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Considering a Home With a Long Commute? Don’t Drive Yourself Crazy

Buying a home with a long commute from home can negatively affect you in these three ways:

  1. Your work performance
  2. Your bank account
  3. Your relationships and mental health

Long Commutes Should Not Be Taken Lightly

When you are looking at your next home, you should keep in mind that this decision is more than just a roof over your head and a steady residence. Along with the purchase, you are acquiring new neighbors, a lifestyle, amenities, and a new commute to work or school. This new amount of time that you will spend commuting can drastically change your quality of life, influence your safety, and hurt your bank balance more than you might realize. So, before you sign the paperwork and close on your next home, be sure to ask yourself, “How long will my new commute time be?” and “Will this new commute time fit into my lifestyle?”

Commuting and Mental Health

In an article by Psychology Today, they address how commuting is “one of life’s least enjoyable activities.” In Zurich, researchers studied the effects that computers have on a person’s mental health and decided that long commute times create unnecessary stress that doesn’t pay.

Researchers also found that driving to work is more stressful than taking public transportation. The stress from driving to work contributes to muscle and joint pain, increased frustration and anxiety, higher blood pressure, and increased hostility. A long commute time can have your day starting and ending with a bad mood, over time this can get worse and start to impact your cognitive performance.

Besides all of the negative impacts on your health and mental well-being, commuting can take away valuable time for you to spend with spouses, friends, and family. That is not healthy at all.

Commute Times Are Increasing

Even with increased access to public transportation, commute times are not getting better in America. On average, the typical American commute is 25.4 minutes one way. That’s almost half an hour just to get to work! It’s even worse in large metropolitan areas where it can eat up three hours of your day- that’s nearly a fifth of how many hours some people are awake each day!

New York, San Francisco, and Washington D.C. have the biggest population of these long commuting times. This is something that you will need to consider if you plan on moving to urban areas. There are new bottlenecks that pop up every day as employees visit recently opened tech centers like North Carolina’s Research Triangle, or Bellevue, Washington.

According to Business Insider, these are the top cities with the highest commute times, and the average hours you can spend commuting to work each year:

  1. Los Angeles- 102
  2. New York City- 91
  3. San Francisco- 79
  4. Atlanta- 70
  5. Miami- 64
  6. Washington, D.C.- 63
  7. Boston- 60
  8. Chicago- 57
  9. Seattle- 55
  10. Dallas- 54

The Hidden Costs of a Long Commute

The National Association of Realtors (NAR) recommends that its member’s fully researched their area’s commute times and let prospective buyers understand them before purchasing a house. Typically, the savings from choosing to buy in the suburbs versus the city results in an overall higher cost.

The Urban Land Institute found in their study that when the costs of transportation are added to housing costs, people living in the suburbs paid more than those who lived closer in, even though they had lower housing costs.

Henry Cisneros, an Urban Land Institute board member said, “What we have too frequently thought is that you can get an affordable house if you drive until you qualify, but if you then overly the costs of transportation, they get very high.”

If you want to move an hour’s commute from work because you can buy a nicer place, you should calculate your commuting costs- vehicle maintenance, insurance, and the extra gas- before you start settling on a longer commute.

While most experts say 30 percent of your gross (before tax) monthly income is a realistic housing expense, adding a far commute to that can more than double your cost. More than 25% of the communities in the Urban Land Institute study area had transportation and combined housing cost that exceeded more than 58% of their median household income!

Before You Move

Before you sign a new lease or purchase a new house, try test-driving your new commute route during the time you will typically be driving it. You may also want to look and see if the area has any public transportation, this can be less costly, faster, and less stressful.

If you are looking at two different locations, figure out your commuting cost for each location and add that to the rent or mortgage to see which location offers you a better deal.

Your free time is very valuable. There are extreme commuters who spend a minimum of 15 hours a week driving to and from work, and they don’t get paid for it. It’s best to figure out what you consider an unacceptable commute- before you start looking for a home- so you can know which houses would be too far for you.

On online real estate or rental websites, typically have a search radius that you can adjust to meet the needs of your acceptable commute area. This will also save you some time from looking at places that are out of your commuting area.

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