Just when you’ve found the perfect house to buy, you realise it’s near a railway line. But the question is; should you buy this house or should you give it a miss? Should you live next to railway tracks?
There are a number of factors to consider when buying a house next to a railway line, which include noise, commuter convenience, how easy or difficult it will be to sell the house in the future, what you can afford and what effect this will have on future house price increases because it’s next to a railway line.
It is for these reasons why you need to consider carefully whether you should buy a house next to a railway line.
You should only buy a house next to a railway line once you have spent time listening to how noisy the trains are inside the house and in the garden. But you must consider future saleability of the house, as others will not like the sound of noisy trains on nearby train tracks.
Do railway lines devalue property?
Houses next to railway lines can devalue a property by up to 30%, which means that houses affected by train noise will be less valuable than other houses in the same area that are away from the noise of trains.
According to Easy Agent Pro, a study by the City of Rochester, Minnesota found that for every 1 decibel increase in noise, there would be a corresponding 0.4% loss in value for properties near a railway line.
Use this as a rough guide to check the price of the house you’re considering to buy when compared to other houses in the same postcode that are further from the train tracks.
How far should a house be from railroad tracks?
Depending on where the house is, and if you don’t want to hear the sound of trains, please use the table below to see how far away from railway tracks the house needs to be so you don’t hear the sound of trains.
The distance from the railway line is also affected by the types of train that run on the railway tracks.
In the table below, the types of train include freight trains, high-speed electric trains travelling at different speeds, and the sound of a train horn.
It’s important to understand baseline noise levels of where you live or a proposing to live. Use these baseline decibel levels in combination with the table below to marry up how likely this house will be affected by train noise. But also to work out how far from train tracks the house needs to be for you to not hear the trains.
The background decibel level for where the house is located influences how far away trains can be heard.
According to the Canadian Transport Agency, the following are the baseline noise levels for railway noise:
- Quiet rural area – 45dBA day time and 35dBA at night. For freight trains 1.7k (1.1mi) from the train tracks.
- Quiet suburban residential – 50dBA day time and 40dBA at night. For freight trains 0.96k (0.6mi) from the train tracks.
- Normal suburban residential – 55dBA day time and 45dBA at night. For freight trains 0.54k (0.34mi) from the train tracks.
- Urban residential – 60dBA day time and 50dBA at night. For freight trains 0.3k (984f) from the train tracks.
- Noisy urban residential – 65dBA day time and 55dBA at night. For freight trains 0.17k (558f) from the train tracks.
- Very noisy urban residential – 70dBA day time and 60dBA at night. For freight trains 0.096k (1.1mi) from the train tracks.
But before you buy a house next to train tracks, make sure you check these distances and noise levels for yourself. Park near where the house is you are considering, and listen for yourself. Buying a house is a big step and it has to be right.
You don’t want to regret buying the house, and consider the saying; buy in haste and repent at leisure.
Railway and train noise levels and how decibels reduce with distance from the railway line using sound attenuation and the inverse square law
|Distance in metres from dBA at second measuring point||80dBA at measuring point - Diesel Freight Trains at 80kmh (50mph)||83dBA at measuring point - High speed electric train at 200kmh (125mph)||88dBA at measuring point - Commuter train at 128kmh (80mph)||97dBA at measuring point - High speed train at 352kmh (220mph)||103dBA at measuring point (Train Horns)|
|1,500 (1.5km or 0.94mi)||46.2dBA||49.2dBA||54.2dBA||63.2dBA||69.2dBA|
|3,000 (3km or 1.9mi)||40.1dBA||43.1dBA||48.1dBA||57.1dBA||63.1dBA|
|5,400 (5.4km or 3.4 mi)||35.0dBA||38dBA||43dBA||52dBA||58dBA|
|7,700 (7.7km or 4.8mi)||32dBA||35.0dBA||40dBA||49dBA||55dBA|
|13,500 (13.5km or 8.44mi)||27dBA||30dBA||35.0dBA||44dBA||50dBA|
|Quiet rural day-time @ 45dBA||1,700m (1.7km or 1.1mi)||2,400m (2.4km or 1.5mi)||4,300m (4.3km or 2.7mi)||12,100m (12.1km or 7.6mi)||24,100m (24.1km or 15.1mi)|
|Quiet suburban residential day-time @ 50dBA||960m (0.96km or 0.6mi)||1,360m (1.36km or 0.85mi)||2,410m (2.41km or 1.5mi)||6,800m (6.8km or 4.25mi)||13,550m (13.55km or 8.45mi)|
|Normal suburban residential day-time @ 55dBA||540m (0.54km or 0.34mi)||770m (.07km or 0.44mi)||1,350m (1.35km or 0.84mi)||3,850m (3.85km or 2.4mi)||7,700m (7.7km or 4.8mi)|
|Urban residential day-time @ 60dBA||300m (0.3km or 984f)||430m (0.43km or 0.27mi)||770m (0.77km or 0.48mi)||2,150m (2.15km or 1.34mi)||4,300m (4.3km or 2.69mi)|
|Noisy urban residential day-time @ 65dBA||170m (0.17km or 558f)||240m (0.24km or 787f)||430m (0.43km or 0.27mi)||1,210m (1.21km or 0.76mi)||2,410m (2.41km or 1.5mi)|
|Very noisy urban residential day-time @ 70dBA||96m (0.096km or 315f)||136m (0.14km or 446f)||240m (0.24km or 787f)||680m (0.68km or 0.43mi)||1,350m (1.35km or 0.84mi)|
1. These calculations have been done with the help of the calculator tool on this website: Sound Attenuation – Inverse Square Law.
