When envisioning our dream property, we sometimes overlook the niggling details that emerge in the business of living our lives. Those pragmatic, non-dreamy details tend not to enter the idyllic picture of life that unfolds between the walls of said property.
For instance, how was your commute to work today?
Commuting, for many is a daily fact. Yet the financial and emotional implications of commuting are rarely considered in the forefront in the decision to buy a dwelling. Sometimes we are lured by the prospect of cheaper property, or more property for the same price point.
In addition to the mental and emotional toll of this daily grind, what about the actual financial cost?
This begs the question – what is the true cost of commuting?
While most people allocate the majority of their financial resources to housing costs, transportation expenses can really add up and take a substantial chunk of your income. As a buyer, it’s critical you assess the potential day-to-day costs to commute between your work and a prospective property in advance of making a purchase. In fact, areas with the most affordable housing may not actually be as value-added as you think once you tally the costs to commute, while areas with more expensive properties may be more accessible, convenient and, in fact, cheaper while offering a better quality of life.
There is a reason that there is a demographic trend for many to flee the suburbs in pursuit of a more convenient urban lifestyle. It’s not just about having access to loads of trendy shops, restaurants and nightlife (although that is an excellent by-product of location). It’s about being supportive of a pedestrian lifestyle -which for many, whether they know it or not is a key component of their potential happiness.
For example, is there the possibility you might buy in a location where you don’t require a vehicle and all the associated costs of acquisition, maintenance and repair, gas and insurance, and parking fees? Most urban centres offer efficient public transportation networks, bicycle lanes and the opportunity to embrace a walking life (with the health-benefit of exercise!), with easy access to a car sharing rental locations when driving is a necessity. Plus, living a life with less reliance on an automobile is better for the environment.
Commuting and the cost of running an automobile over long distances is expensive, and could effectively erode growth of your net worth over a period of time. Let’s say that you are purchasing your property with asset growth as a main driver (in addition to shelter). The commute, which may seem reasonable at the outset, can be a silent financial thief over time, poking holes in the asset side of your balance sheet. Here is an interesting piece about the true financial implications of commuting, complete with some interesting financial scenarios.
Furthermore, let’s not forget your health and how your commute may be killing you. While driving an automobile may be a necessity, you’re actually decreasing your well-being the further your daily commute. Along with the health maladies and lack of physical activity that accompany sitting in a car for an extended period of time – which can lead to heart disease and weight gain – you’re susceptible to the added bonus of chronic stress that comes with navigating traffic and road aggression.
Years from now (or maybe sooner, in a reflective moment) when you look back over your life, how many hours of your life actually belonged to you and/or time with your loved ones, or in pursuit of interests that are fulfilling? Assumedly many hours were dedicated to pursuit of your career. There are those who love their work passionately, so the line between work and pleasure is often blurred (I am one of those lucky ones), but for many people work and the time associated is a means to an end. In addition to the hours you’ve dedicated to work – how many hours have you spent getting from work and back?
The more time you’re on the road, the less time you have to nurture your relationships with your partner and your family, and the more pressure is on your partner to handle all of the domestic chores and childcare. Think about the physical factors that can potentially affect your health — exercise, sleep, food and social activity – and how that relates to your emotional well-being and you’ll realize commuting has the potential to impact the quality of your life dramatically.
Canadians are becoming more savvy to the commute. Interestingly, they aren’t just letting it influence their choice of property. The length of commute is becoming a guiding factor in whether or not one accepts a job offer or not.
This MacLean’s article outlines a recent survey done by Oxford Properties and Environics Research Group, which found that a whopping 76 percent of Canadians seek a “reasonable” commute to work. In the same survey, they indicated that 30 minutes each way was within the reasonable category. The problem is, according to the same survey, most commuters in Toronto are facing on average a one-way trip of 42 minutes. Here’s a link to an IBM Traffic Congestion Post.
There is a growing awareness of work-life balance, brought about in part by Gen Y influxing the workspaces now, with common standards that support emotional well-being and personal fulfillment as a core component of that balance. This is in contrast with generations prior who were more adaptable to do what they had to, including commuting forever, in order to get and keep a job. These Gen Y folk (along with some of the Baby Boomers) are flocking to urban cores, just for those reasons. The theory is that the urban price point may be a bit higher in the outset, but that the benefits (both financial and emotional) far outweigh the initial price tag in the longer term.
What are your motivations for picking your unique urban space? Perhaps you are fed up with commuting and long to be closer to work? Maybe you are deciding where to buy for the first time, and are unsure about the real life impact of the potential commute? Consider checking out our Neighbourhood Pages which showcase some of the downtown neighbourhoods we specialize in!
At urbaneer.com, we aim – in all aspects of your housing life, to make sure that you are happy, healthy and prosperous. We’re here to help!
~ Steven and the urbaneer team
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