Home is Where the Highway Is
November 2, 2013 7:35 AM   Subscribe

What is it like owning a home near a *loud* highway or other noisy high-traffic roadway? How do you cope? Will I regret buying this house?

After a long search (5 years, I'm in a good rental situation and can take my time) I've finally found the house that I want to live in. It is really special, and I've never seen anything like it in my price range (nor am I likely to again).

But I hate where it's located. As much as I love the house, I am really afraid that the location would ruin living there.

It's the highway. Just over the hill is one of my region's busiest state highways. You can't see it from the house, but you sure can hear it.

The street itself is lovely. Pricey homes, landscaped lots, trees, everything looks well maintained. Normally far out of my price range. (The sellers have dropped their asking price $40k over the last 12 months.)

Somehow, apparently, the residents of this neighborhood have learned to live with the constant thrum? Maybe I would, too?

I've visited the property 3 times now, different times of day including commuter rush hour. There's no sugar coating it. It's loud.

So loud that if it were any other house, I'd never consider it. But 5 years in local real estate have revealed my options.

Nice, quiet houses in the country = $$$$$. Country houses I can afford = rundown or bleh. It seems that I have to choose between the house I want and the place I want my house to be.

Inside the house, the noise was imperceptible - but all the windows and doors were closed for the winter. Step outside - it's a constant humming throbby drone.

I know that we learn to tune out background noise... and that headphones, fans, radios, etc. could help block it out. But can a person live that way and not feel besieged? The house features a deck, balcony, and a landscaped haven of a back yard - one of the reasons I want to own property is to have a yard and go outside! - would I be able to enjoy any of it?

Also: I've lived in urban apartments for a long time - the garbage trucks, the sirens, the BOOM BOOM bass. It just becomes part of the background, I know - but here I'm cooped up indoors with the TV on. I'm never outside.

I value your thoughts, advice and experience. Thanks!
posted by falldownpaul to Home & Garden (45 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
I lived above a highway for a year or so. It was actually fairly quiet, a thrum, generally. However, what was really annoying were the big trucks with their jake brakes and downshifting around the curves. We had a huge stand of mature trees between us and the freeway but it was omnipresent in noise and in road dust. I didn't like how everything seemed to get a coating of black dust and I started to wonder about the physical affects of living above a highway. Sometimes the air just felt blech. For now, I would never live in such a place again.

Keep in mind that you will likely have the same challenges selling the place that these folks had -- a years-long, protracted sale process to likely sell for less than you want.
posted by amanda at 7:43 AM on November 2, 2013 [7 favorites]

Our apartment complex is quite close to the overpass of a major tollway and it is very noisy a lot of the time. Honestly, I sit on outside on my patio all the time (on the side of the building that faces the highway) and I rarely notice the noise at all.

There's the occasional super-loud truck engine that I notice but the sounds of the cars have basically just become white noise at this point.
posted by Serene Empress Dork at 7:44 AM on November 2, 2013 [1 favorite]

I have lived about a quarter-mile from an elevated freeway, and yeah, it's quickly just background noise. And it's quieter at night and on weekends, which is when I spent most of my time outside.

Honestly, it's better than a large surface street, which has more noisy noise, like you said - the sirens, the garbage trucks. There is the occasional emergency vehicle, but they're gone fast. You pretty much never have to stop talking to wait for something to pass, like I did when I later lived next to train tracks.

An upside was that we could have a quiet conversation outside without the neighbors hearing, thanks to the white noise. We had some characters living next door but rarely heard their overflow noise until they got drunk enough to get pretty loud. I now live in a neighborhood where nobody has air conditioning and everybody has their windows open, and you can hear everybody's business.

I don't know that it's all that different from living right next to the ocean. Except it doesn't smell like seagull shit and rotting kelp. So there's that!
posted by Lyn Never at 7:46 AM on November 2, 2013 [3 favorites]

I live a block from my town's (population 60,000+) busiest street, which is also the main route to the hospital. There's plenty of background noise, but we're just used to it. We spend plenty of time outdoors, and it's not loud enough to drown out music or conversation. I have no way of knowing if your highway is as loud as my thoroughfare, but we have had no problem with it.

