When deciding where to purchase a home, a primary consideration is commute time. Affordable housing opportunities, school district ratings, and larger lot sizes in neighboring counties are drawing families farther from their primary work locations, creating a higher number of Charlotte area commuters and increasing travel time at peak hours.
According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the mean travel time for workers in Mecklenburg County was 25.3 minutes (2011 – 2015). It’s important to clarify the phrase travel time, which doesn’t refer to rush hour traffic at peak travel times. A news release from Census.gov in 2013 states, “Among workers in Mecklenburg County, 181,198 live outside the county, according to 2006-2010 estimates from the American Community Survey. For example, 37,442 workers commute in from Union County, 29,013 from York County, S.C. and 28,916 from Cabarrus County.”
If you’re considering a home purchase in a county that is more than twenty minutes from your work location, keep growth numbers in mind. The population growth for the Charlotte area is projected to grow by 47% between now and 2030 in a report from The Urban Institute.
If you want to know the most accurate commute time, the best way to do that is to test it yourself. After reviewing countless forums and surveys online, it’s hard to pin down an estimate because commute times are based on conditions for the day (accidents, lane closures, etc.). The Charlotte Business Journal lists the ten worst commuter cities in North Carolina and identifies five of those in the Charlotte region. If you’re looking for a general rule of thumb for estimation purposes, we recommend doubling the travel time during peak hours: 7:30 am – 9:00 am and 4:30pm – 6:30pm.
If you’re looking ahead to relief from NC highway projects, you can research highway projects and initiatives on NCdot.gov. New residents who would like to avoid the commute on congested highways can also use the Charlotte Light Rail option, known as the Lynx. If the Lynx doesn’t connect directly to a place in your area, there’s probably a bus route that can transport you from another county to a Lynx station. Bus Routes are also available online.
Don’t forget; an experienced real estate agent will be able to help you explore alternate routes, provide input on upcoming highway projects, and give you resources to thoroughly analyze the commute factors and options before your home purchase is complete.