Your morning commute matters, and it can be somewhere between two extremes depending on your preferences and needs. Teleworkers can go from bed to the office in mere seconds, without even changing out of their pajamas, while the rare “super-commuters” fly by plane daily for work, traveling upwards of five hours one way to live in their ideal home.
Before you make your next move, weigh the pros and cons to a longer or shorter morning and evening routine. Here are five questions to ask about your commute before you put down roots.
Does the commute fit your workday? When house or apartment hunting you should ask yourself where you need to live in proximity to work to still enjoy your time off.
“I always ask people how long or how far they are willing to commute,” says Judy Moore, a Realtor for The Higgins Group Realtors in Lexington, Massachusetts, a Boston suburb.
Many people moving to Lexington work in either Boston or nearby Cambridge, Massachusetts, Moore says, and the town’s proximity to highways leading into the city make it an appealing alternative.
“We get a lot of people moving from Boston proper – younger folks who are starting a family and moving out of the city and the ‘burbs. And they figure it’s only 11 miles, so it’s not too far,” Moore says, though she notes rush hour can make what's normally a half-hour trip to the airport closer to an hour.
What other factors are at play? A longer commute isn’t typically to admire the scenery. People often relocate outside metropolitan downtowns to have access to benefits that can be challenging to find in a city atmosphere, including better schools, the ability to own a larger piece of land or closer proximity to other family members.
In Winnetka, Illinois, located a few miles north of Chicago on the shore of Lake Michigan, a substantial portion of working adults in the town commute into the city daily, says Jean Wright, a real estate agent and owner of Jean Wright Real Estate in Winnetka.
She notes Winnetka’s public schools are renowned, and they usually serve as a less expensive alternative to paying for private school. As a result, she says Winnetka attracts not just people looking to move outside Chicago but also residents from other states and countries planning to commute in for work.
How will you get there? If you’re willing to travel farther for work, be sure you factor in the most reasonable way to commute each morning. Moving to the edges of the suburbs might mean transferring bus lines a few times to get downtown, which will stretch out your morning.
A recent survey by infrastructure solutions firm HNTB Corporation found 55 percent of Americans are willing to pay more for their home – either rent or mortgage – if commuting via public transit is an option.
Despite the growing preference for public transportation as a close and viable option, HNTB senior vice president Mike Sweeney points out there will always be people who prefer taking their own car to work – no matter how close they live or how many transit stops are between home and the office.
If a car is your best option, be sure to factor in parking costs. Many major cities charge upwards of $30 a day to park in a garage – and not every office will subsidize spots to employees – not to mention wear and tear on your car and regular gas fill-ups.
Can you pay more? It’s no secret a home or apartment near a train stop is going to sell for a higher price – a 2013 study by the American Public Transportation Association and National Association of Realtors found homes located near transit stops outperformed homes in the rest of the metro area on the market by 41.6 percent – so if you want to be able to walk to your train in the morning, be ready to pay for it in your rent or home price.
“The better proximity that a resident has to a good commuting option, the higher the value of the residence,” Sweeney says.
Can you hold out for better transit? Real estate developers pay close attention to resident preferences like the HNTB survey finding an increased desire for easy access to public transportation.
Sweeney explains it becomes a question of whether future development will be focused around existing public transit stations and hubs, or if public transportation systems will continue to expand to bring more and new communities easy access to trains and buses.
He says developers are asking, “Can I find a piece of land to develop something on that’s already close to something? Or will an agency build, say, a new line or improve an area that will now make that area far better from a commuting standpoint, and therefore more valuable?”
It’s something to ask yourself as well: Would you be willing to pay less now to live somewhere not ideally accessible for your commute if there’s the promise of transit expansion in the future?
She has appeared in media interviews across the U.S. including National Public Radio, WTOP (Washington, D.C.) and KOH (Reno, Nevada) and various print publications, as well as having served on panels discussing real estate development, city planning policy and homebuilding.
Previously, she served as a researcher of commercial real estate transactions and information, and is currently a member of the National Association of Real Estate Editors. Thorsby studied Political Science at the University of Michigan, where she also served as a news reporter and editor for the student newspaper The Michigan Daily. Follow her on Twitter or write to her at firstname.lastname@example.org.