The main drawback, of course, is if you ever decide to sell, buyers may have the same questions you're having. I bought my house for the same reason: cute house with a lower-than-average price due to the proximity of a busy street.
posted by SamanthaK at 7:50 AM on November 2, 2013 [1 favorite]

I would never ever buy a house like that.

Then again, I've lived in urban apartments too, and the garbage trucks, the sirens, the BOOM BOOM bass never became part of the background for me. I hated it every minute. So I might be extra sensitive.

It also depends on how your climate is and how likely you are to spend much time outdoors.
If the becoming-part-of-the-background effect is something you already know about yourself, and if the housing situation really is like you say (and your judgment not influenced by some type of confirmation bias - unlikely after a five-year search), then perhaps go for it.
posted by Namlit at 7:58 AM on November 2, 2013 [2 favorites]

Are you generally good at blending out background noise after a few minutes? If yes, then yes, you'll be able to enjoy it. If background noise never fades into the background for you then no, you won't be able to enjoy outdoor time in a property like that.
posted by koahiatamadl at 8:03 AM on November 2, 2013 [2 favorites]

You do need to consider that your house does have a lower value and will when you sell.
This is different than a "fixer upper" where you might make improvements and get more money later. And consider that you really will not be enjoying the property--just the inside of the house.

Do you have kids or might have kids while living there? Do you see kids outside?

How bad is the traffic dust? I live in an urban area, but my kitchen has windows facing a parking area [not a major street] and this means I have fine black dust settling on everything in the Kitchen.

Also, is the traffic "through traffic" or are there intersections where big trucks would need to brake--because that unexpected squeal is what gets to me.
A bus stop is the absolute worst! The squeal of those brakes has been driving some friends of mine quite crazy in their home.
posted by calgirl at 8:04 AM on November 2, 2013 [1 favorite]

Not sure where you are but we live on a state highway (2 lane) and backup to US highway. However we have about 3+ acres separating us from the US hwy (we own roughly 2 acres). Our area is suburban/rural. The noise doesn't bother me but we've been here for over 13 yrs. Our whole family is used to the noise and we traded off for land over a neighborhood. I agree with the comment above regarding resell value. Our house is not appreciating as much as other houses in quieter locations but we didn't buy for short term gains. On one hand we know the minute there is accident on the US hwy since all the traffic will then come down the state hwy OTH we love our house. The noise is louder in the winter due to lack leaves on trees.
posted by lasamana at 8:04 AM on November 2, 2013 [1 favorite]

I lived in an apartment near a highway overpass for a couple of years, and I agree that there is a constant thrum of white noise. I felt that I was able to tune it out, but when I started dating my now-husband, he could hear it and he hated it. He also has a theory that my cats got a lot more relaxed after I moved to a quieter place, so if you have pets, please take their comfort into account as well. My theory is that it's quite possible that even if someone gets used to the noise, it may increase their overall stress level without them becoming aware of it.
posted by matildaben at 8:11 AM on November 2, 2013 [12 favorites]

A lot depends on the stretch of road that you are near. Are there hills? That means you'll hear brakes as trucks slow going down and engines straining to get up. Curves? More of the same. If it is a good long straight stretch, you'll mostly just hear a constant thrum as described.

The worst apartment I ever lived in was next to a high-way on ramp. We didn't realize at the time we signed the lease, but a few miles down the road was a popular biker bar. Every few hours you'd get the damn things powering up the ramp. It was bad enough to knock pictures off the walls.
posted by Eddie Mars at 8:18 AM on November 2, 2013 [2 favorites]

We live literally across the street from a freeway. There's a sound wall and trees.

It's way better than when I lived a few blocks further away, on a street just a block from a commercial strip with buses and trucks and constant stop-and-go and horns and thumping car stereos. The freeway is background hum.

