Author Topic: Buying a Home and Commuting Distance  (Read 2069 times)

Thomas Amundsen

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Buying a Home and Commuting Distance
« on: May 29, 2018, 08:21:08 PM »
Hi all,

I will soon be re-locating to Helena, Montana. It's a small city with basically no traffic. I am weighing my options between buying a house in the city or buying land in the mountains and building a house. Most city houses are within 10-15 minutes biking distance of my workplace. Most land options are about 60-90 minutes biking distance of the workplace.

Does anyone have thoughts on this matter? I realize it's a highly personal situation. It essentially comes down to the question of whether I can realistically commute on a bike 60+ minutes each way and if that is worth it. But I'd appreciate to hear thoughts from my fellow Mustachians. Perhaps some people on here have experience with long bike commutes?

Thanks,
Thomas

DreamFIRE

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Re: Buying a Home and Commuting Distance
« Reply #1 on: May 29, 2018, 09:08:24 PM »
Yes, I think only you can answer that question.  I do some biking, but I don't commute to work biking.  However, when I  was looking at houses, I was considering a similar situation between buying a house within a 10 minute drive or a 30 minute drive.  I ended up buying a house within a 10 minute drive to save all that time driving, and in hind-sight, I'm glad I made that decision after living in my house 16 years now saving 40 minutes each day on driving vs. if I had chosen the other option.  Now that I'm close to FIRE, the distance outside of the city would not be as much of an issue.

Michael in ABQ

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Re: Buying a Home and Commuting Distance
« Reply #2 on: May 29, 2018, 09:13:42 PM »
60-90 minutes by bike everyday is quite a bit of your day. Plus, is it realistic to expect to be commuting by bike the whole winter?

I just took a new job and my commute increased a few miles but I'm arriving earlier and leaving earlier so I'm missing the worst of rush hour traffic. So even though my commute is now about 30-35 and 35-40 minutes it doesn't feel as bad as before because I'm not stuck in traffic all the time.

snogirl

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Re: Buying a Home and Commuting Distance
« Reply #3 on: May 30, 2018, 05:13:42 AM »
I'd live in Helena in a heartbeat. Great little city and save exploring for my free time. I can't wait to visit again.

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honeybbq

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Re: Buying a Home and Commuting Distance
« Reply #4 on: May 30, 2018, 10:28:15 AM »
I'd live in the mountains if I lived in Montana. Isn't that the whole point of living in a sparsely populated state with a LCOL?

I live in the city proper in a big city and dream of having land and trees and space.

Plus with the snow in the winter, you'd only be able to bike half the year, I'm guessing.

Thomas Amundsen

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Re: Buying a Home and Commuting Distance
« Reply #5 on: May 31, 2018, 01:22:14 PM »
Yes, I think only you can answer that question.  I do some biking, but I don't commute to work biking.  However, when I  was looking at houses, I was considering a similar situation between buying a house within a 10 minute drive or a 30 minute drive.  I ended up buying a house within a 10 minute drive to save all that time driving, and in hind-sight, I'm glad I made that decision after living in my house 16 years now saving 40 minutes each day on driving vs. if I had chosen the other option.  Now that I'm close to FIRE, the distance outside of the city would not be as much of an issue.

Thanks for your response. I think you're right that it's really important to cut-down on the commute, especially when you're talking about owning a house and it potentially being a long-term situation.

Thomas Amundsen

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Re: Buying a Home and Commuting Distance
« Reply #6 on: May 31, 2018, 01:24:37 PM »
60-90 minutes by bike everyday is quite a bit of your day. Plus, is it realistic to expect to be commuting by bike the whole winter?

I just took a new job and my commute increased a few miles but I'm arriving earlier and leaving earlier so I'm missing the worst of rush hour traffic. So even though my commute is now about 30-35 and 35-40 minutes it doesn't feel as bad as before because I'm not stuck in traffic all the time.

Thanks for your response, Michael. I think you're right. Less than 30 minutes commuting (by bike) sounds so much better than 2-3 hours per day. It probably also isn't realistic to commute by bicycle for that distance 12 months a year, either. I think you're right about that.

Thomas Amundsen

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Re: Buying a Home and Commuting Distance
« Reply #7 on: May 31, 2018, 01:25:42 PM »
City house, for sure.

In a place like Helena you can be out in the wilderness in a really short drive/bike ride.  Take advantage of being able to buy a house in biking distance in a comparatively affordable town.  If you decide you really don't like living in town, you can always buy/build further out later.

Thanks for your response, lhamo. Yea, that sounds about right. Having a short commuting distance and living really close to work sounds awesome, actually. I'm currently doing a 45 minute commute from LA to OC everyday.

Thomas Amundsen

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Re: Buying a Home and Commuting Distance
« Reply #8 on: May 31, 2018, 01:26:56 PM »
I'd live in the mountains if I lived in Montana. Isn't that the whole point of living in a sparsely populated state with a LCOL?

I live in the city proper in a big city and dream of having land and trees and space.

Plus with the snow in the winter, you'd only be able to bike half the year, I'm guessing.

Yes, it is kind of the point, haha! However, I'm finding that I can basically live in the mountains near town, actually. The only difference is whether I'd own 1/4 acre vs. 20 acres. Well, I'm thinking that the commuting distance is a gigantic factor, so I'm probably going to wind up buying a home near downtown in the hills of Mount Helena. There are some pretty nice options there, actually. I am quite fortunate.

Thomas Amundsen

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Re: Buying a Home and Commuting Distance
« Reply #9 on: May 31, 2018, 01:27:51 PM »
I'd live in the mountains if I lived in Montana. Isn't that the whole point of living in a sparsely populated state with a LCOL?

