America’s biggest cities are also some of its most expensive. People pay to live near culture, creativity, jobs and the chance to collaborate with a variety of talented individuals.
But what happens when a city’s not ready to absorb all this popularity? Often, a longer commute.
Redfin looked at the twelve most and least expensive metros where we collect housing data. How do their commutes times stand up to the national average of 25.7 minutes? The majority of expensive cities have longer commutes, while all of the least-expensive markets enjoy relatively quick commutes.
Also, it’s important to note that the commute times reflect driving and public transit commutes, as well as those lucky enough to walk or bike to work. While strong transit systems are important for a city in a number of ways, they’re not necessarily faster than driving: plenty of people in major metropolises have hour-plus commutes, even if they live blocks from a train station.
When comparing commute times with city prices, what we found was that if you live in an expensive city, not only are you paying more for your house or apartment, you’re also spending more time getting to and from work. Many San Franciscans get an arduous commute to go with their modest $1 million house while Buffalonians buying a $110,000 house get a breezy drive time.
After a certain point, San Franciscans will get fed up and start moving somewhere else. In fact, it’s already happening. Last year, Redfin real estate agent Warren Teller helped a couple from San Francisco buy a $710,000 five-bedroom home in Richmond, Virginia, after they figured out that one of them could telecommute for a job in San Francisco.
In Richmond, the master bedroom in their new home was larger than their entire San Francisco apartment and their mortgage payment was less than their rent.
It’s not just San Francisco. Communities with lower costs of living and shorter commutes are drawing workers from nearby larger cities as remote work becomes more routine.
Redfin real estate agent Kent Selders in Grand Rapids is seeing more clients moving from Chicago to Grand Rapids, where the median home price is only $153,000.
“They’re not moving because of a job, they’re moving with the prospect of better opportunities and a higher standard of living,” Selders said. “Many of my relocating clients have employment that is not geographically bound. They can work anywhere they have high-speed internet.”
The median home price in Chicago is more than $75,000 higher than in Grand Rapids and the commute is eight minutes longer each way.
In many mid-sized cities, there aren’t enough homes to keep up. For example, for the first time in years, this spring the Midwest is experiencing housing shortages and rising prices. Demand may continue to be steep in many mid-size cities across the country if current trends continue.
Average national commute time is based on the Census Bureau’s ACS 2014 five-year survey. Local commute times are computed using population-weighted averages of county-level commute times for each metro as provided by the Census Bureau’s ACS 2014 5-year survey.
Housing prices are based on the April Redfin Market Tracker.