Try to hang out outside the house at different times like rush hours, or a nice afternoon that you might spend in the yard.
posted by rtha at 8:27 AM on November 2, 2013 [1 favorite]

The noise is not the biggest issue you should be focusing on, since traffic noise abatement techniques for houses and apartments are pretty effective (double glass pane windows, etc.). At least inside, where you're likely to spend the vast majority of your time (unless you're an avid gardener). The real issue here is going to be the severe health hazard from traffic air polution. Merely living (whole life) in a major city takes off some ten years off of your life span, on average, due to air pollution. And studies clearly show a a linear relationship - the more cumulative time you spend and the closer you are to a major transportation artery, the worse the health outcomes, in life span, all-cause mortality, cardiovascular disease, cancer.

I am willing to accept some tradeoff in health for the benefits of living in the city - after all, I live in Los Angeles, a city with the worst air quality in the US (of major cities). But there are limits. I personally would never voluntarily live anywhere near a major, or heavy traffic highway/freeway/street, any more than I'd smoke two packs a day. Where you make that tradeoff is of course up to you, but I'd urge you to google around for some studies, so you are fully informed about just what are the risks you're proposing to take.
posted by VikingSword at 8:30 AM on November 2, 2013 [9 favorites]

I live about 600 feet from the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway. Every so often a really heavy truck goes by that actually rattles things in the apartment slightly, and I do notice that - but other than that it faded to background noise within a week after I moved in.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 8:32 AM on November 2, 2013 [2 favorites]

I have lived on major thoroughfares for the past ten years. It's really horrible--noise, congestion, soot. I will never live in such a place again! Ugh.
posted by Admiral Haddock at 8:33 AM on November 2, 2013 [1 favorite]

I lived for 12 years in a duplex apartment three houses from one of the busiest stretches of thoroughfare in my major metropolitan area - a five-lane artery leading directly to the interstate. No AC, so windows open all summer long. Even the stop-and-go nature of the traffic faded into the deep background very quickly. I also overlooked the city's largest Irish bar out the back windows. Lots of foot traffic and jibber-jabber from passersby. It all fades into mental white noise. The only exception was the fire station, and those guys were courteous enough to generally remember to refrain from starting their sirens until they were well down the street.

When I moved away into a proper house in a back-street neighborhood I remember being freaked out by the quiet for weeks. After 12 years of mechanical rumble it felt oppressive to be able to hear the squirrels running through the grass and the flutter of birds flying by. In your shoes, I would not hesitate to buy this house, provided there are no exceptional traffic patterns w/r/t trucks or bikers as mentioned above. If you're on a slope or near a curve the downshifting of trucks can be jarring.

That said, you should inquire with your state's Department of Transportation to find out when the next construction project is planned, and take what steps are necessary to be sure you are notified about any public meetings about such projects so you can get proper notice and stay engaged.
posted by BigLankyBastard at 8:36 AM on November 2, 2013 [1 favorite]

I rent a place near a highway. When I moved in, I thought, I have made a terrible mistake - I could hear the road noise clearly in my bedroom. I don't really notice it now, though, I have just gotten used to it.

My level of commitment, of course, is pretty low, since I rent. If I get tired of it, I'm out of here.
posted by thelonius at 8:36 AM on November 2, 2013 [1 favorite]

I've lived on the corner of a busy 4-way stop sign intersection, on a busy main street and on quiet side streets. I'd hear car, truck and bike (think Harley's with loud exhausts) anywhere between 5:00 am and 8-9:00 pm. I got tired of it and quickly got sick of the noise.

I came to the conclusion that I wanted to enjoy peace and quiet not only on the inside but outside of my house also so a few years ago I came to the realization that if I wanted to hear "city" noise I would live downtown in the middle of the city.

Now I live in a more suburban setting about a mile from the nearest highway. If I listen carefully I can hear the hum of the traffic but not so much.