2. The train noise and speeds have been taken from the California High-Speed Rail Authority noise factsheet: Train noise factsheet.
3. The R1 distance (i.e. where the sound is recorded at the first level of decibels) was set as 30.48 metres (100 ft) from the railway line.
4. The calculations don't take account of is topography and wind direction and speed.
5. It is assumed that the levels of railway noise typically range from 80 to 97dBA at a distance of 30.48 meters (100 feet) from a railway line.
6. I admit I know nothing about the invest square law, and nor do you need to understand this either.
7. dBA = decibels..
You will note in the table that at 5.4km (3.4mi) from the railway track where the train noise is 80dBA at 30.48 metres from the track that the decibel level has dropped to 35dBA. This is the sound you might expect in a quiet rural setting at night.
The same decibel level is achieved at 7.7km (4.8mi) from the train tracks when the train noise is 83dBA, and at 13.5km (8.44mi) when the train is 88dBA.
For a better understanding of decibel levels and how loud each decibel level is, use the following table of familiar sounds to compare.
How loud decibel levels of noise are:
|How loud is:||Similar sound levels||Sleep effects||Level of irritation|
|30 decibels||35 decibels is whisper quiet||30dB is potential for awakening, body movements, arousals and sleep disturbance, but is only just above the level of 25dB where there's little to no effect on sleep.||30dB is very low level noise.|
|40 decibels||40dB is the level of a quiet library||40dB is potential for awakening, body movements, arousals and sleep disturbance.||40dB is very low level noise.|
|50 decibels||50dB is the same level of sound as a working refrigerator or even a car driving past.||45-50dB can cause health affects and have been observed and noise at this level may affect most people.||Acceptable to live with.|
|55 decibels||55dB is similar to a percolating coffee-maker.||55 dB is considered dangerous levels for public health, increasing annoyance and sleep disturbances.||Acceptable to live with.|
|60 decibels||60dB is the normal level of a human voice and normal conversation or machinery or the sound of a dishwasher.||60 dB is considered dangerous levels for public health, increasing annoyance and sleep disturbances.||Acceptable to live with, but could get irritating after prolonged periods|
|65 decibels||65dB would be equivalent to the sound of laughter.||65dB would be difficult to sleep through.||Would be quite irritating.|
|70 decibels||70dB is equivalent to a TV set on loud or a vacuum cleaner.||70dB would be very difficult to sleep through.||70dB would be classed as irritating.|
|75 decibels||75dB would compare to a busy restaurant.||75 dB would be very difficult to sleep through.||75dB would be regarded as constant sound.|
|80 decibels||80dB is equivalent to an alarm clock, freight traffic or the sound of a doorbell.||80 dB would be almost impossible to sleep through, which is why an alarm clock is set at this level.||80dB would be regarded as unpleasant.|
|100 decibels||100dB is equivalent to the sound of a snowmobile or an MP3 player at full volume.||100dB would be impossible to sleep through.||100dB is very loud and dangerous for over 30 seconds.|
|110 decibels||110dB is equivalent to a concert or a car horn.||110dB would be impossible to sleep through.||110dB is very loud and dangerous for over 30 seconds.|
|120 decibels||120 dB is the equivalent to a jet plane taking off.||120dB would be impossible to sleep through.||120dB is uncomfortably loud and dangerous over 30 seconds.|
|130 decibels||130dB is the equivalent of a jackhammer or an ambulance.||120dB would be impossible to sleep through.||120dB is painfully loud and dangerous without hearing protection and should be avoided.|
The information for the above table is thanks to a combination of information from the following websites and references:
1. Alpine Hearing Protection.
2. Early Bird by Amerisleep.
Is it bad to live next to a train line?
Living next to a trainline is bad, as you will experience significant noise levels. The level of noise you experience will depend on the type of trains that use the trainline and how far from the trainline the house is.
Is it unhealthy to live near train tracks?