I live in the city proper in a big city and dream of having land and trees and space.

Plus with the snow in the winter, you'd only be able to bike half the year, I'm guessing.

Yes, it is kind of the point, haha! However, I'm finding that I can basically live in the mountains near town, actually. The only difference is whether I'd own 1/4 acre vs. 20 acres. Well, I'm thinking that the commuting distance is a gigantic factor, so I'm probably going to wind up buying a home near downtown in the hills of Mount Helena. There are some pretty nice options there, actually. I am quite fortunate. Perhaps I can even buy some more acreage further away at some point down the road...

ice_beard

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Re: Buying a Home and Commuting Distance
« Reply #10 on: May 31, 2018, 01:37:00 PM »
I lived in Anchorage, AK which is larger than Helena and I lived close to my job and further away.  When I was further away I lived on the hillside, essentially, in the mountains and it took me 30-45 minutes to get to work (not very bikable either) and from home I still had to drive somewhere to get to a trailhead for hiking/cycling, etc.  I could also take my gear to work and do things on the way home which is not a bad option. 

I also lived close to my jobs (5 min drive or 15-20 minute walk) and personally, I liked living closer to my job and in town.  For me, having access to a hiking area, essentially a trailhead or a trail network is my dealbreaker.  If you live in town you will likely have sidewalks in neighborhoods if nothing else, and in many western cities, it's likely you might have access to a trail network without driving.  This is the key point IMHO.  I currently live in the suburbs and we have pretty good sidwalks and within .5 miles is a trail that leads to an open area with lots of trails, so it's a good compromise. 

Country living can be great but if you have to get in the car to even take a walk, which in many instances is the case in rural areas because the streets are narrow and walking on them does not feel particularly safe, then that is a big negative/deal killer for me.   I have had the best of both worlds where you can walk out your door in the country and access great walking, hiking, skiing, etc without driving anywhere.  Roads with very low traffic volumes, nearby trailheads/access or dead end streets offer this the best.  But these spots almost inevitably require the longest commutes. 

Unless you are a hardcore year round bike commuter, I'd think really hard about the possibility of bike commuting year round in Helena.  Winters are long, windy, cold and dark in those parts.  Much easier done on municipality cleared and lighted city streets than rural routes. 
Take into account not just distance of your bike/walking commute but also topography.  Hills can make many commutes difficult to impossible for amateur bike commuters. 
« Last Edit: May 31, 2018, 01:40:33 PM by ice_beard »

Thomas Amundsen

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Re: Buying a Home and Commuting Distance
« Reply #11 on: May 31, 2018, 07:18:44 PM »
I'd live in Helena in a heartbeat. Great little city and save exploring for my free time. I can't wait to visit again.

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I'm very much looking forward to it!

Thomas Amundsen

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Re: Buying a Home and Commuting Distance
« Reply #12 on: May 31, 2018, 07:20:16 PM »
I lived in Anchorage, AK which is larger than Helena and I lived close to my job and further away.  When I was further away I lived on the hillside, essentially, in the mountains and it took me 30-45 minutes to get to work (not very bikable either) and from home I still had to drive somewhere to get to a trailhead for hiking/cycling, etc.  I could also take my gear to work and do things on the way home which is not a bad option. 

I also lived close to my jobs (5 min drive or 15-20 minute walk) and personally, I liked living closer to my job and in town.  For me, having access to a hiking area, essentially a trailhead or a trail network is my dealbreaker.  If you live in town you will likely have sidewalks in neighborhoods if nothing else, and in many western cities, it's likely you might have access to a trail network without driving.  This is the key point IMHO.  I currently live in the suburbs and we have pretty good sidwalks and within .5 miles is a trail that leads to an open area with lots of trails, so it's a good compromise. 

Country living can be great but if you have to get in the car to even take a walk, which in many instances is the case in rural areas because the streets are narrow and walking on them does not feel particularly safe, then that is a big negative/deal killer for me.   I have had the best of both worlds where you can walk out your door in the country and access great walking, hiking, skiing, etc without driving anywhere.  Roads with very low traffic volumes, nearby trailheads/access or dead end streets offer this the best.  But these spots almost inevitably require the longest commutes. 

Unless you are a hardcore year round bike commuter, I'd think really hard about the possibility of bike commuting year round in Helena.  Winters are long, windy, cold and dark in those parts.  Much easier done on municipality cleared and lighted city streets than rural routes. 
Take into account not just distance of your bike/walking commute but also topography.  Hills can make many commutes difficult to impossible for amateur bike commuters.

Thank you for your input! I had not really thought about it that way. You are right that there are a lot of trails within walking distance from the homes downtown or close to downtown. Heck, a couple of the ones I'm looking at literally have the trails right behind their backyard.

Also, good call on the bike commuting from outside of Helena city limits. I'm pretty much decided on going with a house in or very close to town (less than 3 miles) at this point.

wbranch

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Re: Buying a Home and Commuting Distance
« Reply #13 on: June 01, 2018, 09:29:45 AM »
My wife and I would have liked to find a place (rental or purchase) that was on a few acres on the edge or outside of town where we are in Coeur d'Alene but it just didn't make sense when looking at cost of upkeep/maintenance, recreational opportunities, grocery shopping, entertainment, etc. We ended up purchasing a duplex in town that needed a few updates so we will be "house hacking". Still too far for me to bike to work, but easy access (walk or bike) to trails close to town and 20 mins to national forest and mountains. Biking lanes by our new place are not that great, but at least there are some for easy access downtown and the lake.

I work with a few people in Helena and they were complaining quite a bit this past winter about commuting conditions. It sounds like some of them lived 30-45 mins from work on good conditions.