This won't be a rental that you can just walk away from if you decide 3 months down the road that you don't like it anymore. So my advice would be to forget about the house. Actually forget about any physical house. Try to find the environment/neighborhood you're looking for, THEN look for a house within that environment.
posted by eatcake at 8:45 AM on November 2, 2013 [3 favorites]

I often joke that I have never lived more than 500 yards from I-95. I'm so used to it I hardly even notice it. To me it's just a constant wooshing noise in the background. I find it hard to sleep when I'm away from it. But it just depends on what you are used to.

I once bought a painting of I-95 at an art show. I hung it on my wall and tell people it's my river.
posted by interplanetjanet at 8:57 AM on November 2, 2013 [11 favorites]

We might have been a touch further away than you, but to us the freeway noise mostly sounded like a waterfall, occasionally punctuated by the louder sound of a climbing truck. It was no big deal.
posted by crazycanuck at 9:02 AM on November 2, 2013 [1 favorite]

I think if you are concerned about it now, it will be the only thing you think about once you move in. The other thing to consider is the the road dirt/dust. Even if you do get used to the noise, the road dust will coat all of your outdoor furniture and patio areas. When you have the windows open it will coat everything inside your house. Ugh. I lived a block from I-275 for 5 years- I got used to the constant noise, but never to the road filth.
posted by PorcineWithMe at 9:05 AM on November 2, 2013 [1 favorite]

As you can see from the answers, it is often different for everyone. In order to judge how you yourself will react to the constant noise, you should look at how susceptible you are to noise in general. If the sound of a car alarm in your neighborhood at night quickly fades into the background or not, if the sound of a neighbor's crying baby or barking dog will wake you repeatedly at night or not, etc. I know I personally would not be able to live near a loud freeway, because background noises that I cannot personally control make me very close to actually insane.

And yes, both future difficulty with resale and long-term health hazards are absolutely valid concerns.

Other things:

- construction? how long have projects taken in the past, and are there any scheduled for the future? is there a chance that the road will one day be expanded in width, bringing it closer to your home and making it louder with more traffic?
- access? will the street you live on be close to or part of the main access road to and from the highway? will there be stressed and honking commuters outside your home every day?
- accidents? do the streets around your neighborhood have a higher than usual number of accidents for a neighborhood of its size due to increased traffic volume from the highway?
-cleanliness? what do the windowsills look like on the outside of the house, or inside when the windows are open? is everything grimy with soot and dust?
posted by elizardbits at 9:10 AM on November 2, 2013 [1 favorite]

I lived right next to the I-5 highway in Seattle for a couple of years. It wasn't the noise that bothered me in the end, though -- it was finding that all of my belongings, along with the windowsills and walls, became lightly dusted with this nasty black soot whether or not I kept my windows completely shut.
posted by joan_holloway at 9:17 AM on November 2, 2013 [1 favorite]

If you go outside and play music (maybe just try a boombox to test?) at a reasonable level that wouldn't disturb neighbors, would you still hear the highway? I'd be cool with a super-duper dream house that's quiet inside, but where I might need to play soothing music while I garden or sip cocktails on the deck.

I'm used to various levels of city noise, and now live in the quietest place I've ever lived as an adult, and I'll say that a) the quiet is still sort of weird/unsettling to me 6 years later, and b) quiet places have bothersome noises because when everything is so very, very quiet, every sound seems amplified. Dogs barking, garbage trucks, neighbors fighting, motorbikes, planes/helicopters, any kind of construction noise... hell, even birds -- can seem amazingly loud against a background of mostly silence, and it's unpredictable and erratic, so it stands out rather than becoming background. (And I still actually live in the middle of a huge city; it's just that our neighborhood is protected from city noise by some big green areas, and maybe some other geo-acoustical magic.)

But then, I'm also a person who sleeps better with the sound of a fan rather than total quiet, so, there's that.
posted by taz at 9:19 AM on November 2, 2013 [1 favorite]

My wife and I bought such a house last year, and are quite fine with it. Ours is maybe a couple hundred yards above the highway, with another row of houses in-between. The road itself is on a hill and has a nearby traffic light so there's regular acceleration and deceleration. We've even got a deck, on the side closest to the road. It took me about 4 months to get used to it, but now it doesn't bother me at all. I do enjoy the occasional quiet periods at night, on weekend mornings and holidays. Central air is a must, so you can have the windows closed in summer and still be comfortable.

