Apr 22, 2019

How important is proximity to work when choosing a new home? (and advanced bus driver theory)

A couple of years ago I made the decision to walk to work every day rather than catch the bus. The reason for this was threefold.

Firstly, near where I live, there is only one bus that can take you into town. One bus. A nightmare journey that took far too long to follow its incomprehensibly complicated route, zigzagging in and out of streets for what felt like weeks at a time rather than going directly where I wanted it to. It was also full of school kids and other miserable commuters, who I can honestly say with hand on heart that I utterly hated. At the halfway point, and for reasons only known to them, the bus drivers would mysteriously pull over to the side of the road, turning off the engine and staring blankly into the middle distance for ten minutes as though it was slowly dawning on them that they were unhappy and no longer wanted to be a bus driver. Due to this daily existential crisis that the bus drivers seemed to have, even if it turned up on time, the earliest bus would get me into the office 5 minutes late, stressed and in no mood to work.

Secondly, for this privilege, I worked out that it was costing me £4.40 a day or £22 per week or £88 per month or £1056 per year. Admittedly, by UK standards this isn’t nearly as much as most people pay for their commute to work, but by getting up an hour earlier I could give myself a £1k pay rise. Better in my pocket than in the pocket of a sad bus driver, I thought.

Finally, I wanted to lose a bit of weight and improve my physical and mental health. The benefits of exercise on mental health have long been lauded by health professionals over the years. But to me walking wasn’t really exercise, it was more of a necessity, something I needed to do to stop me feeling like I had to neutralise a pondering bus driver and recreate the final 20 minutes of the film Speed every morning to get to my desk.

So I began walking every day. I’ve got it down to 35 minutes now and, due to the seemingly improvised bus route and obligatory 5 minutes for drivers to meditate, this is 9 minutes quicker than when I relied on public transport. Two years later I’m 2.5 stone lighter, never late, less stressed and around £2k in the pocket. In your face, bus.

Recent data has shown that the average UK commute lasts 32 minutes and covers a distance of 22 miles. Most use their car or van (65%), versus 17% on foot and 10% on a bike. The people who use a bus were either too late to get their answers in at the post office or just too depressed – probably both.

Older respondents are most likely to walk at least part of their way to work, which is perhaps in direct correlation to the fact that a larger proportion of them live closer to their places of work. Almost a quarter of 45 to 64 year-olds walk either part or all of their way to work, compared to just 7% of 25-34 year-olds.

Due to regular delays, congestion, spiralling costs and the sheer misery of it all, a recent survey of 2,000 full-time workers by Atomik Research found that 37% admitted they are in a worse mood following their commute. More men are likely to agree with this statement (42%) than women (32%). And unsurprisingly, this figure is significantly higher in cities – particularly the capital – where 65% said their commute put them in a worse mood (I’ve been to London – how can you tell?).

Should I stay or should I go?

So if you can’t stand the daily commute a minute longer and you are close to the edge, I reckon you have several options; good or bad, depending on your circumstances.

Option 1: Do nothing. Just blindly refuse that you’re making a mistake and plough on. It’s working for Theresa May – it will work for you.

Option 2: Quit your job and look for something closer to home.

Option 3: Quit your home and look for something closer to work.

Options two and three may seem a little drastic on the surface, but worth considering if you rent or hate your job (perhaps this is what the bus drivers are doing?).

Data has shown that option three is more popular than you would think, with 33% of us considering moving home to be nearer our place of work. At 47%, Londoners top the list of those likely to consider moving home to be nearer the workplace, compared to 40% of Birmingham residents, 37% of those who live in Oxford and 33% of people living in Newcastle and York. Belfast, Aberdeen and Southampton residents are least likely to consider a move, with 14%, 15% and 17% respectively.

It will come as little surprise that younger respondents between the ages of 25 and 34 are most likely to consider relocating. An avocado-warping 63% of 25-34 year-olds said that they would happily pack up and leave to be closer to their job. Although this figure is high, once you factor in that a sizable proportion would rent, others may still live at home and nearly all would still have some sort of basic life force left in them that hadn’t been sucked out by years of commuting, it kind of makes sense.

As the age increases, so does the reluctance to move. Less than half (43%) of 35-44 year-olds would consider it and just 8% of over-55s.

Additionally, there is a notable gap between city respondents and those who live somewhere a little greener. 70% in city areas say they would be happier living closer to their place of work, compared to just 8% of those living in rural areas. Overall, 34% of Brits said they would be happier if they lived closer to their place of work.

So how important is proximity to work when choosing a new home?

Well according to research, quite.

When looking for a new home, 48% said that proximity to the workplace is important to them. This is right up there with classic ideals for a new home such as nice gardens (56%) and good local amenities (53%). Worryingly, a shorter commute was higher up the list of priorities such as proximity to family & friends (39%), the standard of local schools (25%) and things to do in the area (23%).

And Zoopla recently backed this up with some interesting rental statistics which show that proximity to work even places higher than price.

So there you have it.

If you want to be happier, move closer to work. If you want to be healthier, walk to work.

Whatever you do, don’t catch the bus.


Article by Warren Lewis for Property Reporter