Does Living 15 Minutes From DC’s Downtown Really Save You Money on Housing Costs?

by Nena Perry-Brown

A recent Zillow analysis found that DC and San Francisco have the most expensive housing costs in downtown areas, at per square-foot rates within a 15-minute commute of downtown that are more than double housing rates in the rest of the respective regions.

However, a deeper dive into the Zillow data illustrates just how subjective that conclusion is when it comes to the DC area.

Does Living 15 Minutes From DC's Downtown Really Save You Money on Housing Costs?: Figure 1
Median housing prices, by zip code and distance from downtown DC (20036). Click to enlarge.

As seen in the table above, the correlation between proximity to "downtown" and median housing prices is not a linear one. One of the most comparatively affordable DC zip codes versus other zip codes within the same commuting distance range is 20024, where the median home value is over $270,000 less expensive and median rent is almost $200 less expensive than other areas within 30 minutes from downtown. The fact that "downtown", in this context, is in reference to the 20036 zip code, which encompasses the area between Dupont Circle and K Street, illustrates the limits of this study. 

Does Living 15 Minutes From DC's Downtown Really Save You Money on Housing Costs?: Figure 2
Median Maryland housing prices, by zip code and distance from downtown DC (20036). Click to enlarge.

The table with Maryland zip codes shows how many neighborhoods in Prince George's County are within a 45-minute commute to downtown and consistently have home values and rental rates that are less expensive than the median prices and rents seen across commutes of a comparable distance. In contrast, Montgomery County has just two zip codes (20903 and 20901) that offer less expensive home values at its distance. The zip codes covering towns like Bethesda and Chevy Chase have rent and home values more comparable to some zips in upper Northwest DC, showing how the area has perhaps another "downtown"-like nucleus in the close-in suburbs. 

Does Living 15 Minutes From DC's Downtown Really Save You Money on Housing Costs?: Figure 3
Median Virginia housing prices, by zip code and distance from downtown DC (20036). Click to enlarge.

Virginia's close-in suburbs, meanwhile, may offer some relief in home prices, but not when it comes to rental rates. Zip codes 22041, encompassing Bailey's Crossroads in Fairfax County, and 22303 around Huntington Metro station offer significant cost savings for the commute distance.

Limiting the DC "downtown" area to the 20036 zip code undoubtedly skews the calculations of cost savings. The geographic center of this zip code was selected as "downtown" based on the number of employees per square mile (using Census Bureau data) and a measure of the number of in-bound trips per square mile during a morning commute (using data from HERE Technologies). The commuting distance is based on "peak commute time" in a given metro area.

See other articles related to: zillow, downtown, commuting

This article originally published at https://dc.urbanturf.com/articles/blog/adding-15-minutes-to-your-commute-could-subtract-300-from-your-rent/14355

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