Washington, DC

This column is written by Metro DC Houses, a local real estate team serving DC, MD, VA made up of Colin Johnson, the current President for the D.C. Association of Realtors and Christopher Suranna, the President Elect for D.C. Association of Realtors.

Hello PoPville, this is the beginning of a series of articles where we tackle neighborhoods of DC and interesting real estate related questions. With the news of I-66 charging $40 dollars for solo drivers on Tuesday December 5 at peak times we began to ask the question; what is the cost of a commute and how might that impact real estate values?

Theory: It costs a lot less to live further out, but commute costs are higher.

Now we know there are a lot of wonky people in DC so don’t blow us up because this isn’t a study. We’ll focus on the orange line because that follows I-66, and we will also look at a variety of neighborhoods along the route until the last stop in DC on the same line.

*All times listed in minutes 9 a.m. departure time
**50 weeks a year 5 days a week
***Household within .25 miles metro

There are a lot of variable issues, property types vary, neighborhoods vary and no one actually lives right on top of metro stations. Thus actual commute times will vary. Please note in our professional opinion a 45 plus minute commute changes peoples’ perspective on a home and there are lots of studies on negative health effects on long commutes. In essence, driving 100 minutes from Vienna would make most people rethink their commute.

We broke down everything to a monthly cost to compare the locations. We determined the monthly principal and interest, today’s rates for borrowing $2,000 which costs $10 for a mortgage and with the area median income being $110K, meaning households make approximately $53 per hour, which we used to value time.

With the comparison, the cost of living in Vienna can skyrocket if the tolls and time increase. Note the variable cost between min and max is just less the closer you live to the city. Deanwood seems like a slam dunk deal and the neighborhood is growing in value! Capitol Hill has its perks (lower density) but it’s expensive and only getting more expensive year over year. Foggy Bottom surprises us a little; we found Median price per square foot to be at $653, which means if you are willing to live with less space it really is a great option.

In conclusion, commute times must mean a level of cost, especially if one makes significantly more than $53 per hour, that has more of an impact on you. The relationship also isn’t linear, but one can conclude that there is an impact on proximity to work. It is likely that not everyone in Vienna works in DC and thus their values are driven by proximity to other work centers; however over 500,000 people commute daily to DC from Fairfax meaning many people do qualify for these calculations.


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