Some buyers are willing to accept an “extreme commute”—a minimum of two hours each way between work and home—in return for the tranquility of the outer ’burbs, a larger property, and more land at a lower price than the city. As The New York Times puts it, these buyers are following an old real estate adage: “Drive until you qualify.”
“Technological changes have made it more possible to redefine the workplace,” says Mitchell L. Moss, director of the Rudin Center for Transportation at New York University. “Even in New York City, which has been famous for not allowing people to work at home, there is now more tolerance of flexible time.”
Data is sparse on how many people embark on an extreme commute. The U.S. Census Bureau, which defines a “long commute” as 60 miles each way, reported in 2013 that 21 percent of commuters spent 60 minutes or longer traveling to work. New York State, at about 16 percent, had the highest rate of long commuters, followed by Maryland and New Jersey, both at about 15 percent.
Meig Walz with Coldwell Banker in Madison, Conn., told the Times that she is seeing more extreme commuters from New York. Madison is about 15 minutes east of New Haven, Conn., and halfway between New York and Boston. It can take more than two hours each way.
“We are now getting more middle- and upper-level executives with young families looking for prime waterfront property,” Walz said. Buyers are purchasing four- and five-bedroom waterfront homes in Madison for about $2 million, which is half of what they would pay in Fairfield County. They also get lower taxes in Madison.