How does Heavy Traffic Equal A Day at the Beach?

by Karen Briscoe
July 29, 2013

One of the most valuable qualities of property is being located near views of water – be it river, lake, ocean.  The obvious reason is that water is typically naturally occurring and thus there is a limited supply of locations that are in close proximity to it.  The other reason is that the sounds of water rushing, splashing, even crashing are viewed as calming to the senses and thus desirable.

A few years ago I had a client who wanted to purchase a home in McLean with a view of the Potomac River.  That narrows down the selection to what is known in the Northern Virginia area as the “gold coast”.   The downside to that location is that it is adjacent to the George Washington Parkway (affectionately known in the area as GW Parkway), a major transportation artery for the Washington DC metro area.  And the negative to being near a major thoroughfare is the road noise.

There was a recent study completed at the University of Sheffield in Britain that shows that the brain hears the sound of heavy traffic and that of crashing waves as fundamentally the same.  Michael Hunter from the University found that people weren’t able to make the distinction from auditory clues only.  What aided them in knowing the difference in the sounds was adding the visual element.  Yet when the visual element was provided, then the subjects had an emotional response.  When the subjects saw beach scenes, their emotional response was one of tranquility.  As one could imagine when viewing speeding cars the subjects were tense.  The researchers surmised it was the disconnect between the sound being thought of as calming, yet when combined with the visual element was thought of as stressful.

And that is exactly how I frame the sound of heavy traffic to my clients.  Just close your eyes and imagine that you are at the beach.  If you live on Crest Lane in McLean and you turn towards the Potomac River, one expects to hear the sounds of rushing water.  It is the frame of mind when one is visualizing a desirable scene that caused the subjects in the study to think tranquil thoughts.    So my recommendation is to retain that frame of mind even when the sound is heavy traffic.

Oftentimes landscapers will recommend landscape features with fountains or waterfalls in order to orient the setting towards one of tranquility.  That is another recommendation I make when clients are faced with heavy traffic noise at their property.

It is important to understand all the myriad of factors that go to create and retain value in real estate.  Karen Briscoe and Lizzy Conroy are active and experienced Realtors® in the Northern Virginia, Washington DC and suburban Maryland market place and would be delighted to assist with this process for you, whether it is home buying and/or selling.  Please contact via the means most convenient for you:, 703-734-0192,

Karen Briscoe is Principal of the Huckaby Briscoe Conroy Group (HBC) and author of "Real Estate Success in 5 Minutes a Day". She is an Associate Broker in Virginia, a Certified Luxury Home Market Specialist, and a member of the Women’s Council of Realtors. Karen began her real estate career developing residential lots with the Trammel Crow Company in Dallas, and in commercial real estate with The Staubach Company in the Washington, DC Metro area. Karen has a Masters Degree from Southern Methodist University and her BA from Stephens College in Columbia, Missouri – her hometown.
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