The Commonwealth Blog

Friday, July 20, 2018

Is It Worth a Long Commute for a Dream Home?

With the advent of long and costly commutes, you may want to think twice about purchasing a home far from your place of work or study. Take into account these factors before picking up the keys to your new dream house -- you may save yourself time, money, and relief from a major headache.

Time on the Road Breaks the Bank

According to the Census Bureau, the average commute time in the U.S. is 25.4 minutes. This sounds doable, but bear in mind that transportation times vary widely depending on where you live. Larger metropolitan areas like Los Angeles, New York, and Boston boast some of the longest commutes, with average driving times of 102, 91, and 79 minutes respectively. That’s a lot of time, and there’s more to consider than the mere madness of gritting your teeth in gridlock.

The amount of time you spend behind the wheel affects how much is spent on gas and maintenance, so it’s important to estimate how often you’ll stop at the pump or repair shop. According to Lifehacker, a whopping $795 is added to annual transportation costs with every additional mile. Significantly reducing your commute time (or even cutting it in half) could save you money on items for your new home or help with a down payment.

Each mile matters, and it’s wise to calculate just how far you’re willing to go for your dream home. We’ll take the National Association of Realtors’ advice and encourage prospective buyers to compare commutes in different areas before signing any legally binding documents. Realtor apps can help by finding homes close to important destinations like school and work, making your search a bit easier.  

There are many factors to consider when searching for a new place. Why not calculate the time and money required for traveling, too? You’ll feel more prepared when you need to compare potential homes and make a final decision.

Investigate Hidden Costs

Many buyers move to the suburbs for the promise of an affordable home that’s well-kept. This is a lucrative prospect if travel times are minimal, but keep in mind that costly commutes to work, school, or the city can offset low housing prices. In a study published by the Urban Land Institute, research shows that suburban homeowners may spend more than their counterparts in the city when travel expenses are taken into account.

But don’t be fooled. While living close to the city center cushions you from traveling expenses, the cost of city living can be pricey. Parking passes are as much as $200 a month, and insurance and tax rates skyrocket when densely populated areas are more prone to accidents and theft. When making your decision, it’s necessary to research costs associated with both city and suburban life -- and to weigh the pros and cons of each.

Be Sensible About Your Sanity

Another worthwhile thing to consider is, well, your mental health. Studies show that long commute times can, not surprisingly, have a negative impact on your health. Research from Washington University suggests long travel times put drivers at risk for high blood pressure, weight gain, and other health issues associated with chronic disease.

The next time you commit to an hour-long journey to and from work, understand that your physical and mental health may be at stake. Determine if lengthy travel times will drive you off the rails, or if you can peacefully get by with help from a podcast or some music.

Live the Life You’re Meant to Live

Making an important decision like buying a house requires much thought and ultimately depends on the kind of lifestyle you want to live. Do you see yourself settling down in a quiet neighborhood to raise a family? Are you intrigued by the hustle and bustle of large metropolitan areas? Is proximity to parks and greenery essential to your well-being?

These preferences carry weight and help inform your house-buying decision -- and they should because where you’re at in life matters. You’ll be happier knowing your community supports your unique personality, goals, and aspirations.

Just don’t forget about commute times and all associated costs. With a bit of preparation and research, you’re well on your way to making a confident decision about a home you love.

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