Drive till you qualify? Sure, but it WILL cost you
You may have heard the old real estate adage, “Drive till you qualify.” The idea being that buyers who can’t afford to buy a home in the city, should drive to surrounding areas to find more affordable and larger homes, with potentially more appealing lifestyle and environmental benefits.
At least that’s the idea.
In practice, however, such a plan may not be quite so simple. A new study from Canada Mortgage and Housing Corp. (CMHC) shows that increased commuting costs and time could offset any financial savings of buying a cheaper home in an outlying area.
“By assessing the combination of commuting costs and housing costs, one can gain a more comprehensive gauge of the total cost of location choices,” says Andrew Scott, senior analyst, economics, for CMHC.
In 2016, there were approximately 2.6 million commuters in the GTA, with 1.3 million of them commuting to a place of work in the city of Toronto. This made it the most common destination for GTA commuters. Roughly two-thirds of these commuters lived within the cityitself, while the remaining commuted from the 905 areasof the GTA. Pickering had the highest share of people commuting into Toronto, at 52.6 per cent, followed by Ajax (48.4 per cent), Markham (46.9 per cent), Vaughan (40.8 per cent), Richmond Hill (39.1 per cent), Whitby (32.2 per cent) and Mississauga (26.7 per cent).
Most commuters to Toronto drove, at 49 per cent, while 40 per cent took public transit. Of 905 residents who commute into the city, 67 per cent drove a car, and 21 took public transport.
Areas with longest commutes
Average duration of commutes is clearly on the rise, CMHC says, particularly among those who commute 60 minutes or more, one way. Between 2011 and 2016, this was the fastest growing segment of the commuter population, growing by 16 per cent, followed by those who commuted 45 to 59 minutes (14 per cent). Areas with one-way commutes longer than 60 minutes include Aurora, Burlington, Milton, Newmarket, Oakville and Oshawa.
Lower home prices, increase commuting cost
The most likely home type to lure buyers to the suburbs is single-detached homes, CMHC says. However, when the estimated monthly mortgage carrying cost and monthly commuting cost are combined, relatively lower priced municipalities such as East Gwillimbury, Newmarket, Mississauga, Whitchurch-Stouffville and Caledon end up costing more than or nearly as much as the city of Toronto.
Notably, some GTA municipalities did retain their cost advantage. Even with significant commuting costs in areas such as Georgina, Oshawa and Clarington, a large cost advantage remains due to the considerably lower cost of housing.
Based on estimates of the cost of commuting to Toronto from municipalities in the GTA, areas with lower mortgage carrying costs for single-detached housing often had significantly higher commuting costs, CMHC says. In many cases, these increased commuting costs completely offset lower home ownership costs.
The bottom line? Do all the math, and make sure that if you’re considering buying outside the city, your decision is based on more than money. The savings might not be there.