Although it might be tempting to ignore a long commute to snag an otherwise perfect home, your commute time should take high priority during your house hunt if you work at an office. Here, Realtor.com shows you how to factor your commute into your home-buying process so you can decide where you want to live.
If you work in a big city, looking in the suburbs is one way to find a more affordable home. Consequently, even if you’re looking for a short commute to work, your options of where you can afford to buy a house may be limited, and affect where you can realistically shop for homes. Realtor.com recommends driving until you find a home you can afford, helping to strike a balance between lower housing prices and a shorter commute.
The average commute time to work in the U.S. is 25.4 minutes, according to the Census Bureau, but commute times can vary widely based on location. Workers in the New York City metro area have the longest average commute time of 34.9 minutes, followed by Los Angeles, Boston, and Atlanta—and 10.8 million Americans travel more than an hour each way to work. As the minutes add up, so do your travel costs—especially gas and car maintenance. According to research by Lifehacker, each mile you live from work adds $795 per year to your commuting costs. So, for example, if you were to cut your commute from one hour to 30 minutes, you’d save a whopping $23,850 annually—which could mean you’re able to spend a bit more on buying a home.
Many workers have the luxury of setting their own hours. If you’re one of them, you may be able to adjust your work schedule to avoid rush hour traffic. In addition, a growing number of employers are letting employees telecommute. According to a 2016 Society for Human Resource Management survey, 60 percent of companies now offer telecommuting opportunities—a three-fold increase from 1996. If you have that kind of flexibility, you may be more inclined to buy a house that requires a longer commute.
There also are considerations about what matters most to you in addition to price. Outdoor parks, night life, access to restaurants and shopping, and population density may be important factors when choosing a place to live. Where you are in your life also comes into play. If you’re raising young children and want to maximize your time with them, you likely want a short commute. Or if you decide your heart is set on a particular community or neighborhood, you may be willing to drive farther to work.
You can’t pin a dollar amount to your stress levels, but how long you’re willing to commute to work also depends on how frustrated you get sitting behind the wheel. Research supports the idea that a long commute can have downsides that hit far deeper than time on the road. A recent study from Canada’s University of Waterloo found that people with long commutes experience higher levels of stress and lower levels of life satisfaction than people with shorter commutes. Meanwhile, research from Washington University suggests that the longer your daily commute is, the more likely you are to have high blood pressure, an oversized waistline and other health problems that can increase your risk for chronic diseases.