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Boston tops list of cities where it pays to live farther from downtown

Buying Renting Boston
The skyline of Boston, Massachusetts, near the New England Aquarium, on June 7, 2016. (Photo by Carolyn Bick)
In metro Boston, the typical home becomes 13.4 percent less expensive when it is 15 minutes away from downtown. Carolyn Bick

Owning a home close to a city’s downtown comes at a premium in many of the nation’s largest metros, but “homeowners will save the most money by moving 15 minutes away from the urban core in Boston, Seattle, Washington, D.C., and Chicago,” according to a recent Zillow analysis.

Well, 15 minutes when there isn’t a lot of traffic.

In metro Boston, the typical home becomes 13.4 percent less expensive — about $57,260 less — when it is shifted 15 minutes from the downtown core. (The real estate website defines “metro Boston” as Suffolk, Middlesex, Essex, Norfolk, and Plymouth counties, as well as Rockingham and Stratford counties in southern New Hampshire.) The typical home in Seattle becomes 11.3 percent less expensive, or about $54,599 less, when it’s shifted 15 minutes out. Home values in Washington, D.C., fall by 9.4 percent ($37,709 in homeowner savings), and home values in Chicago decrease 8.2 percent ($18,864).

By moving 15 minutes out, metro Boston renters would see a 12.5 percent drop in costs, according to the analysis — a savings of $293.

“There has been an urban revival in many US cities over the past two decades, driven by evolving preferences among young adults and a long-term shift in the American economy toward service jobs,” said Aaron Terrazas, Zillow senior economist. “But, this does come with a cost; in many cities, there’s a growing trade-off between a short commute and an affordable home. The regular commute to and from work looms large over the typical American worker’s life. Over a 30-year career, reducing your one-way commute by just 15 minutes frees up five months of one’s life for more rewarding pursuits. For some home shoppers, it may be worth paying more to spend less time sitting in traffic, but for others, deteriorating mortgage affordability and lifestyle needs and wants make longer commutes a reality.”

The report, using commute and real-time traffic data from Here Technologies, a mapping and location platform company, analyzed the cost of homes in 34 of the largest US metros by moving 15 minutes out:

 Metropolitan  Area  Home Value
% Change
  Home Value
Change
  % Change in
Rent
 Change in Rent
Los Angeles-Long Beach-Anaheim   -2.1%   -$13,001   0.6%   $17
Chicago   -8.2%   -$18,864   -7.4%   -$117
Dallas-Fort Worth   0.1%   $308   -2.1%   -$32
Philadelphia   5.1%   $12,447   0.4%   $5
Houston   8.5%   $17,567   0.8%   $12
Washington   -9.4%   -$37,709   -8.7%   -$172
Miami-Fort Lauderdale   -1.4%   -$3,799   -1.3%   -$24
Atlanta   1.4%   $ 2,935   1.5%   $21
Boston   -13.4%   -$57,261   -12.5%   -$293
San Francisco   5.5%   $32,813   0.3%   $7
Detroit   8.2%   $15,504   11.0%   $110
Riverside   -1.9%   -$6,279   2.1%   $36
Phoenix   -3.4%   -$8,646   -3.7%   -$49
Seattle   -11.3%   -$54,599   -6.2%   -$125
Minneapolis-St Paul   -4.7%   -$12,601   -4.4%   -$66
San Diego   -7.1%   -$40,209   -2.9%   -$68
St. Louis   2.0%   $3,423   7.0%   $67
Tampa   -2.3%   -$4,692   0.2%   $2
Baltimore   7.3%   $21,565   4.2%   $67
Denver   -0.2%   -$735   -1.3%   -$24
Pittsburgh   -6.3%   -$11,132   -13.2%   -$154
Portland   -5.0%   -$19,754   -4.1%   -$70
Charlotte   -5.0%   -$10,689   -3.9%   -$51
Sacramento   9.4%   $35,817   4.4%   $76
San Antonio   14.2%   $27,509   6.1%   $77
Orlando   -5.0%   -$11,470   -3.6%   -$51
Cincinnati -2.6%   -$4,631   -0.5%   -$5
Cleveland   7.6%   $11,539   4.0%   $40
Kansas City   2.3%   $4,572   3.4%   $36
Las Vegas   13.9%   $35,606   2.5%   $31
Columbus   -2.5%   -$5,093   3.5%   $41
Indianapolis   7.4%   $12,268   11.6%   $125
San Jose   -7.6%   -$67,246   -4.1%   -$136
Austin   -0.1%   -$262   -5.0%   -$78

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