The commute factor: Why it’s become the ultimate deal breaker for buyers


Turns out popcorn ceilings and outdated kitchens aren’t at the top of the deal-breaker list for most homebuyers. What do they hate more than eyesores? Long, stressful commutes.

In a new survey conducted by Zillow, 62 percent of buyers said their commute to work or school — whether by car, bus, train, bike or foot — was very or extremely important in their homebuying decision.

Renters felt the same way — 57 percent of them say it played into their decision about whether or not to sign a lease. And whether buying or renting, respondents across all age groups said the longest commute time they’d be willing accept when considering a new home or job is 30 minutes each way.

Only a third of recent buyers surveyed said they were willing to commute up to 44 minutes and only 12 percent said they could deal with 45 minutes to an hour.

According to Governing, an online resource for state and local officials, the average commute time for Atlanta drivers in the area is 29 minutes. For those who commute by bus, it’s 49 minutes and by subway, 47 minutes.

“A longer commute can mean the difference between cooking dinner with your family and zapping something in the microwave; or between paying extra for childcare and hearing about your kids’ day at school,” said Zillow economist Jeff Tucker. “That’s why it comes as little surprise that Americans give careful thought to their commutes before moving to a new home, whether they are shopping to buy or rent.”

It’s safe to say that no one enjoys commuting back and forth to work, but what’s changed is an increasing unwillingness to accept it, a phenomenon likely driven by technology and the ability to work remotely.

Of the buyers surveyed, half said they work from home at least one day a week and one in five said they work remotely full-time. The younger they were, the more common this phenomenon was.

More than 62 percent of Gen Z and millennial respondents said they work remotely at least some of the time while 54 percent of Gen X respondents said the same.

Working remotely impacts buyer’s housing choices in a number of ways, so it’s something agents should be aware of. “We heard from a growing number of workers who have managed to eliminate their commute by working from home, but even they reported that it affected their home shopping decision – either by freeing them to look at different locations, or guiding their home-design choices,” said Tucker.

More than a quarter of respondents said working remotely impacted their choice to purchase a different home, 24 percent said it influenced them to move to a different location, and 14 percent said it influenced them to renovate or remodel.

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