How bad is it to buy a house next to a road?

Asked by Vk, Portland, OR Sat Jun 28, 2008

I am considering buying a house with its backyard facing a road with reasonable traffic. However, due to difference in road elevation and house lot (along with a brick wall), the road is not visible from the house but the cars can be heard from the backyard. We really like the house floor plan, its front is in a cul-de-sac (with 50% circling green space) with great view.

The house has extra sheeting and special window glass coating to rule out road noise (and this actually does seem to work pretty well). The backyard has privacy, faces the south (sunny and bright) and the house is being offered at a sweet price break.

We are wondering how much of a problem can it be to sell the house in a few years? The neighborhood has a lot of houses that are built along the road, so i'm guessing that it cannot be too big of a deal.

All opinions/comments are appreciated!

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Ed Burnham, , Portland, OR
Sat Jun 28, 2008
Hi Vk-

I suggest a little research before you buy.

You mentioned that a lot of homes in the neighborhood are built along the road. Your agent can pull sale prices on the ones that have sold recently. With that information for those homes, you'll find out if this home's price compensates for its location.

Along with the sale price, the agent can pull listing history. That may give you some idea of how difficult it may have been to sell those homes. I suggest looking at days-on-market and number of price reductions.

As for resale, I know that when I work with buyers, they'll give me a list of what they want in a home. It usually concludes with, "... and not on a busy street."

In a hot market with low inventory, buyers have little home inventory to choose from, so they may be more likely to accept compromises in a home, such as proximity to a road.

But in markets like our current market, there are a lot of choices out there in most neighborhoods. Buyers are less willing to accept compromises.

Here’s one final thought to consider: Portland is a growing area. Chances are, five years from now, that road will be more, not less busy.

Hope this is helpful!


Ed Burnham, Real Estate Broker
Windermere/Cronin & Caplin Realty Group, Inc
825 NE Multnomah Street, Suite 120
Portland, OR 97232
(O) 503/284-7755
(VM/Direct) 503/497-5209
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1 vote
Chris Courtn…, , Eugene, OR
Fri Jul 25, 2008
Hi Vk,

In appraisal, we penalize properties with 'external obsolescence' to the tune of 5-10%.

If you like the house, and the obsolescence is not overwhelming, have your broker compare pricing to other properties that have sold, are pending, or are listed and of which are situated next to busy streets.

Consider your resale down the road. I have sold properties that back to a church, along a busy street, adjacent to a rail can have such a property in the best neighborhood and still be able to sell it...but again, consider your resale down the road.


Chris Courtney
State Certified Residential Appraiser - 15 years
Oregon Real Estate Broker - 10 years
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0 votes
Sylvia Barry,…, Agent, Marin, CA
Thu Jul 24, 2008
Hi Vk:

If there is a choice, I would not even bring my clients to a house that's next to a major road where there is a lot of noise or not. I had a listing next to a highway (O.K. this is a highway) and the buyers will drive here, take a look, turn around and go back.

I would not recommend it - location, location, location, the three Ls are still true.

0 votes
Jean Pritcha…, , Gresham, OR
Thu Jul 24, 2008
There is an old saying in the Real Estate World----- The 3 most important items when it comes to finding and buying a home are "Location, Location, Location".

Good Luck
0 votes
Tom Inglesby, Agent, Portland, OR
Mon Jun 30, 2008
A two lane road that is posted 25 mph is like the road in front of your house a slight price reduction as a draw back but not a huge problem. If the reason you are buying is schools or a great location then maybe not so much.. If the road is a 4 lane 45 mph highway this is another issue. Screening helps but if you are below the highway the sound will be less than if you are above since the sound always travels up. You should get at least a 10-20% price break because of the road, maybe even more in a difficult market. You didn't say what price range? The lower priced homes will sell quite easily no matter where they are to many first time buyers that are looking and the market here in Portland is very good. Remember you make your money when you buy at or below market you don't make your money when you sell because you never know what the market will be like? Good luck

Tom Inglesby, Broker
RE/MAX Equityg Group Inc
0 votes
Cricket Fors…, Agent, Portland, OR
Mon Jun 30, 2008
I have a listing in a wonderful and desirable neighborhood in West Linn. I could have sold the house 10 times over if it didn't back to a road. People walk in --- see the back yard and walk out again. However - the current owner and their neighbors did buy there. SO - as you said there will be a buyer. But at what price?

