Finding your next home requires balancing a variety of considerations, including plentiful neighborhood amenities, high-quality school districts, and tolerable commutes. Commuting can be a significant deciding factor, especially in traffic-ridden urban and suburban areas. A Realtor.com survey found a significant (85%!) of buyers would sacrifice other critical features (such as square footage and lot size) for a shorter commute. To help you find a new home with a preferred commute, I found these 3 free commute radius maps for homebuyers.

Backstory

When we moved into our first home in 2012, we were in love. We bought a smaller Foursquare-style house in the perfect geographical location in the suburbs north of Boston. It was located within 2 miles of two major inter-state highways, yet still close enough to the town center that we could walk down for dinner and ice cream and enjoy watching the sunset near the lake on a summer night.

But then we were surprised by the addition of twin girls in 2016, and our little home is getting a bit crowded.

We have been debating whether to add an addition (which would be very tricky) or bite the bullet and move. Luckily we have some time before we completely outgrow our house and need to make a decision.

(FYI – We would love to stay in our town, but real estate prices were insane. There isn’t enough in our budget to stay. We need to move further away from Boston.)

But where?

For us, a major consideration is my husband’s commute. One, we live outside of Boston, which is ranked as one of the most congested cities in the U.S. (Lucky us, eh?)

Second, my husband has an admittedly low tolerance for traffic. He’s one of the easiest-going guys I’ve ever met (one of the many reasons I married him), but place him behind the wheel on a backup on I-95, and he turns into…

So, we need a house that comes with a short commute.

Why is Short Commute Important?

And based on research, commutes can have negative effects on people. Studies have shown that long commutes can manifest a variety of physical and mental health effects – headaches, backaches, digestive problems, high blood pressure, sleep deprivation, lowered concentration. Commuting can place so much stress on people that long-distance commuters actually have an increased risk of divorce. What’s the message here? Long commutes make for unhappy people.

Well, that’s not good.

3 Free Commuter Radius Maps for Homebuyers

We decided that based on our lifestyle, we wanted to stay within a 30 minute drive of his office.

But how would we know which towns fell within that 30 minute drive time? We live in a complex road infrastructure, with two major highways nearby (with his being right off the highway running north to south). Sure, these highways are clear sailing during non-rush hours, but are complete gridlock during that 9-5 M-F grind. Should we strive to be closer to the highway or should we look more for towns that could connect to his work through backroads?

I have no idea.

And yes, a realtor could help with our search, but since we are still only toying with the idea of moving, I’m not ready to engage a realtor and potentially waste their time.

What we needed was a map with a radius around his work address delineating our options.

Based on some research (aka goofing around on Google), I found these 3 free commuter radius tools to help us identify and narrow down choice of towns or neighborhoods.

(BTW, if you know of another free tool, please reach out so I can add to the list).

These tools are very similar in that you enter in an address (in this case, my husband’s office), toggle a few preferences including drivetime, and a commute radius incorporating applicable towns result.

As you will see, 2 of these tools results in similar commute radiuses, while 1 was quite different. Why? Different algorithm? Honestly, I have no idea, I’m just the average homeowner…

My recommendation? Try out all three of these tools.

TravelTime

Traveltime is a web-based tool developed by a UK-based company that believes that time is more useful than distance in commutes – ‘Minutes mean more than Miles’.

I’d completely agree.

What I like best about this commute radius tool is the wide range of commuting options to explore. For example:

  • Wide choice of commute time: You can pick the exact day AND time of commute. The other tools weren’t as clear (or provide as much control) over the day and time. One tool only provided commute radiuses for 8am morning rush hour, which isn’t helpful to the non 9-5 Monday-Friday commuter.
  • Multi-transportation mode: This is the only tool that gives more than just a car as a commute option. You can choose cycling, car, public transport, walking, even driving and train. Not everyone commutes by car, so this tool is helpful to those with access to public transportation.
  • Arriving and departing commutes: In my experience in the Boston area, the commute time to work differs from the commute from work. This tool will calculate commute radiuses for both directions.

Personally, being able to play with all these options leads me to believe that this may be the more sophisticated commuter radius tool, and therefore, might provide the most accurate reflection of my husband’s true 30-minute commute. But that’s just my gut feeling.