That said, we aren't close enough, or the traffic here isn't heavy enough, to create the soot problems mentioned by other posters. That would probably get to me.

If you move forward with this, do check nearby comps very carefully to be sure you aren't overpaying. The fact that they've dropped the price a bunch already only means they had it badly overpriced to begin with. It *still* might be overpriced.
posted by jon1270 at 9:22 AM on November 2, 2013 [1 favorite]

Will you ever want to sell the place? If the answer is yes, then you'll experience the same difficulty selling that the current owner is experiencing. I know that our homes are supposed to be places to live over investments, but if similar homes in a different location are appreciating and mine's not, that wouldn't make me happy.

Another issue that would make this a no-go for me is the road filth that others have mentioned here. I currently live in an area that most of the country would consider rural-bordering-on-remote. We have dust, but it's dirt, not grime. My parents live in the city, and the junk on the outside of their house is black, greasy and impossible to remove completely. It bothers me whenever I'm there to think of what that stuff is doing to my family's lungs.

Finally, my own reaction to city noise has been that it never became white noise to me. Instead, it created a low undercurrent of stress in my life that completely went away when I moved out of the city. I physically reacted to the removal of that stress - my blood pressure went down and I had fewer headaches and far less muscle tightness. When I go back to the city, all those physical symptoms ramp right back up for the duration of my stay. How you react to noise in general will give you important clues about whether you could tolerate it or not. The fact that you notice it now says something inside you is saying "Hold on here -- are you sure you want to do this?"

You can probably tell that you'd never convince me to buy next to a highway no matter how nice the house or how great a price!
posted by summerstorm at 9:29 AM on November 2, 2013 [2 favorites]

Yes, read up on the health hazards. Google terms like near-roadway exposures, high volume roadways and pollution, or the pollutants themselves like PM 2.5, PM 10, diesel particulates... All of this may or may not matter to you depending on how long you're planning to own the place and other factors. Personally, I would not buy a house near a highway if you're going to have children. Here's one paper to start with.
posted by slidell at 9:35 AM on November 2, 2013 [5 favorites]

Will I regret buying this house?

Something to keep in mind is that you can always change something you don't like physically about a house but you can never change its location or size of the plot of land. Location is paramount when looking for a house. Watch "House Hunters"- the people almost always choose the house with the best location and plot of land for their needs. If a family wants a 4 bedroom/2.5 bath home on a quiet street with a yard for the kids and dog, they will settle for the 3 bedroom/2 bath house with the kid and dog friendly yard & street and can add on another bedroom and half bath later.

What is it like owning a home near a *loud* highway or other noisy high-traffic roadway?

I just bought a home on a fairly busy road. Yes, the road noise does become white noise after a while, and yes there is the occasional ridiculously loud super cool guy on a motorcycle or thunderous truck that break through the white noise, but it happens and then it's over.

If you want to try to block the sound with a fence, you might want to check with your local township to see just how tall a fence can be in your area if you want to have that option.
posted by NoraCharles at 9:36 AM on November 2, 2013 [2 favorites]

My husband and I live on a very, very busy street - we moved here last summer. I had a lot of the same concerns that you've expressed (with the added question of, "Will we be able to get out of our driveway, ever?!") The street is busy enough that we generally cannot hold a conversation in our front yard because, unless we're standing very close to each other, we can't hear a word being said. We're also right at an intersection, so there's a lot of stop-and-go traffic.

A year later, I can say that I have no regrets.

The previous owners lived here for almost 30 years and I can see us doing the same. Easily.

Yes, our house will sell for less than others in the neighbourhood that aren't on a main street - but we paid less for it, so I'm unconcerned with that. We don't spend time in the front yard anyway, other than to park our cars, and our backyard is landscaped such that the noise is really minimized. We have a pool and a hot tub out there and are able to enjoy them and have a conversation, too. I agree with others who have commented on the 'white noise' effect that blocks out the neighbours' parties and shenanigans.