The RE market conditions will play a factor into how quickly you can sell your home for down the road. Keep that in mind when making your purchase. As we won't know what the market is like till then - its best to be prepared for the worst and celebrate when its not.

Moral of the story - keep your exit strategy in mind when buying. Be prepared to make a significant price concession when selling (just as you are in your purchase). If you are prepared and understand your investment strategy - go ahead and buy.
0 votes
Carla Muss-J…, , Portland, OR
Sun Jun 29, 2008
You described a property that has the "visual noise" taken care of . . . i.e., backyard faces the road, lot has a slightly higher elevation, brick wall, etc.

But you write there is "reasonable" noise heard from the road. And, you don't define the road. Is it a major thoroughfare? An artery? A connector? Who owns the road? Are there future plans for the road, i.e., "widening" or other "improvements" made?

Due diligence. This is something that you, as a potential buyer, must make. You can rely on your agent, and you can even post questions on Trulia and generate all different answers / suggestions / feed-back. BUT . . . whenever you buy, the ultimate DUE DILIGENCE is going to be on you.

So . . . with that being said . . . and not knowing what "reasonable" may mean to you, I would ask: Can you see you and your family living there?

Because that is what will happen if you buy the house. You will live there.

Who knows what the markert will be "a few years from now."

A year ago, no one could have predicted the mortgage meltdown. Everyone just KNEW there were bubbles going to be bursting all over the nation. But no one reported on HOW! No one said, "It will be the mortgage industry that's going to be causing this."

Ah . . . hindsight is always 20/20.

I've been an Exclusive Buyer's Agent for many years. I've shown properties that have been "unique" and my clients seemed to liked them for their reasons.

With all things "real estate" you will have plus (+'s) and minus (-'s) considerations about any property. If there are more PLUS features, and you can answer this question: Will you and your family be happy/comfortable living there . . . then, and only then should you consider the property as a viable option.

If there are too many "-'s" minus issues, and you can not answer the question of living there in comfort, maybe you should not consider that particular property. The road will ALWAYS be there. That won't change. Will your attitude change once living there? During the summer, if windows are open will the noise be more apparent?

Where are the bedrooms located? Do they border the street? Are you a light sleeper? Will this bother you?

If an agent tells you what the market will be in the next 3 months, you better make a mental note that agent doesn't know what they're talking about -- let alone what the next "few years" will bring.

While there are all kinds of stats and national trends, real estate is local . . . real estate is subjective . . . real estate is NOT a hard-science that can have a theory or formula made that can be upheld and proven in the timeframe of the study. While "guessing" would be on the other side of that coin, it really isn't a good basis on determining if you should buy a house or not.

You should be looking at that property as being a viable home -- for you! Not what may/may not be happening in the future. It may be a STRONG SELLERS market in a few years. Who knows? A speck of land with a shack might be selling at top dollar . . . we just don't know. I recall that type of market a few years ago, as will many agents who have been doing this for a while can attest!

"Sweet deals" or not, you have got to be able to answer the very simple question of whether you (and your family) will be comfortable living there and want to make that property your home. All other thoughts, predictions of future markets, etc. are irrelevant.

Perhaps, this is a property that is affordable to your budget, and offers the MOST bang for your bucks . . . and the only down side is the proximity to the street.

If you can see yourself living there, and the "+" factor outweighs the negatives, and you can comfortably afford the home without being over your head in debt, you plan on living there for a while, you have done your due diligence and are satisfied with the findings . . . then you will have some informed consent, and make your decisions based on the here and now!

