Why Homebuyers Should Consider Commute Times Before Making an Offer
Before putting in an offer on that dream house, it's important to consider what a daily commute might look like in terms of distance or time. Many people are surprised to find that rush hour traffic on either end of a day might look very different from what it does during off-peak hours or weekends. Here are several considerations to make before purchasing a house that might involve long commutes to work.
Healthy Work-Life Balance
Every year, the average commuting individual spends at least a week on the road. Many spend considerably more than that. Just think about that for a second. The daily time some people spend commuting might exceed their annual vacation hours. That's a lot of hours that take away from a healthy work-life balance.
Commutes are Sometimes Expensive
Aside from draining precious hours every week that could be better used toward work-life balance, commute times can also equate to more expense. Whether driving or using public transportation, commute times can be costly. Expenses involved can include:
- Cost of gas
- Car maintenance and repairs
- Auto insurance rates
- Cost of public transportation
- Parking costs at a public transit station or workplace
Also, see if employers offer any compensation for commutes (some do). Once all the expenses are gathered, do a cost analysis. Compare driving with using public transportation to see what the difference may be. Then do the same analysis for a home in a different community that is closer to the workplace. Does the home you're considering make the commute worth the expense?
Tips to Evaluate if the House is Worth the Commute
Before committing to a property, even one you love, take time to evaluate the commute to see if the tradeoff is truly worth it.
- Learn traffic patterns. Make a test run during commute times to see what it's like. If this isn't possible, pull up Google Maps during commute times and clock the time it would take to get to and from work. Do this for several days to make an accurate assessment.
- Explore different routes. The conventional way might not be the best way to get to work. Talk to a trusted real estate agent or potential new neighbors to see if they have any alternative commute options or suggestions.
- Road layout. Will the commute involve highways and interstates, or does it involve several local roads with traffic lights, curves, and lower speed limits? Even a short ride may be long if it involves local roads or dangerous bends.
- Weather factors. States in colder climates are usually prepared for winter, but states in warmer climates sometimes aren't. Then there are mountainous areas that can be hazardous at any given time of year regardless of region. Will an employer allow remote work on bad weather days?
- Look at public transportation. Even long commute times can be restful when relying on public transportation (or it could be more stressful—it depends on the individual). Learn about options, how much they cost, and if the amount is cost-prohibitive, especially with a new mortgage to pay.
A house is only one part of the equation of what the best lifestyle should be—although a large one. Excessive commute times could easily disrupt life, create problems in the household (e.g., absent parents leaving the burden to their spouses), be too expensive, or lead to high personal stress levels. Commuting is one factor everyone should explore before putting in an offer and making that down payment.