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The Commonwealth Blog

Monday, December 4, 2017

Factoring in the Commute When Buying a Home

The thought of moving to a new neighborhood and maybe even a new town is exciting, especially if you’re planning to buy a house. However, before you get too caught up in the thrill of house hunting, you need to ask yourself: How far am I willing to commute?

It’s easy to put off thinking about your commute, but it can be a bigger determining factor in the home buying process than you might think. Buying a home in a rural or suburban area will get you more square footage at a lower cost than buying in a city, but if you have a long daily commute by car, the cost of gas and auto maintenance can add up quickly. One Reuters report estimates that someone with a 20-mile drive to work can expect their commute to cost them $50,000 over ten years, even after factoring in a tax deduction for business driving.

It’s About More Than Distance

When thinking about the commute from your potential new home, you need to look at more than just distance in miles. You should use Google Maps (or a similar tool) to look at the estimated drive time when you will be going to and from work. This is especially crucial if you’re commuting to Boston or another big city where traffic gets congested at peak hours.

Of course, if you are commuting into the city, you may be able to use public transportation rather than driving, which can save you time and money. If you’re buying a home outside of Boston, check to see if it’s near a stop on the T or the commuter rail. While you may still be in for a long commute, taking the train will at least allow you to use your commute to do some work, catch up on reading, or just relax before or after your workday.

If your job doesn’t require you to be at an office from 9 am to 5 pm, you may also be able to look into alternative work schedules to help you save on commuting from your new home. For example, you could see if you could start later in the morning and leave later in the evening so that you’re not traveling during rush hour, or you could ask if you could telecommute several days a week.

The Pros and Cons of a Long Commute

Maybe you’ve already found your dream home within your budget but know you’ll be facing a long commute. Before buying, you’ll need to decide if other factors will make the long commute worth it. For example, you may value the house’s location because it’s in a good school district, close to your partner’s work, or close to family members who can help with childcare.

You and your partner need to recognize that there will be trade-offs for these benefits, both in terms of the commuting cost and the time it will take out of your day, and decide if the trade-offs are worth it.

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