How can I avoid buying a home in a noisy neighbourhood?

When you buy a home, you’re also buying into a community. So it’s important to make sure the neighbourhood fits your lifestyle before you purchase.

Buyers tend to focus on the physical aspects of a home, and sometimes don’t consider what’s outside of it. While it’s nice to have granite countertops and hardwood floors, if neighbourhood noise is keeping you awake, you probably won’t be happy with your new home.

In my case, I live near a subway line. I love the easy access, but I also hear the trains run regularly — they’re not loud, but I hear them. The important thing is that I was aware of it before I bought the home.

Communicate your concerns to your real estate agent before you start looking at properties. Whenever a buyer embarks on a house hunt, it’s important that they identify their needs and wants, and communicate them openly with their broker or salesperson.

At RECO, we’ve seen cases where that communication didn’t happen. In one instance, we heard from a buyer who worked the night shift and slept during the day. Unfortunately their salesperson didn’t know about the buyer’s schedule, and they ended up buying a home next to an elementary school. Frequently ringing school bells and the sounds of kids arriving, leaving and on recess caused the buyer a huge amount of stress.

Talk about your noise concerns when recruiting your sales representative. I always recommend that consumers interview at least three real estate sales reps before they decide who to work with.

Typical interview questions should cover their level of experience, the included services, their approach to the process, and the fees and commissions that you’ll have to pay. Also talk about any specific concerns you may have, such as noise levels.

If one of the people you interview has strong local market knowledge, they will be able to steer you away from properties near noisy rail lines, industrial areas, airport flight paths and, if required, schoolyards.

However, it’s important to remember that when considering specific home-buying criteria, noise is a tough one to evaluate. It’s easy to tell if the area has good transit access and nearby amenities, but noise levels vary with the time of day and day of the week. Events like the Honda Indy or the CNE next month also bring a lot of noise at certain times of year. And things like construction are unpredictable and can happen at any location at any time.

Asking the neighbours about the local noise level may be helpful, but it’s important to remember that noise levels can be very subjective. For example, the sound of a nearby roadway, or in my case a subway, can be easily ignored as background noise by some people, but for others it may be annoying and distracting.

Ultimately, it’s up to you to decide whether a property suits your needs, so it’s worthwhile to visit the neighbourhood at different times of day, and different days of the week, to see what the noise level is like.

It can be challenging to find a home that suits your needs, but if you don’t communicate those needs to your real estate rep, you will make that challenge even more difficult. Make sure your broker or salesperson fully understands your housing needs so that you won’t make a purchase that keeps you up at night — or during the day.

Joseph Richer is Registrar of the Real Estate Council of Ontario (RECO). He is in charge of the administration and enforcement of all rules that govern real estate professionals in Ontario. You can find more tips at reco.on.ca, follow on Twitter @RECOhelps or on YouTube at http://www.youtube.com/RECOhelps.

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