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Home prices accelerating in areas without mass transit

Home prices in car-dependent area have increased 32.8% since January 2020

As more of the country moves to permanent work-from-home arrangements, home prices in car-dependent areas have risen twice as fast as those in transit-accessible areas, according to a recent study by Redfin.

The median home-sale price in car-dependent areas, nationwide, has increased 32.8% to a record $418,100 since January 2020, while it has risen 15.6% to a record $540,500 in transit-accessible neighborhoods.

Suburbs, rural areas and small towns have been hot since the beginning of the pandemic, with Redfin searches for rural areas and small towns spiking last spring and housing markets in the suburbs heating up more than other neighborhood types throughout 2020, according to Steven Majourau, a Redfin agent in California’s Central Valley.

“Since the start of the pandemic, there has been a huge influx of people moving out here from the Bay Area, and the reason is simple — the houses are bigger and the prices are lower,” Mojourau said. “For most people, the tradeoff wouldn’t have been worth it two years ago because of the hours-long commute into San Jose or San Francisco every day, either by train or by car. With remote work, buyers can prioritize the actual home above its proximity to transportation.”

The report is based on data that rates locations based on how convenient they are to public transportation. A place is deemed “transit accessible” if public transit is convenient for most trips; “car dependent” means there are limited public transportation options.


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States with larger — and cheaper — lots have grown in popularity for would-be homebuyers in the last 18 months, as well. Utah, Colorado, Idaho and Arizona have become go-to destinations for many Californians and West Coast transients, in particular, as companies allow employees to live anywhere with an Internet connection. That often means moves to cities with lower home prices, according to Daryl Fairweather, Redfin’s chief economist.

“Remote work has allowed many homebuyers to leave cities for far-flung suburbs. Those suburbs often lack public transit, so new residents drive more often,” Fairweather said. “Hopefully, a less frequent commute will mean fewer hours behind the wheel. But as offices reopen, we may see commuters who used to live in the city and use public transit spending more time driving and emitting more carbon. Governments need to plan for this new reality and start providing more green transit to areas outside of major cities.”

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