If you're entering into the real estate market for the first time, you'll hear the old adage: location, location, location. That's three of the key factors... I'm kidding but, location is, indeed, a very important concern.
However, many buyers think location is most important because of the surrounding area. So, if the neighborhood is nice, with parks, good schools, retail stores nearby, and somewhat close to freeways, it's a good location. But what also makes it a good location is how close it is to your work.
These days many people are telecommuting, which allows them to work from home and save gas. If that's the case, a 45-minute or hour-plus drive, one-way to the office, might not be too intimidating because you're not going to have to do it every day. But your long commute could still become a key factor when it comes to getting a mortgage.
Some lenders may factor in your long commute as part of your overall debt-to-income ratio, (DTI) which will directly impact how much money you can borrow. Regardless of whether the lender takes your extended commute into consideration, buyers should. With rising gas prices and increasing traffic, an extra long commute to the office can hurt your pocketbook.
A study from the Center for Housing Policy and the Center for Neighborhood Technology reported that transportation expenses for households in the largest metro areas increased 44 percent from 2000 to 2010. And about 600,000 full-time workers have a huge commute of at least 90 minutes and 50 miles to get to the office, according to U.S. Census data.
Sometimes the allure of rural areas with typically less expensive housing prices is so strong that buyers forget to consider how long they'll be on the road before they're home at night. They also don't factor in the gas costs that add up fast and can amount to hundreds of dollars in expenses each month.
If you do purchase a home with a long commute, talk to your company about possible commuting subsidies, arrange a carpool, or try to work remotely more frequently to reduce the back and forth commute. Craigslist.com and eRideShare.com help connect people with others who live and work nearby. Some cities even have their own sponsored program for free online matching services for carpooling. You can also ask your work to adjust your hours so that you can come in and leave at times when you'll miss rush hours. This way you're not just burning gas while sitting in tight, slow-moving traffic.
Cities with good mass transit are attracting buyers and providing options that help avoid putting extra unwanted miles on their vehicles. It makes sense. Sometimes the commute, if they don't have to drive, is a welcome break giving workers time to catch up on a good book, movie, or extra work. Plus, some cities have waterway ferries that make it a beautiful and enjoyable commute.
If you're shopping for a home and considering the long commute, spend a little time weighing the pros and cons. Also, do a little research. You can visit commutesolutions.org to use their online calculator to determine the true cost of your driving commute. Having a road map that shows your expected expenses will help you accurately budget for them.