that each nail only took one "thhoookk" noise, rather than "pound, pound, pound, pound" of a regular hammer being hit over and over. Maybe that's just for small roofing nails, and maybe barn lumber is not the same.

If this is true, would it be worth a couple hundred bucks to get one and loan it to them?
posted by CathyG at 10:53 AM on November 16, 2010

Make sure your house is insulated. this will help with the noise and keep your heat in. double or tripple pained windows will also help.
posted by majortom1981 at 11:46 AM on November 16, 2010

Even if the renovation project is going to take a long time (and there's no way to know without going and talking to the neighbours), there's not necessarily going to be noisy construction work every day. For example, bricklaying is not particularly noisy, insulating can be very quiet or noisy, depending whether you use rolls of insulation or blow in expandable foam. I would imagine its more likely that there will be occasional bouts of noise, which you can probably manage with earplugs, white noise etc.

Also to consider, is this renovation being down all in one fell swoop, or are the neighbours doing it when they have time and money to spare? That might mean you go months with no noise at all while they do nothing. Talk to them!
posted by Joh at 11:55 AM on November 16, 2010

Talk to them. And in very general terms, I'd rather live somewhere rural where the neighbours appear to be rebuilding what's there than knocking it down. (If the barn renovation is to rent it out as a summer cottage, that's a potentially different story.)
posted by holgate at 12:01 PM on November 16, 2010

I wouldn't worry about it. How long do you plan on living in this house? 50 years? Or even just 5? Either way, they will most likely be done with their remodel before you move. If you don't see yourself in this house very long, then don't buy it.
posted by QueerAngel28 at 3:52 PM on November 16, 2010

I have very sensitive hearing also and we live next door to a really noisy family too. In my experience, there are two kinds of noisy neighbors: temporary-oops-sorry-for-the-inconvenience type neighbors and the other kind: always-noisy-this-is-our-house-and-we'll-do-whatever-the-fuck-we-want-when-we-want type. Unfortunately for us, we live next door to the latter type. If, like you, I had the choice to back out of the deal, pay a fine, and take my chances elsewhere, I'd do it in a heartbeat. Unfortunately, we'd bought our house first and they came years later. If the market in our area wasn't in the toilet, we'd have moved a long time ago. The aggravation just isn't worth it.
posted by LuckySeven~ at 6:17 PM on November 16, 2010

If I lived in the country and had a barn I would want to fix it up so I could use it to build projects in and plane down doors and hammer stuff. And: I've a buddy who works on his 57 Chevy and his 34 Ford pickup truck in his garage, he does keep the doors closed but I have hammered fenders for that Ford with him and he's hammered them lots more when I wasn't there, it's noisy working on cars.

If you asked me, or if you asked Bob, I know that either of us would tell you what we do, and that we shut down at 9 or whatever, but still, it's part of Bob's life and if I had a barn it would be part of mine, to use said barn for clattering saws and hammering hammers...

So I say ask them if there is going to be any work done after the barn is done, is the barn going to become a workshop. And as noted upthread, if they are jerky about you asking that's also good information to base any decision upon.

I'm not as noise sensitive as you are but I have had one guy live in the condo underneath me who bought this wonderful, incredible, amazing stereo/movie theater setup, my floor was literally vibrating with the bass line of whatever movie was playing, I had to tell him again and again, day after day "Look, this is what people who have their own home do, not what people in apartments and/or condos do." and finally he moved on, and i think he did get his own stand-alone home. Had he not moved we'd have gone round and round daily, it was not fun....
posted by dancestoblue at 7:58 PM on November 16, 2010

Having a house almost always means having neighbors. Neighbors make noise; some more, some less. If you can't handle the noise they guy who *already lives there* makes, then don't move in there. But don't make out like it's somehow his issue.
posted by kjs3 at 8:38 PM on November 16, 2010

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