In his hunt for a new home, Demetrius Stroud crunched the numbers to find out that, with gas prices climbing, moving near an Amtrak station is the best thing for his wallet.
Stroud was looking in Elk Grove, Calif. — about 85 miles away from his job in the San Francisco Bay Area — because houses there are more affordable. But with gas at $4.50 and a car that gets about 22 miles per gallon, Stroud would be pumping $560 a month into his tank.
So instead he made an offer on a home near the train station in Davis, which will shave $160 off his commuting costs. “I wouldn’t even be able to consider doing it without that Amtrak possibility,” said Stroud, 45, who also telecommutes one day a week to his job.
Stroud’s choice represents a fundamental shift in the way more Americans are approaching home buying in this era of ballooning gas prices.
Real estate agents, transportation officials and industry surveys indicate that homebuyers are placing more importance on cutting their gas bills and commute times than they have since the oil shocks of the 1970s.
And there are some early indications that homes near urban centers, and subway, train and bus stops are often selling faster and at better prices than those in the distant suburbs.
On Wednesday, a survey of 900 Coldwell Banker agents showed a remarkable 96 percent said that rising gas prices were a concern to their clients, and 78 percent said higher fuel costs are increasing their desire for city living. Don Denton, manager of Coldwell Banker Residential Brokerage in the Capitol Hill area of Washington, D.C., said prices are holding in the area and the neighborhood appears to be expanding.
“We have seen a steady increase in interest in our area over the last several years, and it is comparable to how the reaction to the 1970s gas crisis sparked an interest in this area and inside the entire Beltway,” Denton said. A grueling commute by car is the main reason why Mark Bulkeley wants to move closer to his job in Tysons Corner, Va., outside Washington, D.C.
He is selling his home in Haymarket, Va., which is 30 miles from work, and has signed a contract on a house in Great Falls, Va., which is just six miles from the office.
“My commute is miserable enough that I’ve taken to leaving my house at about quarter to five in the morning to avoid the traffic,” said Bulkeley, a 36-year-old wholesale electricity trader. “It’s kind of brutal. It’s routinely an hour, and there’s a lot of variability around that.”
Bulkeley drives a hybrid Honda Civic, but he still calculates a savings of about $100 a month on gas once he moves closer.
"We were going to make a move we basically put a dot in the middle of the map where my office is and said, 'We are not going to live farther than essentially a 20-minute circle around that,’ ” Bulkeley said.
Gas prices, which have shot up $1.07 this year, are magnifying demographic trends that show more younger buyers and empty-nest seniors are moving back to urban centers.