The Unexpected Thing You’re Forgetting to Check for at Open Houses

published Jul 14, 2023
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People visit shops in Georgetown in Washington, DC, USA. Georgetown Historic District belongs to U.S. National Register of Historic Places.
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Buying a home is not one large decision, but rather a series of small ones. With the decision to buy comes a long list of other choices, like setting a budget, choosing a location, and establishing a list of must-haves.

Kendra Fenner, a Realtor with the Tim Hillmer team at Century 21’s Curran & Oberski in Dearborn Heights, Michigan, recommends buyers make a checklist while shopping for their future home. “There’s never going to be a house that checks all a buyer’s boxes unless they build their own home,” she adds. There’s one box on a buyer’s checklist, though, that many people forget to include: road noise levels.

Depending on the time of day you visit a home’s open house, you might not even notice road noise. But if cars whizzing by during rush hour sounds like a terrible way to live, try your best to determine if it’s going to be a problem.

“Stand outside for a few minutes and listen. Consider the home’s location,” says Richard Bass, a Realtor with National Realty Centers in Northville, Michigan. “Is it close to a hospital? Fire station, railroad tracks, a freeway?”

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Buyers often base their final decisions on what they’re willing to settle on rather than their preferences, Bass says. Every home has its pros and cons. Buyers have to decide what they are willing to accept and what’s non-negotiable. You might not want to live on a main road because of the traffic and noise, but you’ll make the sacrifice because the location is convenient for work, school, or recreation. Or perhaps you won’t live on a main road because you have small children and pets, which for you, is a legitimate safety concern and nonnegotiable, Fenner says.

If road noise isn’t a dealbreaker for you, Bass and Fenner have ways to mitigate its effects. “You are still going to hear traffic, obviously,” says Fenner. Standing in an empty room can magnify the sound, too. With the addition of rugs and furniture, this will lessen the noise considerably. As for outdoor space, you can plant trees and erect a privacy fence. Approximately 35 percent of buyers said they intended on completing landscaping projects after purchasing a home, contributing to the billions of dollars spent in 2022 on projects and renovations. If you’re in the market for a new home, have that checklist ready — and don’t forget about road noise.