It's possible to muffle sound - landscaping, yes, but also good quality windows and doors. Thick curtains at night for sleeping (if the traffic is still heavy at night - around us, it calms down a lot). We have a 'turn around' on our driveway so we can easily pull out nose-first. We have hedges in front of our basement windows so that there's very little street noise making it downstairs.

I waffled HARD about buying this house - I loved everything other than the location - but I have zero regrets a year later. We're happy here!
posted by VioletU at 9:39 AM on November 2, 2013 [1 favorite]

This is a really personal decision. I am more bothered by a neighbour talking loudly on the phone while on her balcony than I am by any busy traffic, sirens, etc. Over and above a highway such as you describe, I would probably be more influenced by witnessing something like my neighbours having a huge outdoor tiki bar set up across from my bedroom window.

Could you talk to a couple of your potential neighbours about their experiences there?
posted by analog at 9:41 AM on November 2, 2013 [1 favorite]

I live a block and a half from a straight section of a major highway, and it's just a background wooshing noise. It didn't bother me too much until they started doing construction and using jackhammers from 1-5 AM every day. At the distance we're at, it sounds like I'm sleeping next to a clothing dryer with a couple of pairs of shoes in it thudding with the jackhammers doing their thing. Unfortunately, it's a rental so we can't do anything about the single pane windows.

Honestly, it doesn't bother me that much - the small airport on the other side of the highway is more distracting - but we don't have issues with road soot, bikers, or traffic shaking things in our house like others have mentioned.
posted by asphericalcow at 10:07 AM on November 2, 2013 [1 favorite]

I grew up in a house that was literally on a parkway. After the fence in my backyard, there was a three lane (each way) parkway. When you thought about it, there was a constant hum, but I never once considered it a problem. We had bbq's and a basketball court in the back yard. Actually, the court and players who played A LOT, were probably more of a nuisance to the community than the highway.

I would have no issue buying that house and I currently live in a quiet area. I would caution that the reason the house has not sold is because of the noise most likely and when you are ready to sell, you will have a reduced price scenario most likely.
posted by JohnnyGunn at 10:10 AM on November 2, 2013 [1 favorite]

I live a block from one interstate (I can see the traffic from my living room) and about four blocks from another, in a neighborhood that would make the list of "areas harmed by freeway construction" though it's not the most egregious example in the city. Things that are more noticeable than the interstate: any event in the park involving live music (my apartment faces the interstate, not the park), sirens from the fire station on the opposite side of the interstate. I'm sure it's not doing my lungs any good, though.

You do want to consider where the entrances and exits are--some neighborhoods near mine are hellish at rush hour due to the number of cars trying to get on the interstate and that's far worse than the highway itself.
posted by hoyland at 10:37 AM on November 2, 2013

We live a street away from the railroad tracks, which are right next to a major road, which is right next to the major highway to the bases. Since we live next the the base, we also have the constant drone of navy jets and assorted other aircraft flying into the airport. To be honest, I hardly notice it any more, especially at night. Every once in a while the noise will seem especially loud, but by far the majority of it is tuned out. It depends on the context of what I'm doing. Conversations stop while the jets go by, but pick up as soon as you can hear yourself again. I've been told that the noise is far too loud by people who are used to quieter city streets and the country. It doesn't really bother me, though. I even look forward to hearing the night trains go by on nights when I can't sleep.

Like everyone else said, the market for a house in that location is going to be a little tight. Even if it truly wouldn't be an issue for most people to live there, they will push for a price reduction because there is something "wrong" with the house.

