September 19, 2018
The good news: You’ve just found your dream house and it fits your budget. The bad news: It’s an hour away from your workplace. In debating whether to buy a new home, many homeowners need to realistically consider: Is your dream house worth a longer commute? Here are five areas to consider.
If you’re looking at a longer commute, be sure to factor in the real time commitment: rush hour congestion, weather, school drop-off, and other contributors to traffic jams. Know how bad the overall region’s traffic is, too. If you’re thinking of moving to or near Atlanta, San Francisco, or Los Angeles, for example, traffic is unavoidable. Even if you’re able to commute at off-peak hours, you’ll still want to consider distance and average travel times.
Are you a homebody or someone who enjoys after-work happy hours and social gatherings? Do you have kids in school and after-school activities? Objectively look at how a longer commute may impact your availability to do what you enjoy. If you’re driving two or more hours per day to get to work and back, you may not be able to spend time at home, in your much-desired garden, or at your kids’ functions, and post-work socialization may be curtailed because you have to hit the road to get home.
If you’re moving to a suburb or exurb, your home may be more affordable than if you stayed in or near a city. But calculate your monthly mortgage savings against what you’ll be spending on your commute. What will you now need to shell out for car maintenance, gas, and tolls (or a more expensive commuter train pass) each month? In addition to your commuting costs, will your new home require more upkeep, such as lawn maintenance or higher heat and utility bills? When you estimate your new monthly budget, you’ll know whether that further commute will cost you more in the long run.
Studies have shown that long commutes contribute to divorce, insomnia, obesity, and stress. If you already work a high-stress job, have health problems, or have related concerns, know that a long commute may exacerbate existing health risks (or even create new ones). Don’t wear rose-colored glasses when it comes to your well-being. Be realistic, practical, and unemotional: Your health will thank you!
In a 2017 Gallup survey, more than 43% of Americans reported they spent at least some time working remotely. If your company is open to flexible working arrangements, can you keep your job and eliminate your commute entirely (or reduce it to a few days a week)? Thinking creatively and communicating openly with your employer may bring you the best arrangement for your home and career.
Speaking of your career, will there be any impacts from your longer commute or flex-time arrangements, such as reduced opportunities for advancement? If you were to lose your job, does your new region have ample employers if you need a new job (or would you continue your longer commute arrangement at a different company)?
Ultimately, only you and your family can decide whether your dream home is worth a longer commute. Do some soul-searching to determine the maximum amount of time you’d like to spend commuting and take a realistic approach to your budget. Aim for the confluence of your preferred lifestyle and an affordable budget and think critically about what you value most and least. When you comprehend the true impact of a commute on your daily life, career, family, and goals, you’ll know whether to buy or keep looking for your new home.
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