I bought and lived in a townhome that was smack DAB on a busy street. It was a corner, end-unit, and there was no two ways about it! There was a major street AND a side street that was used to get INTO the surrounding neighborhood. I bought it for ALL the PLUS factors. One being it was located right across the street from an elementary school my son would attend. Another PLUS was that it was a huge townhome, 4 bedrooms, 2.1 baths, great floor plan, and was the best buy I could have made with the buying budget I had. YES, there was street noise, but during the winter when the windows were shut and the heater on, I couldn't hear a thing. During the summer, if it was hot enough, the windows were closed and the A/C was on, I couldn't hear a thing. I bought it for $118,000 . . . sold it for $172,000. It wasn't a whopping KILL at the time, but I wasn't in the red when I sold it. It met my needs and I was happy / comfortable while living there.
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0 votes
Donna Panico, Agent, Janesville, WI
Sat Jun 28, 2008
I agree with everything that the previous agents have stated, except I'd like to assume that you've done your homework and looked at several other homes, and this one is still coming up as your favorite. If so, does the sweet price compensate for the road noise? If you're a first time buyer or there are constraints on what you can afford to spend, all buyers need to know that there will be some things they may have to give up. There will always be trade offs. You could be looking at a home on a quieter, less traveled street but would it have the floor plan you like, green space, southern exposure, construction details or privacy for that price. How much work would a similarly priced home need? What updates would it immediately require? Do you have the money to afford those necessities if they needed to be done immediately? If the sweet discount is exceptional even for a home on a busy street, it could be for other reasons than the location. It could be a personal circumstance of the seller. Maybe there is an illness, divorce or second home involved on the seller's end. Just keep in mind that any updates you might do, need to be done in a manner where you don't improve the home for more than what the area and location can bring. Be sure that you have representation in any transaction that you take part in, and that your agent provides you with comparative sales to confirm what you will be offering the seller.
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Maria Morton, Agent, Kansas City, MO
Sat Jun 28, 2008
I have never met a buyer who asked for a home on a busy street. Never ever. If you like the floor plan, ask your realtor if there is another home with a similar floor plan close by on a quieter street. The reason the house is being offered at a sweet price break is because of the busy street. When you want to sell in a few years, you will need to offer a sweet price break, too. And if the street gets busier as Portland grows, you will need to make it even sweeter.
0 votes
Dirk Knudsen…, Agent, Hillsboro, OR
Sat Jun 28, 2008
Listen to who ever you wish.

I have been doing this 23 years. A busy road is worse than power line. Both will make it hard to sell your home and it will take longer to sell.

If you are getting the home for 15% off what the same home in closer would cost than I say ok.

Otherwise the answer is no. BUt there is a fool born everyday.

Dont do it. Way too many deal out there right now Vk.

BUt who I am I to say.


Dirk Knudsen
Re\Max Hall of Fame
#1 Re\Max team in Oregon
2006 and 2007

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0 votes
Tony H. Rahn…, Agent, Portland, OR
Sat Jun 28, 2008
Hi Vk
You like the house and its priced well, don't worry about.
Someone will buy it again, tipac;ily houses on a busy road, they go somewhat cheeper compare to a home not on a busy street, I am t hinking you are saying the price is good compare to the other alike homes in the area so remmeber you have to offer it at a sweet price when whant to sell. You have to do study but sometimes up to 30-40K diffarance.
Best of luck to you , Tony broker with JohnLScott Portland 503-796-9158
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Bill Eckler, Agent, Venice, FL
Sat Jun 28, 2008

You are smart to consider this prior to buying........Proximity to a busy and noisy road can be a problem. Even if the location is not an issue for you, it certainly will become an issue when it comes time for you to sell it. Many buyers just don't want to deal with road dirt, noise, etc.

Additionally, we see, over and over, the impact of busy highway traffic on real estate value. Unless this home has some unbelievable perks, you might want to explore other options.

Good luck,
The "Eckler Team"
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