Noise pollution is a growing urban epidemic that has a direct impact on the health and well-being of citizens, especially when it is constantly exposed at home. Living with noise on a daily basis also has an impact on the value of real estate assets. As explained by César Escobar, co-director of Tensa Valuation Monitoring, in Madrid there are very specific cases of the impact of noise on housing prices: «One of the clearest examples is the houses next to the Extremadura motorway and the M-30. And those located next to the lower part of the road double the price of those located in those areas that do not exist,” a circumstance, according to the expert, due to noise and pollution.
“In the end, it is the market itself that regulates, and we cannot quantify it. Noise can reduce the price between 10 and 40% in extreme cases, ”explains Escobar. Within the same city, and even within the same neighborhood, there are streets that are noisier than others. Highways, railways, air traffic, the opening of a cocktail bar and the growing influence of “delivery”. “There are multiple scenarios that can destroy the quietness of a neighborhood. Therefore, homeowners located on the busiest city streets have to lower the price so they can compete.” When choosing to buy a home, customers prefer quieter streets. This affects the value and must be factored in. consideration for evaluation, adds a Tinsa spokesperson.
Home prices can drop by up to 40% in extreme cases
This position was confirmed by Marcus Bayou, a neighbor who lives near the A-5. «There is an intensification of the degree of traffic, which affects the value of the properties, because the noise is very loud, at any time of the day. What we’re asking is for the path to be buried, he explains. Because of this, the residents of the area asked a technician to take measurements with sound level meters, and they discovered that the noise was up to 65 decibels during the day and night. For reference, the World Health Organization has defined 55 dB as a maximum acceptable for habitable suitability.
Oscar Larrea, spokesperson and director of real estate company Evernest Spain, finds that the impact of noise pollution on home value increases in quieter cities or towns, as residents get used to a quieter environment. On this, Escobar agrees and adds that “those who live in big cities assume a certain level of noise pollution.” However, in smaller towns, “higher noise levels affect value more.”
To avoid this problem, Larrea advises owners to insulate their homes as much as possible: “The most effective measure against noise is a repair that includes a good acoustic enclosure,” he explains. In addition, he adds, it’s also important to have good thermal insulation, since many of Spain’s noisiest cities – such as Alicante, Madrid or Barcelona – are also places with high temperatures. If not, “the moment the window is opened, the effects of the enclosure are lost.”
In this regard, from the Association of Cavas Latina in Madrid, the speaker, Saturnino Vera, comments that it appears that the administration applies administrative law in favor of the defaulter and not to defend the injured party. Vera has lived in the neighborhood for 30 years and has witnessed its development. He bought the house in a residential area, and today he has nearly 50 bars around: “Now the value of the property has decreased because it can no longer be advertised as a residential area. This is because the acoustic measurements in this area exceed 50 decibels and it reached 75 at night.”
In connection with the above, Macarena Redondo, expert lawyer in real estate cases from Legálitas, confirms that there are several aspects in the case of noise affecting neighbours. First, the sound that comes from the sounds produced by the communal facilities that tend to resolve in an amicable way. In other cases, the noise can come from sounds made by other neighbors that affect the peace of others. To solve these problems, Redondo explains, “Horizontal property law says that you have to contact the head of the community to request that this activity stop. After that, the community itself decides whether to file a lawsuit in civil proceedings. The consequences are that you can even ask for a ban on the use of the house.”
Paco Marquez, a member of the executive branch of the Federation of Anti-Noise Associations, comments that there are very tense regions in Spain, such as Ibiza or Madrid. They hope that the European directive that places restrictions on this topic will be implemented. For their part, they do work to raise awareness of the issue and, in extreme cases, resort to judicial action.
Esteban Benito, President of the Chueca Residents Association (Madrid), announced that they are the only civil society organization that is part of the Working Group Against Noise organized by the European Commission in Brussels. He asserts that “hospitality activities now have technology to protect themselves from noise, but with the growth of distorting stands.” On this subject, Benito comments that they have come to take legal action against some of these institutions that do not abide by the regulations.
Juan Tenorio, a lawyer specializing in administrative law in Legálitas, points out that “sometimes buildings have a permit, but it must be checked that they are in line with legal and regulatory standards; otherwise, residents can appeal to the municipality to revoke this permit.
Often when licenses are granted to these establishments, city councils contact the owners’ community councils to verify that they do not affect their statutes. However, sometimes restaurants flout the regulations, taking advantage of terraces with more space and tables than is allowed.
Meanwhile, the noisy epidemic does not stop spreading at the rate of gentrification and the tourist housing “boom,” explained Victoria M., a Latina neighborhood neighbor; “The price of apartments is dropping because of the noise. Many people think that this reduction does not happen in the case of central neighbourhoods, but only when homes are purchased with tourist rent in mind. Situations where you expect noise pollution to be a problem will still make a lot of noise.