Unfortunately the downside of this tool is that it isn’t linked to a real estate database like the other 2 tools described below so you cannot immediately see homes within the radius. It just requires a little more legwork to then go into the real estate databases and search for these specific towns.

Want to try it out? Click here to create your own TravelTime Radius Map.

Our TravelTime Commute Radius

As you see below, our resulting commute radius was square-ish, although a bit longer north to south. The main highway runs north to south, the backroads run east to west.

Realtor.com

in 2019, Realtor.com added a new filter to its award-winning app for homebuyers – Commute Time. You can search for homes within a commute time the same way you filter out homes based on price range and number of bedrooms. Commute time can be filtered in 10-minute increments, and it also gives the ability to toggle between rush-hour and non-rush hour commute times.

What I like about the Realtor.com app is that it pulls houses immediately within that commute radius to review. And because Realtor.com is reportedly linked closely to the association that manages the multiple listing service (MLS), this app reportedly pulls in 99% of MLS listings. So when I filter by commute, I feel confident that all the houses available on the market are captured within this app.

But I found a few potential issues. There currently isn’t a desktop version, which is inconvenient if you want to look at photos on a bigger screen, or want to sit with your partner at the diningroom table and browse listings. Second, if you want to share my commute radius results, my partner also needs to an iphone in order to use the app (As of time of this post, the app wasn’t available on Android). Third, I couldn’t plug in my husband’s exact office address as a starting point, only the zip code.

Our Realtor.com Commute Radius

The filter on this app demonstrated to us how powerful it can be to find the right house. Without the traffic, our search results indicated 76 potential home. However, toggling the “with traffic” filter withered the results down to 15 houses. Wow.

Interestingly, our resulting commute radius greatly differed from the other 2 tools. The resulting commuting radius was long and narrow – it was long and narrow, hugging the major highway running north and south near my husband’s office. The results told us that the houses nearest the highway and on the backroads were not a good option.

Based on my personal experience commuting in and out of downtown Boston, the highway gives the toughest, most variable commute. The backroad running east and west of his office are a bit more predictable. Something for us to consider as we continue to use the Realtor.com app. I wouldn’t want to miss any homes further east or west just outside the radius that could truly be within a 30 minutes radius.

Click here to learn more about the Realtor.com app.

HomeSnap

Homesnap is residential real estate app known for its simple messaging and sharing features that make buying with a partner (or even getting your parents to chime in) much simpler.

To be honest, I’ve never heard of this app before. But I’m up for trying something new. Why not?

In comparison to the other two apps, HomeSnap seems to pull in commute radius capabilities from both. It was a bit like the Goldilocks option of these 3 commute radius tools. For example, like the Realtor.com app, commute time works as a filter (like lot size and number of bathrooms) and instantly produces a listing of available homes. And like TravelTime, HomeSnap users can pinpoint their exact workplace address as a starting point versus a vaguer zip code.

It appears that HomeSnap has plans for more detailed commute radius features in the future. For example, there is a pull-down filter for “By Commute” which indicates other modes of transportation besides car, but I couldn’t get other options to pull down. And HomeSmap indicates that multiple addresses can be entered to find a commute time that works for the whole household, but I couldn’t get it to work either). Maybe it’s because I only tried the desktop version. Or perhaps these are in the works on HomeSnap’s end.

Our HomeSnap Commute Radius

Our resulting commute radius was square-ish and looked very similar to the TravelTime results. Note that as of the date of this post, HomeSnap calculates a commuter radius based on traffic conditions at 8AM on a weekday.

Click here to learn more about the HomeSnap app.

Commute Radius Maps: Bottom Line

For some homebuyers, commute time can be a significant determining factor in where to buy a new home. If you fall into this category, these free commute radius tools for homebuyers will help you identify which neighborhoods to focus your new home search.

But like all tools, there are some nuances. In our experience, when we entered the same inputs are entered into these online tools, different commute time radiuses resulted. My recommendation? Try all of these tools to identify which neighborhoods to narrow in. And if possible, do a few test-drives from the neighborhoods on the fringe of the radius during rush hours (or when you usually commute) to confirm commute time.

Good luck!

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