Photo: Robert Clark

In some US cities, it definitely pays to take a slightly longer commute.

Homeowners in Boston, MA and Seattle, WA could save over $50,000 on housing costs by moving farther away from core downtown areas, according to a report jointly released yesterday by the listing site Zillow and HERE Technologies, a mapping and location company.

Large American cities tend to feature a diverse mix of surrounding communities that run the gamut from ultra-exclusive to very affordable, and from quickly accessible to downtown to farther-flung,” Zillow Senior Economist Aaron Terrazas says tells Livabl.

This research aimed to show that even in the most expensive American cities, like San Francisco, relatively affordable and accessible pockets can be found decently close to downtown.

The report used commute and real-time traffic data for 34 of the country’s largest metro areas to reveal how much some homeowners could potentially save by spending 15 more minutes in their cars commuting. Also, just how much that shorter commute ends up adding to housing costs.

Boston homeowners saved the most by making the move. The typical Boston home becomes 13.4 percent less expensive, or $57,260, by moving 15 minutes from the city’s downtown core.

In Seattle — one of the country’s hottest housing markets — the price of the typical home falls about $54,599 just 15 minutes from the downtown core.

The regular commute to-and-from work looms large over the typical American worker’s life. Over a 30-year career, reducing your one-way commute by just 15 minutes frees up five months of one’s life.

But homeowners willing to add 15 minutes to their commutes could also see big savings in the Chicago, IL and Washington, DC metro areas, potentially saving as much as 8.2 percent and 9.4 percent, respectively, on housing costs.

New York City, the country’s largest metro, was glaringly omitted from the report

“New York is such a specialized market, especially with so many distinct job districts and such a unique housing market that we did not include it in this analysis,” Terrazas says.

But a longer commute doesn’t always translate to saving on home costs.

Home values rise in San Antonio, TX, Las Vegas, NV, and Sacramento, CA, when they are located farther away from the downtown core. This reflects the “enduring premium on suburban living in those communities,” Zillow writes in the report.

For example, in San Antonio, the typical home is over 14 percent more expensive when located farther from the city’s downtown area compared to homes located closer to the core.

“San Antonio is a sprawling city with less of a defined ‘center’ than many large urban areas. It is more of a suburban city, and hasn’t seen the same urban growth that other cities have,” Terrazas notes.

The trend isn’t confined to homeowners.

While the price disparity is less extreme for renters, the trend can still be observed. Washington, DC and San Francisco, CA have two of the most expensive downtown areas for renters in the country, and Zillow reports that rent per-square-foot within 15 minutes of the downtown cores is more than twice as high as in the rest of the regions.

And while time may be money, time is an irreplaceable — and therefore priceless —  commodity that should be considered when ultimately making a decision.

Click here to read the entire release.

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