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Long commutes only for "chumps" now?

Posted by Scott Van Voorhis October 29, 2010 06:31 AM

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I was floored by all the great comments on my post yesterday on whether it's still worth it to embrace a long commute in order to get a cheaper home.

When I indulged in a little reminiscing about my father Lee's stoic approach to his long daily commute into Boston, I received a colorful retort from Lance. It made me chuckle, but it also gets at a key point - does it make sense for a family with young children and two working parents to settle for a long commute in order to get a less expensive home?

Here's Lance:


What you say is nonsense. Commutes "back in the day" may have been longer. But when the typical 1950's style dad came home from work, he didn't help with the kids or help clean up the house... He ate a hot dinner, cracked a beer, and put his feet up. A 12-hour work day is doable if you get to relax like Archie Bunker afterward... But 12 hours plus all the other responsibilities the average 2-income household parent has to deal with is not. Long commutes are for chumps."

Ah yes Lance, those were the days. But it does raise a good point. Throw in a long commute on top of ramped up work demands and day care pick ups and drop offs and you have a recipe for stress city.

Here's another comment, from Saltyrhino, that raised the stress issue as well.

"Scott, the one thing you forget is that when you were younger, did you have a dual income family? A lot has changed in the past 30 years. Houses have become so expensive that both parents need to work, and with this, a necessity to live closer to work. This facilitates the logistics involved in being part of a dual income household and raising a family. If houses came down to a place where one spouse could afford it, I'm sure that more people would consider the hour and a half commute, if it didn't involve paying for childcare, 2 cars, and all the other expenses that come with raising children.

Commute time seems to be one of the last things a working family can to do better their life."

Both Lance and Saltyrhino offer some great points here. Given the pressures on a two-income family, trading distance for a lower price then would seem to be a strategy better suited to a one-income family where one partner stays home.

Of course, just having two incomes hardly guarantees you can afford to buy the traditional suburban home within 495, let alone 128. My wife Karen and I needed both our incomes to buy our Natick fixer-upper back in 2002 - and we were hardly unusual.

Let's face it, unless you are loaded, Greater Boston is one of the toughest housing markets around.

All for now ...

OK, if you have made it this far into my blog post, I have a treat for you.

I am interested in interviewing buyers looking to crack some of the more expensive towns in Metro West - Weston, Wellesley, Needham, Dover, Concord, Lexington, you name it. The story will run in the Globe West section. In particular, I am seeking buyers trying to find relatively affordable homes in these towns - mainly listings that are well below the average price.

Interested? Email me at

This blog is not written or edited by or the Boston Globe.
The author is solely responsible for the content.

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Scott Van Voorhis is a freelance writer who specializes in real estate and business issues.

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