The Cost of Sound

Real Estate Agent with Utah Homes 9334967-SA00

plane landing

For much of my early life I grew up on or near an Air Force Base. For the bulk of my father's career he was involved in the branch known as the Air Training Command. As one might suspect, such bases are home to more take-offs and landings than an ordinary runway.

I remember my seventh grade teacher asking me, "How do you put up with the noise?"

"What noise?" I replied. She countered, "the noise from all of the low flying airplanes?"

I told her that there weren't many airplanes at this particular base.

Then, in an instance, I felt like an idiot. Any one would know this to be not true.

Over time I'd somehow managed to filter out the sound of rumbling aircraft.

In a similar way, I've also managed to be blissfully ignorant of the smell of dairy farms.

We tend to create blind spots. When we're accustomed to certain environmental factors we may fail to see that others may not be. For this reason, home buyers and sellers should be aware of issues that can either add to or detract from the value of a property.

In real estate, such factors are called "encumbrances". In many cases, they are issues of location.

Among the proximity issues that can devalue a home are these:

  • Loud transportation: Planes, Trains, Automobiles
  • Heavy industrial activity
  • Crime enhancing enterprise

The proximity to transportation may have positive as well as negative effects. People tend to want to be close enough to the airport or the freeway but they may not want to be under the flight path or near the ramps. There's a reason that home prices in such areas tend to be lower than the homes a few blocks away. Before purchasing a home, be sure to check for the presence of any above-average noise potential.

Heavy industrial activity tends to occur in areas that are zoned accordingly. However, in larger cities there is a population issue... people need a place to live and sometimes noisy industry and population must co-exist. A good real estate agent will be able offer an education regarding zoning issues and their relationship to market values.

Crime... it exists everywhere. However, some areas tend to attract more of it. There are many websites that will assist you in looking for crime statistics. Here is one for Arizona: Crime Statistics ... but I'm sure there are others suitable for your area that could provide a good snapshot.


Now that I've expressed potential areas of concern, one may ask, "How much does this matter?"

After all, crime can occur anywhere and all of us will be exposed to noise. In other words, these issues are relative... it comes down to finding a comfort zone. Most everyone has his or her own tolerance level... a good real estate agent will help you find a place that meets your needs.


Chuck Willman is a real estate agent based in the Phoenix metro area.


Photo Credit: "Plane Landing" by Maciek Sliwinski

Comments (4)

Patricia Kennedy
RLAH Real Estate - Washington, DC
Home in the Capital

Chuck, a lot of neighborhoods around here, including Georgetown, are right in the noise footprint for National Airport.  People who live there say after about a month, they don't notice it at all. 

And, I learned the hard way that some people are really noise sensitive - I married one and noise turned this sweet guy into a bit of a lunatic.

Oct 22, 2008 01:13 PM
Chuck Willman
Utah Homes - Alpine, UT
Utah Homes

Patricia- Reminds me of something... I have a "sound machine" ... it helps drown out other noises and create soothing sounds. It's amazing how differently people react to the different sounds. Some like ocean... others prefer bird noises, or crickets, trains or sounds of the city. Sadly, one person's soothing is another person's rage maker.

Oct 22, 2008 04:44 PM
Rob Becker
Top Rock Realty - Mesa, AZ
Designated Broker - Mesa Gilbert, Arizona


I live and work in a community that is close to some train tracks. At first, we could really hear the train. But, after some time, we became numb to the sound. Or, maybe it just didn't bother us anymore. I suppose it wasn't a big deal for us from the start. However, some people might feel differently to the sound of a train at night when they are trying to sleep. As long as there is "Disclosure", then let the people decide for themselves. There are plenty of normal people buying in our neighborhood. Disclosure is the key.

Thanks for your blog entry.

Rob Becker

Top Rock Realty

Oct 27, 2008 02:00 AM
Chuck Willman
Utah Homes - Alpine, UT
Utah Homes

Rob- There was a time when my family lived close enough to a train track to be able to count the cars. We'd wake in time for "the 6:20"... then we'd count away, wondering if this morning's train would be longer than the previous record. It was a tradition that I deeply missed when we eventually moved. I guess one person's encumbrance can be another's fond memory. I've worked with people who actually wanted to see the planes and the trains. For them they get the best of all worlds: cherished scenery and good pricing.

Oct 27, 2008 02:34 AM