Life by the Water

by Karen Briscoe
May 25, 2017
Memorial Day for many American is the “kick-off” to the summer season. People often think about escaping the city to the beach, lake or river as warm weather takes hold. The air is often cooler and more refreshing when the breeze comes off of water. Thus one of the most valuable qualities of real property is being located on or near water. There are several reasons for this phenomenon. One is water occurs naturally in most environments and thus there is a limited supply of locations that are in close proximity. Another is that the sounds of water rushing, splashing, even crashing onto the shore can be calming to the senses. This state is desirable and thus can add value to the location.

Early in my career as a real estate agent I had a client who wanted to purchase a home 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), which is a major transportation artery for the Washington DC metro area. The primary negative to being near a major thoroughfare is the road noise, even if it is a National Parkway.

A University of Sheffield in Britain study showed that the brain references 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 determining the difference in the sounds was adding the visual element.

The subjects had an emotional response when the visual was included. The beach scenes conjured up an emotional response of tranquility. As one would imagine when the study participants viewed speeding cars they were tense. The researchers surmised it is the disconnect between sound normally interpreted as calming combined with the visual element viewed as stressful that causes the visceral response.

That is how I frame the sound of heavy traffic to customers and clients. Just close your eyes and imagine that you are at the beach. If you are fortunate to live on the Gold Coast in McLean, turn your mind towards the Potomac River in which case one expects to hear the sounds of rushing water. It is the frame of mind when one is visualizes 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 actually heavy traffic.

Often landscapers will recommend installation of landscape features with fountains or waterfalls to orient the setting towards one of tranquility. That is another strategy available to people who live in areas with heavy traffic noise.

Karen Briscoe and Lizzy Conroy and their team HBC Group at Keller Williams are active and experienced Realtors® in the Northern Virginia, suburban Maryland and Washington, DC market place. They would be delighted to assist whether for home buying 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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