Trying to decide between living in a house in the suburbs or an apartment in the city? After experiencing the best and worst of both worlds, I have become a believer in the short commute.
If you would have told me that I would buy an inner city unit a few years ago, I would have thought you were off your rocker. I was quite sure that all those city dwellers were suffering a miserable fate. All that congestion, all that noise, all those people… Yikes!
I was so convinced that city living was not for me, I spent five years enduring a 45-minute commute.
Correction. Make that a 45 minute commute to work and a 45 minute commute to get home; so actually, it was a 90 minute commute.
Correction. Factor in traffic and it was usually more like a 120 minute commute.
But I was living the dream right? A 3-bedroom, 2-bathroom house. Trees. A swing set for my two-month-old to play on. And don’t forget, I had podcasts to listen to, so the commute was fine… 10 hours per week, no big deal. 40 hours a month, I could handle it. 500 hours a year, it wasn’t that bad…
Actually it was that bad. I snapped. In a traffic fuelled rage I went to an auction for a dilapidated unit near the city. I raised my paddle. And raised it. And raised it.
We ended up paying $150,000 more for the city unit than what we had paid for our house. Two baths became one. The front and back yards became a tiny balcony. Our sq. footage divided itself almost exactly in half.
And you know what?
It was one of the best decisions of my life.
If you are trying to decide between more space (ie the burbs) or more time (ie city living), here’s some food for thought:
Factor in commuting costs when comparing properties
Time is money. How much time will you spend commuting? Figure out what you really make per hour (after taxes) and back out commute time at that hourly rate. Also, don’t forget to figure in car maintenance, petrol, train / ferry / bus fares and tolls. Now, multiply that by the number of years you plan on living in that great property out in Woop-woop. Suddenly, the added costs of buying close to the city may come down a bit.
Tip! If you’re wondering just which suburbs in your city are selling below their asking price more often than not be sure to check out the exclusive property pricing report that Aussie put together with RP Data.
For families, consider if you’ll have a stay-at-home parent
Watching the child-care pick-up deadline come and go while you are stuck in traffic is highly stressful. If both mum and dad are working, a short commute for at least one person is something to seriously think about. Ask yourself, which do you think your child will prefer, a big yard or more time with mum or dad? If one parent can keep the machinery running smoothly at home, the other person’s long commute is a bit easier to handle. Those lucky folks with a nearby grandparent or nanny can think along those lines too.
Consider the mode of transport for your commute
A long commute is one thing. An unpredictably long commute is quite another. Being able to work, read or sleep on a train or ferry is a world better than banging your fists on a steering wheel. Studies have shown that an unpredictable commute is actually bad for your health. Missed meetings and late work arrivals will take a toll on how you feel day-to-day.
After my marathon commute days, I’m willing to compromise on a lot to live close to work. I could be wrong, but I think others are starting to come around to my way of thinking too. Many of Australia’s inner city suburbs have been revitalised in recent years by young families who are making this choice.
Which do you prefer: a house in the burbs or an apartment in the city? Let us know which one you think is better in the comments!
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