I would try and talk to as many people on the street as you can about the noise level (and anything else you could find out about the neighborhood). Try to visit at different times of the day and see if the noise level is too crazy.Visit at rush hour, late at night, early morning- you want to have the full experience of what a day spent there would be life. When you visit, make sure you're staying long enough for your brain to start filtering out the noise. It's going to sound a lot louder at first than it does after even thirty minutes.
posted by shesaysgo at 10:40 AM on November 2, 2013 [1 favorite]

I live a flat block away from the highest traffic volume surface street in my city and the main arterial for this half of town. The road noise is something that I hardly notice at all even when on my deck or in the yard. Sirens though break through the background hum and on particularly busy nights can even keep me awake (my house has very little in the way of sound abatement). Nothing that can't be solved with earplugs at night.

The lowered property value is a net win in my opinion. You get to live in a house and area you wouldn't otherwise be able to afford. Sure you'll end up selling for a discount but you bought for a discount to so it'll come out even. In my case I haven't regretted cutting my commute times to everything by a 70% or more in the least.
posted by Mitheral at 10:42 AM on November 2, 2013 [1 favorite]

I just moved from a place that was right near the 101 which while not up to the high standards set by some other freeways here, is pretty busy. I thought it was okay and got used to it pretty quickly. I would still notice it, especially if I opened the windows, but it felt bearable. That being said, the first thing I noticed about my new apartment is how quiet it is. I can have windows open and watch TV without having to max the volume, I can just have windows open in general without hearing the noise.

Without doubt, you can soundproof against road noise but you end up sealed inside. In my case, it wasn't worth it and I won't move anywhere loud like that again, I don't want to be sealed in like that.
posted by feloniousmonk at 11:38 AM on November 2, 2013 [1 favorite]

unfortunately, you won't know how the traffic noise truly affects you until you move in. we own a home on a San Diego cliff overlooking a big freeway, with a couple others not too far away. indoors, I can always hear it somewhat. outside, it's a constant rush or roar, depending on where you're standing.

for the first 6 months or so, it was a huge source of anxiety for me, not gonna lie. I thought about asking metafilter about it on numerous occasions. I felt trapped by home ownership, since leaving wouldn't be a matter of a lease expiring, and stressed about it a ton. of course, that also coincided with a period of depression, and going on wellbutrin for 8 months or so seems to have somewhat tempered both -- the depression, and the traffic noise anxiety.

I won't say I don't hear it anymore; I'm listening to it right now. but I suppose I have gotten mostly used to it.
posted by changeling at 2:07 PM on November 2, 2013 [1 favorite]

Money is always a consideration. If you think this is the best house you can get for your money, you might want to go ahead after thinking out some issues.

Are the windows the best they can be, or could they be replaced for more noise control?

What is the landscaping like towards the highway side? Plenty of vegetation--including evergreens, have made all the difference in the noise we get from the interstate. In 30 years here, we've seen a huge increase in traffic. Our place sits 1/4 mile from I84, but there's absolutely nothing between us and the highway but sagebrush. The vegetation we've encouraged over the years has made all the difference in noise levels. The big difference has been the 15 foot lilac hedge. A tall privacy fence would have cut noise even more, but would also make exiting the driveway problematic, so we nixed that.

Is your outdoor space and patio away from the road or can it be enclosed to cut out noise?

The big question is whether or not your bedroom is toward the road or on the other side of the house. Heavy curtains you can shut at night, carpet as opposed to hardwood floors--there's interior decorating that makes a difference also.

You do get used to the traffic--I hardly ever notice the train whistle at 11 pm and 3 am anymore either.

When you say the road is "just over the hill" does that mean 1/4 mile? More?

I wouldn't be overly concerned if it's at least 1/4 mile away, even growing a vegetable garden. Especially if you have houses and/or vegetation between you and the road. The other question about road pollution or dirt is what are the prevailing winds in your area? You'll have less pollution and dirt if they blow away from you. Good insulation and an HVAC system make a big difference.
posted by BlueHorse at 2:12 PM on November 2, 2013 [1 favorite]

A friend of mine who lives very close to a freeway got lung cancer. She never smoked and figures it was likely from the proximity to the freeway pollution. The LA Times just had an article on pollution and how bad it is for your health. For this reason I wouldn't live near a freeway.
posted by wildflower at 2:46 PM on November 2, 2013 [1 favorite]

I used to own a place from which I could see the 10 freeway, about 5 houses down from Pico, a major thoroughfare in LA (and, for bonus points, about a mile from Santa Monica Airport). The noise was easy to get used to, really. The only times it bothered me were late at night if someone was speeding, or when police would put on the "Pull over to the side of the road" loudspeaker, or sirens. I used an air filter, so I had white noise that drowned most of it out.

