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Two Approaches to Commute Calculation

July 18 2012

Offering information about commute times to people shopping for a new home is, quite simply, a great idea. This is particularly true in our current culture, one focused on reducing expenses and protecting the environment. Today, we'll take a look at two different approaches to doing just this – courtesy of Trulia and Walk Score.

My Commute Matters

3972 autoI should explain that I don't live in San Francisco, Los Angeles, Chicago or another thriving metropolis. However, I do have a commute to work (about 35 to 45 minutes, in fact). And it's a huge part of my day. Lengthening or shortening that commute will be a major consideration for me in making my next home purchase.

I'm not alone. Many Americans are hampered by a long commute, and are looking for ways to cut it down. They want to save time, spend less money on fuel, and be kinder to the environment. So, like me, as they make their real estate choices, the length of the commute could be an important factor. Smart real estate professionals will recognize this priority, and will respond by offering information about commute times. New online tools, like the ones we're about to discuss, can be a great first step.

Trulia's Commute Map

I was actually inspired to write this article after spotting a recent post on the Trulia blog announcing their new Commute Map. I decided to give it a try for myself. Before I share my experience, I want to point out that Trulia's Commute Map lives on Trulia.comTrulia.com. In order to recommend this tool, agents will have to direct their clients to Trulia.com – away from their own website. However, the Commute Map represents another feature that Trulia offers to provide a richer home searching experience to online visitors and may encourage visitors to spend more time on the site (and, in a perfect world, more time viewing any listings that you have syndicated there).

Alright, that being said, here's my experience with the Trulia Commute Map.

  1. From Trulia.com, I clicked on the Local Info tab. I entered my city and, after the map appeared, chose the "Commute" option next to the map.
    3972 commute 01
  2. Now, if my office were right on the edge of the next town over (San Luis Obispo, which you can see in the lower right corner of the image above), I'd have the info I wanted. Unfortunately, like most people in small towns, I have to go a bit further in order to find work. So, I use the slider that increases my commute time . . . and there I am in Arroyo Grande. Trulia has overestimated how long it will take me to get to work.
    3972 commute 02

The feature is still in its infancy, and it looks like there may be some bugs to work out, but it's nice to see Trulia acknowledging this important factor in the home buying decision.

Walk Score's Commute Insights

Walk Score has looked at the issue of commuting in several different ways. The tool that first caught our attention was their Commute Cost Calculator Widget. Unlike Trulia's commute map, the widget can be installed on an agent/broker/organization website to add value, highlight listings, and increase time-on-site. This widget is also a standard feature of the Walk Score Neighborhood Map that is currently used by over 15,000 real estate sites. I gave it a try with their demodemo.

I simply entered a home address and the address of my employer and got an estimate of the duration of the commute as well as the cost of the commute. Easy as pie.

3972 commute 03

In chatting with the Walk Score team, I learned that they also have additional options for researching a commute:

  • Walk Score Apartment Search by Commute: This tool was launched last year and lives at WalkScore.com/apartmentsWalkScore.com/apartments. What's interesting is that it empowers searchers to sort by commute, rather than investigating the commute after they've identified a property of interest. Simply enter your work address (later you can add additional addresses – like for school or a spouse's work address), choose your mode of transportation, and designate the maximum amount of time you're willing to commute. Walk Score will return apartment listings from Craigslist (as well as other sites such as MyNewPlace and ForRent.com) and sort them by estimated commute time. Pretty cool.
  • iPhone AppiPhone App: The free, consumer-facing iPhone app (just launched this week) also features the commute time search.

Share Your Thoughts

Check these out for yourself and provide your feedback. Are any of these tools something you would recommend to your buyers? Do you use a different tool to help buyers estimate commute times/costs?

Other articles of interest: AgentOffice | dsSearchAgent IDX