Out-of-the-box ideas for moving, peace and quiet
October 13, 2020 9:15 AM   Subscribe

I'd like to move, and traditional methods of searching for houses/land are failing me. Details inside. Please help make this seem less hopeless.

In short, my neighbor has a noisy barking dog. At times, other neighbors have also had their own dogs that are next to my yard and making noise which I cannot stop. It makes my blood boil, and I'm incredibly stressed because of it. Taking normal methods to resolve these conflicts have failed; I'm also extremely sensitive to unwanted noises; at this point finding a quieter spot where, more or less I can control my own destiny, is the only option.

I live in moderate-size city (about 130k people) and I like the distance I currently live from downtown (about 3 miles). I can bike or run to wherever I want to be. The problem is that houses are so closely packed in a city that I've ended up in a position where there is inescapable noise. I'm trying to find my oasis, which is a house without immediate neighbors (maybe it backs up to a park, a forest, difficult terrain to build on, or power lines) that's still within a few miles of downtown center.

What I've tried so far:

- Looked for two years, checking every day, on realtor sites to see whether an agent-selling or homeowner-selling property exists within those confines.
- Knocked on a homeowner's door and asked if they would be willing to sell. (They were nice about the admittedly odd request, but were unwilling to sell.)
- Scoured county- and city-owned properties in my county's database to see if those government entities own a property they would be willing to sell. This was an interesting project, but nothing has materialized.

Am I doomed to just wait until that perfect property shows up on a realty site? Are there any other avenues to take that I'm not seeing? I'm open to creative options.

I'm Ok with buying fixer-upper and would be fine with building on a piece of land. More than anything, I'm at my wits end with the noise, and I need out. Any help or ideas are appreciated.
posted by mr_bovis to Home & Garden (7 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
If you intend to purchase a home and would engage with a realtor anyway to purchase the home, this is what a real estate agent is for. You tell them their your specs, what is important to you, and them have them search, using their databases and networks. Most will automatically send you new listings that match parameters you specify until you see something you're interested in and want to go see in person.

Separately, as a noise sensitive person who lives in a dense urban center next to several regional hospitals, the first thing I noticed about my now home was the constant sound of ambulance sirens. Replacing the old windows with air tight new windows eliminated that problem for me, but whether that works for you depends on house construction.
posted by Karaage at 9:27 AM on October 13 [11 favorites]

If you can find a fixer upper on a larger lot, you can gut it and do a really, really effective job of soundproofing during the renovation. Where I'm staying now is a house built in the 1920s that we gutted and insulated with Rockwool at the beginning of this year. We also replaced the hundred year old wooden windows with new contractor grade vinyl ones from home depot and carefully sealed around them before drywall was put in.

It's on a small lot, just over 6000 square feet, and I cannot hear my neighbor's dogs barking, I can barely hear sirens from ambulances going down a main avenue a few blocks away. It is so peaceful and quiet inside, and I didn't even spring for more expensive soundproofing additions like insulated drywall or windows designed for soundproofing with two different layers of glass. This is the first time I've lived in a place with Rockwool instead of standard pink fiberglass insulation and it makes a real difference in how much I enjoy being at home.

If you are still in Columbia SC you may just need to be open to living a bit further from downtown in order to have more space around your home. If I go on realtor.com and search for minimum lot size of one acre in your area, I see some results that are 8 or 9 miles from downtown. Would that be possible? Living on an acre, you could have space, a fence and trees/shrubbery for privacy, as well as doing soundproofing inside your home.

Other things to look for (or ask realtors to keep an eye out for) would be properties that have a vacant lot next door, or properties that are next door to nonstandard residential structures like a long term care facility (no barking dogs in there!) or a church. The more specific you can be when you ask realtors for something, the more helpful they can be. When I invest I typically narrow my area of interest down to a single zip code or neighborhood and tell realtors I am ONLY looking in that area + whatever particular characteristics of the property I want. Sometimes they bring me listings that are off market or not yet advertised! being specific is helpful.
posted by zdravo at 9:35 AM on October 13 [5 favorites]

Just to check off a few nuances -

1. Have you tried white noise / grey noise?
2. Have you tried noise cancelling headphones? Specifically, airpods are incredibly convenient, such that it's not a hassle to put them in, and the pros cancel noise.
3. When you moved to your location, were you aware that the density of housing increases chances of noisy neighbors? (Like, I live next to a highway, there's lots of highway noise, etc).
4. Have you caulked shut your windows, and applied clear film over them?

The reason I ask, is that I have seen friends that complain of the same thing, but they often have windows / doors open, or they complain about it sitting in their yard. I have a friend that lives near an airport and complains about the planes. I would make sure your taking reasonable, cheaper alternatives before taking the expensive/drastic measure of buying a new house.
posted by bbqturtle at 1:29 PM on October 13

If there is agriculture on the outskirts of your city, you could see if a landowner would be willing to sell you a corner of his or her property. Zoning could be a problem, and not all the usual utilities might be available.

Along the same lines, someone who lives on a big lot in the setting you want might be willing to subdivide, or build an accessory dwelling (if allowed by local rule) and rent it to you.

Maybe there is a historical landmark or camp in the area that has a house for an on-site caretaker.
posted by lakeroon at 1:42 PM on October 13

If you are planning to stay in your current city and about 3 miles out, can you use google maps/satellite to identify all possible properties that fit your requirement, and then leaflet (with something homemade/non-professional looking) them saying that you are interested in buying their house for the reasons you give in your post. It would take a little while to identify every place and drop off a leaflet, but if you do enough then someone may really be willing to sell to you.

Otherwise, have you thought about renting out your place and renting a property yourself? If you can only really get the quiet you want if you live right out of town, maybe you could try living that way for 6 months or a year and see if you prefer it over your current alternative.
posted by plonkee at 2:21 PM on October 13

For several years I lived in a rural county of about 5,000 people, in the midst of woods and national forest. I could not see the closest neighbor's house(and it would have taken me probably 15 minutes to walk from my front door to theirs), but I could hear their dogs. I could also hear their cars driving, which was more jarring because it interrupted the silence. In the country, some folks leave their dogs outside at night. This sound can really carry.

I'm not sure you need a new location. I think you need better soundproofing. Do you own your house or rent? If you own your current house, and this noise is a problem even when the windows are closed, it might be worth hiring a contractor who specializes in dealing with noise insulation.

If you move to a spot right next to the woods, then people might walk their dogs there. A park? My goodness. Parks are filled with dogs and people playing sports.

Instead of focusing on finding a bubble of silence outside of the house, figure out (whether in your current or a future home) how to make the house silent. That'll be the most effective approach.
posted by bluedaisy at 3:56 PM on October 13 [4 favorites]

My sympathies, fellow noise-averse person. You shouldn’t have to seal up your house and plug your ears to have peace and quiet in your own home. A word of caution regarding the country: ATVs and dirt bikes. I’d take a dozen barking dogs over those noisy, destructive monstrosities. Check your potential area carefully for riding trails and spots.
posted by ReginaHart at 6:28 AM on October 23

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