The NYC commute – beyond the train ride…

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Recently, Inman News wrote about commutes across the country.  Not surprisingly, the NYC commute was rated the longest in the nation. So its no small wonder that commuting distance (read commuting TIME) plays a big role in determining home values. For many home owners, their home values have become something of a crap-shoot. Take away train line or even just at station stop, add major congestion on  primary local arteries and those who were previously sitting on pretty pile of equity may see it all go south.

Access to Metro-North has a direct impact on real estate values…

For example, the median value a for single-family homesin Rockland County was $415,000 for 2015.  For Westchester, it was $627,500.  Why the more than $200,000 or near 34% difference?

In good part it can be explained by two things:

  • The Tappan Zee Bridge which can be backed up 8-10 miles during a heavy rush hour.
  • The lack of Metro-North service on the west of the Hudson river.

These two factors add at least one hour to their daily round trip Manhattan commute. To put it in perspective, that’s about 10 days (or should I say “daze”) out of your life a year.  For those who commute into Westchester (a common scenario) the Tappan Zee is a bridge too slow.  Although lanes will be added once the new bridge is in service, I wouldn’t hold my breath as to how much this will improve commuting time.

You can also see the price differential within Westchester as well.  Towns without easy access to a  Metro-North station tend to have lower price points.

Agents in Westchester and Connecticut love to quote commuting time but …

Real estate agents that specialize in towns with Metro-North stations frequently tout the “easy commuting” time to Manhattan.  One of the things that I’ve noticed they don’t do, is talk in terms of the entire commute.

It’s very easy to say that its only 35 minutes to Grand Central Station, but that only accounts for the time once you step onto the train and step off at Grand Central. Getting to the train and making any further connections once you get to GCS, is another animal altogether.

Truth be told, Westchester agents really can’t be expected to vouch for what connections someone might have after they reach GCS.  But we do owe our clients a realistic perspective on how the commute to the Metro-North will do to their commute.

How a one hour train ride can turn into a 3.5 hour marathon commute…

One former client of mine was discussing the potential for locating further up the line in Connecticut to save money.  The commute was touted to be “not that bad”, only about an hour from GCS.  But on closer inspection, the commute to and from the train station was going to tack on a minimum of 30 additional minutes each way assuming good traffic conditions (because we all know there is no traffic on the highway during rush hour).  Tack on the connections at  GCS  and  you were looking easily at a 3.5  daily commute.

Some Metro-North stations have long wait lists for parking…

As an agent, this is one of my pet peeves.  Local governments could really boost housing values in suburban areas if they would just create enough parking at their Metro-North stop. Its a built-in value-add just waiting to be tapped. Quite a few municipalities seem allergic to doing this and it has resulted in wait lists that can be measured in years. They just.say.no no matter how great the need and no matter how big the outcry for more parking.

The result can be a mishmash of parking stop-gaps that include parking in distant lots which can tack on an extra 30 minutes to a commute round trip,  car-pooling (impractical given that 9-5 disappeared about 25 years ago) public transportation (if there is any) and cabbing it ($$$).  Agents need to be more forthcoming about where the parking is and how long it will take to get.

Potential home sellers need to pay attention to this issue…

Many planners point to a future with driverless cars and walkable downtowns to soothe angry residents about substandard parking situations.  Most residents aren’t having it because frankly, they have to live their lives in the present, not 20 years in the future. Not only is this making a commute unnecessarily difficult, decisions like this negatively impact home values. Further,  these decisions are being made by local officials who work…LOCALLY…and don’t   experience the trials of a daily Metro-North commute.

There is nothing like public pressure to bring positive change.  If you’ve lived in your home a long time and then you probably aren’t giving a lot of thought to the Metro-North parking situation. If you are a city commuter, you probably have a parking place making this a non-issue in your life. But if you are thinking about downsizing in the next few years, insufficient parking can have a definitive impact on how much your home is going to be worth.

Commuting by car…

For all the hype about the Manhattan commute, many Westchester residents commute within the county or into neighboring Connecticut.  White Plains as well as  Stamford have significant commuter populations. The majority of people with this sort of commute, do so by car. The major arteries in Westchester run from north to south with I-287 and the Cross County Parkway being the main connections between east and west. The more central the location, the easier the car commute.

Additional links of interest: 

The Metro-North Commute…
The New Haven Line…
The Harlem Line…
The Hudson Line…
Metro-North Home Page…
Major Highways & Parkways in Westchester…

© 2016 – Ruthmarie G. Hicks – https://thewestchesterview.com – All rights reserved.

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