It is unhealthy to live near train tracks if the trains that use the train tracks near the house are diesel locomotives, the fumes are toxic and can lead to a greater risk of cancer. There is also a greater risk of respiratory diseases like asthma due to the dust from the trains and trainlines.
What are the pros and cons of living near a railway line?
As with anything, there are always pros and cons to consider. As far as buying a house next to a railway line the pros and cons include.
What are the pros of buying a house next to a railway line?
- If you use the train to get to work, and the house is also near a train station this is a benefit.
- If the house suffers from noise due to the proximity to the railway line, you will get a bigger house for your money.
- If you don’t like things too quiet, living on a railway line will make it more interesting.
- Trains often don’t run through the night, so any noise will stop in the evening, unless the trainline has freight trains.
- Houses affected by train noise are more affordable for first time buyers.
What are the cons of buying a house next to a railway line?
- Living near railway line can be noisy.
- Trains usually start early in the morning, so if the house backs onto a railway line, this could mean an early morning start to noisy trains.
- If the railway line is used by freight trains, these can run through the night, and because they are longer trains and travel much slower than commuter trains, the noise lasts for longer.
- The house will probably take longer to sell if it is affected by noise from trains.
- The garden will be noisy when trains pass by.
- If you are an early to bed person and a light sleeper, you won’t like it if trains run into the evening.
- In the summer the house will be noisier with the windows open.
- Be aware that ‘ghost trains‘ can run through the night to de-ice the tracks.
- Overnight maintenance can be noisy.
Will you regret buying a house next to a railway line?
To avoid having regret buying a house next to a railway line, make sure you visit the house at different times of the day to see how noisy it will be. It’s not just the train noise, but also the vibrations that trains can cause too.
If you are a light sleeper, you may find that living in a house next to a railway line is not a good idea, and may be a decision you would regret.
Can you get a mortgage on a house next to a railway line?
You will be able to get a mortgage on a house next to a railway line, but be aware that the valuation will reflect how close the house is to the train tracks.
Should you listen to an estate agent about buying a house near a railway line?
You should not listen to what estate agents tell you about buying a house near a railway line, as estate agents work for the seller.
Anything the estate agent tells you will be biased and should be taken with a pinch of salt, as they are only interested in their commission. Always do your own research on house prices in the area before you buy.
Should you listen to what the vendor tells you about buying a house near a railway track?
You should not listen to what the vendor of the house tells you about how frequently the trains run and how noisy the trains can be. You need to check this for yourself by visiting the house on more than one occasion.
What to do before buying a house near a railway line
Before you consider putting an offer in on a house near a railway line, make sure to compare house prices of comparable houses not next to a railway.
Make sure to look at sold-comparables on sites like Rightmove, as this will provide you with the right information to confirm the price you are paying for this house is correct.
What to look for in a house near railway tracks
When looking to buy a house next to a railway line, consider the following factors:
- How close is the house to the railway track?
- Does the house have double or triple glazing?
- Does the house and garden have privacy from the trainline, or can passengers see into your garden and house?
- Find out when the first and last trains run on the line.
- What type of trains use the line, and check if freight trains use the line and check if these run at night.
- Which side of the house are the bedrooms vs where the railway track runs.
- Are the train tracks on a corner, as trains are extremely noisy when they go around corners.
- Is the house next to a large train intersection or track-points, which can make trains even more noisy as they change tracks.
- Do the trains use train horns, which sound at 140 decibels?
- Is the house near a crossing, as this will cause trains to use their horns to warn of their approach.
Should you buy a house next a level crossing?
Be careful buying a house next to a level crossing as trains can be very noisy, as they need to sound their horn to warn of their approach. A train horn can be 140dBA next to the train, but even at 3km (1.9mi) this would still be over 60 decibels, which is the equivalent to the sound of laughter.
Final thoughts on should you buy a house next to a railway line
If you are prepared to buy a house at a reduced price, because it’s next to a railway line, you will need to be prepared to sell at an equally low price too.
Think about how the convenience of living near a train station might outweigh the noise factor.
My daughter lives near a trainline, and when I stay with her I have to say the noise of the trains has never trouble me too much, as the trains don’t run through the night. I notice them more than her and her husband when we are in the garden, but the truth is you get used to the sound and will zone the noise out.
But be aware that trains can be very noisy, especially when the go around corners. You will know this if you listened to a train going around a corner. The train will squeal, as the metal wheels cause friction against the train tracks.
Remember that trains can run very frequently during the day, depending on the trainline concerned. But also trains run in both directions, which means you may have a train passing very regularly.
Finally, and on a positive note, if you are a train spotter you will probably love living in a house near a train track. Also, some say its better living near a railway line than living in a house next to a motorway.
An important read before you go
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