But I NEVER got used to the pollution. The ash and soot was disgusting. When I was three months pregnant we decided to sell the place because the idea of my daughter's little lungs breathing that terrible air bugged me so much. I think Pico was actually worse than the 10 because the traffic was stop and go all the time.

Also, anytime there was a major event that people wanted to get home for at a certain time (so basically Valentine's Day, Halloween, and Laker games), it became a huge pain in the ass to get to our house because our house was between seemingly all of Santa Monica and the onramp. All the usual side streets were full up with other savvy customers trying to beat the system. I would never buy a place that close to the freeway again.
posted by town of cats at 8:06 PM on November 2, 2013

Times like this make me thankful I'm Deaf, so I wouldn't have to deal with those issues ;)

I promise, that was just tongue-in-cheek! Absolutely no offense meant. Fret not, I'd still be unsure, primarily because of the smog/smoke/soot/dust that would most likely be an issue. I also wonder about feeling the occasional rumble, and the slight possibility of the house shaking. All my other senses are enhanced/stronger to compensate for my Deafness.

I agree with everyone who has suggested going to the house at different times/getting permission to stay for longer than necessary. Maybe bring an airbed so you can at least emulate sleeping on the floor of the master bedroom - the frame will most likely block out some of the noise, so that'd be a worst-case scenario to test right there. (I could be wrong about that part, due to my Deafness, so somebody correct me if so.)

Good luck! I'd be so torn if I were you, but I honestly think you'd be okay as long as you have a strong HVAC system and insulation.
posted by dubious_dude at 8:07 PM on November 2, 2013 [1 favorite]

I live three doors down from the bypass in my city. I am so used to the noise, I don't even notice it unless it's a siren or particularly loud truck. Sometimes I hear the train, too, but usually it's just background noise. Even the dog doesn't pay much attention to the highway traffic anymore.

At night, even with the windows open, the semi trucks have just turned into a woosh, woosh, wooosh, that's actually relaxing and whitenoisy.
posted by mibo at 9:15 PM on November 2, 2013

I loved my condo in a quiet neighborhood, and then the State (AZ) built a freeway within yards of us. I still loved my condo, but the noise won. I couldn't stay there, and I moved out in less than a year. I was able to rent it out easily, but it was difficult to sell. Please take your time making this decision.
posted by melesana at 9:36 PM on November 2, 2013

If you buy and stay for oh, say 10 to 15 years, you may get a surprise electric car bonus on your subsequent sale, or continued use and enjoyment of the place. At the rate Tesla and other makers are improving electric cars, and bringing down their prices, in a decade or two, more of that traffic will nearly automatically be electric cars, which are pretty quiet, even at speed. Live there 25 years, and I think the place will be no louder from that highway, than the occasional thunder storm of an old "clean diesel" truck passing along.
posted by paulsc at 11:18 PM on November 2, 2013 [1 favorite]

As others have noted, you will have have a coating of black grime all over the exterior of the house, and it is noticeable from the street if the paint color is light. This might now sound like a big deal now, but trust me, it gets OLD.

An even bigger problem? You cannot leave your windows open, or the windowsill, glass, screens, and everything within a foot or two of the window, will be covered with said grime.

I lived in a house by the highway for ten years. The noise was not that big of a deal. The dusty black grime was a big pain in the ass, and I will never do that again.
posted by ravioli at 3:15 PM on November 3, 2013

Can you rent it for 6 months with an option to buy?
posted by CathyG at 10:25 AM on November 4, 2013

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