Transportation Costs and Housing Affordability

How much does it cost to live there?

My buyer clients are asking more questions than ever – How much is the average electrical bill? Water? Gas? HOA dues?

Discovering Urbanism notes a new site that looks at “How much” as in, how much are the transportation costs of living here?

If Walkscore put walkability on the real estate map (it’s getting better all the time, by the way), the new online tool Abogo might do the same for transportation affordability. Just type in an address and the home gets placed on a map showing average transportation costs for the surrounding neighborhood and the region. This is what you can expect to pay on a monthly basis if you choose to live here. Seeing this number in black and white may help diffuse the old drive-til-you-qualify myth – that you can find more house for the money the further from the city you move. Living in lower densities may pose less up-front costs per square foot, but the ongoing cost of getting to where you need to go on a regular basis is real and likely much higher. Abogo puts a number on that reality.

Transportation costs are more nebulous, hidden in gas prices, insurance costs, saving for the next vehicle, parking, etc. Because of this, they have not typically figured into the home purchasing decision to the same degree.

The numbers look high to me, and my transportation numbers are going to be higher than the average user (I do drive pretty much for a living). Using my house in Crozet, my transportation costs are allegedly $963/month and the regional average is $920/month. From Nest’s office, the transportation costs are $717/month .

Conceptually, I like the tool. Practically, notsomuch. (yet)

Play with it yourself. What do you think?

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  1. Daniel September 20, 2010 at 09:24

    Agreed on the high numbers, which was a little disappointing to me. They do say they will continue to work on the models and add features that allow users to give more customized information (like size of household) to increase the accuracy. I guess it’s a work in progress.

  2. Amy September 22, 2010 at 05:29

    Daniel is right — more details would be great as averages can be so deceiving. They do need to add features & filters. Like, I wish the average was the cost per vehicle or even per person rather than cost per household (some households have 1 car; some have 6). And they need to add in people’s habits — do they bike or walk sometimes; always drive to work — how far; do they drive for recreation & shopping? When I added up the costs of car payments, gas, insurance and vehicle maintenance for my 2-car family, I get an average of about $610 a month for transportation. Next year when we have no car payments (hopefully!), it should drop to $360 (maybe $400 as maintenance costs will probably rise). Whereas abogo says, on average, a household from the Scottsville area spends about $983 a month.

  3. Adam September 23, 2010 at 10:09

    Jim, thanks for the post- and Daniel and Amy, thanks for the comments. Customizing it to your life & habits is certainly where we want to go with the site. Keep in touch!


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