Home Buying in Chicago>Question Details

Nicole, Both Buyer and Seller in Illinois

Why do builders build on top of train tracks?

Asked by Nicole, Illinois Sat Feb 28, 2009

I found some very nice new townhomes but the metra train tracks are literally in the back yard? The builder did not use sound proof glass. Do you get use to the noise? Has anyone experienced living near train tracks? I don't plan to move again so I am trying to find a nice place. The metra runs very frequently during the week. I am off on summers so would I be woken up each morning by a train?

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I don't think it would do much good to try to get the builders to stop building near tracks. How about people simply not buying homes near them. They were all aware of the tracks before they signed any papers. The only way to really get builders to stop building near them is to stop buying near them. Then the builders will get the message from all the homes they've built that they can't sell.
1 vote Thank Flag Link Sun Mar 1, 2009
Greetings. Here's my story, and why I hate trains. I have lived about 1 block from the train tracks here in the 90640 area code for 22 years. My mom bought this place because the grocery store was also 1 block away. When we first moved here in 1987 there where only 1 set of tracks and the freight train made 3 passes a day. Not bad. Since then a second pair of tracks has been added and I hear freight trains every hour plus Metro. The train horns are so loud I can hear them 4 blocks away where I buy groceries now. Train horns are too loud and create noise pollution and deafness. Have your city pay for an environmental study (20k) and you'll see the decibels cause hearing loss. But freight companies will pay off the city council to keep quiet.

Pro: You get used to it.
Con: You might have to wear ear plugs as I do to sleep at night.
Phone conversations will need to be paused while the train goes by.
Without a breeze the faint smell of Diesel fuel fills the air.
When you sell your home you might not attract picky buyers who want peace and quiet.
the tracks might be sold to to a freight company and you might wind up with a tunnel or a fight with city hall.

I'm not joking I've been through all of this in detail. My advice is to send a clear message to home builders. Stop building near the tracks. Your quality of life issues don't matter to them, be smart avoid it.

Best of luck to you, I would live elsewhere, happy hunting :)

1 vote Thank Flag Link Sun Mar 1, 2009

From your question, it doesn't seem that the proximity of the train to the property you are considering is a deal killer. If you're open to the concept, I would suggest insisting on a visit when trains are approaching (you should ask your agent to coordinate this). You can get the Metra schedule and coordinate a showing during that time. Pay specific attention to the train stop scheduling. A train may be louder if it's not stopping at the station near you (it may bypass that station and be moving much faster). Also determine if the line is shared by freight. You'll have to wait for one to pass, but freights can be significantly heavier than Merta rail and may cause more noise and vibration.

If these noises and sounds will not interfere with your enjoyment of the property, make an offer. You may get a great deal on a property that has adverse landmarks like rail nearby in a market with so much inventory.

If you find the opportunity, find out how the neighboring property owners feel about the concern you see. They are likely to be more candid because they are not currently selling (or more sound sleepers).

As for why they build in sub optimum locations and the lack of sound consideration in the design and construction, they must have built them in a very hot market when buyers are less sensitive. In cooler markets, buyers are much more particular about the details.

Best of Luck and always willing to be of service.
1 vote Thank Flag Link Sun Mar 1, 2009
Hi Nicole,

You've already gotten some good answers, so I just want to give you another perspective:

You say you don't plan to move again but you should always buy with resale in mind, because life is dynamic and you never know what will happen.

Therefore, buy something that will be sellable down the road. Bad location (ie, railroad tracks running through your backyard) is often a deal-breaker because it cannot be changed.

Just food for thought.

Best of luck!
0 votes Thank Flag Link Sun Mar 1, 2009
Kathy, I don't think that is Chicago plus that area is pretty rough.

0 votes Thank Flag Link Sun Mar 1, 2009
There are some good and thoughtful responses in this thread. One caveat regarding Michael's comment - if the place you are interested in is near solely a metra line, you likely won't be greatly inconvenienced. If the line also services freight, your experience may be akin to his. My brother John and his wife live outside of Chicago. One time we stayed at his home and entered the night with a romantic notion of the droan of the freight train's whistle in the distance. By about 4 in the morning all I wanted to do was twist rope in my ears to deaden the sound that now was more a hellish blare than a refrain for a Johnny Cash song.

One point of clarification regarding the original question of why do builders build adjacent to train tracks. They do so because the cost of the land was propitious, the zoning of the land allowed for the construction of housing of the type that you find attractive, and they did so because bearing in mind that they will, especially in this market, have to price appropriately to get traction.

Best of luck with your decision.

Thomas McCarey
@properties with The Real Estate Lounge Chicago
Licensed Real Estate Salesperson in Illinois
Certified Negotiation Expert
Luxury Home Marketing Specialist
Accredited Buyers Representative
0 votes Thank Flag Link Sun Mar 1, 2009
Wow, Michael has really given me something to think about. Kathy, they will be about 1800 sq. ft.
0 votes Thank Flag Link Sun Mar 1, 2009
Kathy, the townhomes are located in Morgan Park. They will be built in 6 months and they are $280,000-350,000. I don' think there are any others in that are to compare them to. The area actually could use some sprucing up. I am hoping to offer less but I don't know if the developers are going to accept less.
0 votes Thank Flag Link Sun Mar 1, 2009

Builders build in specific locations because the feel people will buy and/rent homes in the location regardless of conditions.

Having lived less than 100 yards from the NYC Railroad, from a personal point of view, most people do become accustomed to the noise.
0 votes Thank Flag Link Sun Mar 1, 2009
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