There are so many advantages of living in a condo. Some of them are having a homeowner association that will help in maintaining the building, a sense of community, shared amenities (in some) and the easy access to the conveniences (for most condos). Of course, at the same time it comes with some disadvantages too.
The potential of a building having a special assessment for some repair work, inconsiderate neighbors, a board member with a hidden agenda, etc. can make condo living a bit of a drag sometimes. Over the years working with condo buyers and sellers, one of the biggest complaints that I've heard is noise. Sure, if you're living in an urban area, you expect some degree of noise — many people like the energy and hustle and bustle that comes with having the city outside your window.
The only thing is if the noise is not known to them during the initial visits of the condo, it can be quite unpleasant and annoying. Sometime it's only after moving in that you start learning things about the building that you probably didn't when you put in an offer. Some of them could be avoided, some not. Here are some of the stories that I've heard from my owns clients as well as clients from other colleagues. If you're a light sleeper and sensitive to sound, you may want to do a little bit more due diligence to avoid some unpleasant surprises.
1.) Recycle Truck Melody
A client bought a two bedroom in a wood-framed building facing a central courtyard. The alley goes right below the courtyard. There are openings to the courtyard on both ends of the alley. The courtyard is surrounded by building walls so sounds coming from the alley can be pretty loud. Twice a week the recycle truck will drive through the alley to pick up the recycle bins anytime from 6am-7.00am. The tumbling of glass bottles from the bin to the truck never failed to wake them up. It serves as an alarm clock for them each time the truck is scheduled to pick up the recycle items.
2.) Air Conditioning System
A couple moved into a condo on the 2nd floor right above the garage in the winter. After spending a few weeks renovating the condo and moving in furniture, they decided to spend the night in their 2nd home for the first time. Just when they're settling into their bed, they start hearing a noise, which sounded almost like a car alarm going off in the distance. It went on for a few hours and they couldn't sleep well. After the offer was made, they were told by the building manager that there is an air conditioning system located right below them but so far nobody had any issues with it. Even though they had visited the condo several times, they were unable to hear the noise as the air conditioning system was not turned on during the winter.
3.) Garbage Chute
A couple moved into their condo and late one night kept hearing noises coming from their master bathroom. Upon investigating, they found out that the garbage chute for their condo level was on the other side of the wall in their bathroom. So each time someone was throwing their garbage out, they could hear it from their master bedroom. Sometimes, it happens in the middle of the night.
4.) Fitness Center
This homeowner owns a unit right next to the fitness center. Whenever a resident drops weight in the fitness center, which happens quite frequently, he could hear a loud thump in his condo. It was so annoying that he has to get the HOA to install better sound proofing mat to reduce the noise.
5.) Sound Sensitive Neighbor
This is a reverse noise situation when a homeowner unknowingly creates noise which affects her neighbor. A homeowner moved into her condo in a wood framed building. Her neighbor who lives right below her is extremely sensitive to sound. Whenever she has friends over who walk with heavy feet or whenever she is walking in her heels at home or closing her closets, the neighbor would complain to the HOA and even going to the extent of knocking his condo ceiling with a stick each time he thought she was being ' too loud'. She tried every way to tip toe around her condo to make sure that she was not producing too much noise and silently wishes that her neighbor would move out of the building soon. Later on, she found out that her sound sensitive neighbor had previously complained about two other owners who used to live in her condo.
Some tips: You should always visit the condo at different time of the day, check out if there are any building systems located near your unit, and talk to your neighbors, building manager or HOA to learn more about about the building and the residents living above, beside, and below you. It may not completely eliminate surprises but will at least help in avoiding a few problems before you put in the offer.
Two big external noise sources missing on the list are emergency vehicle sirens and (many) Harley-Davidson motorcycles. Some days in the downtown core, it sounds like there are siren-worthy emergencies every hour. When the weather is good, the Harleys are out in packs — just when you’d like to have your windows open.
All sound problems can be solved by getting some soundproofing done! Products like QuietRock, for example, can save you from complaining neighbors and privacy problems by cutting off noise!