Thursday, June 26, 2008

You mean, driving costs THIS much?

You knew it would happen, and it is.

"Suddenly, the economics of American suburban life are under assault as skyrocketing energy prices inflate the costs of reaching, heating and cooling homes on the distant edges of metropolitan areas," reports Peter Goodman of the New York Times. See Fuel Prices Shift Math for Life in the Far Suburbs"

I've written about this before, but a lot of people buy houses without really calculating the cost of their transportation to and from work, shopping, schools, etc. So that house in the far reaches of an urban area may cost a lot less, but when you have to drive 30 or 40 miles to work, your living expenses can be more expensive than you had figured. And guess what? Bigger houses also cost more to heat and to air-condition.

Goodman reports: "In Atlanta, Philadelphia, San Francisco and Minneapolis, homes beyond the urban core have been falling in value faster than those within, according to an analysis by Moody’s"

Some planner-pundit types are now hyping the end of the suburbs, based on reports of this sort. Consider this essay in the Washington Post.

I think that's extreme. But it seems obvious that many more people are going to be discovering the allure of living closer to the city -- or even in the city -- because of high fuel prices.


James Hogan said...

I read the Times article, too, but I think better suburban planning in regards to public transportation can largely offset these increases. As an Iredell County resident, I've been more than frustrated by the setbacks (well, the downright denial, actually) of bringing lightrail service to Statesville. If this article speaks truth, bringing lightrail to Statesville will stabilize and increase home values along the entire cooridor, as folks can now live there and commute elsewhere for much less than they'd pay for the gas it takes to navigate I-77.

Anonymous said...

People make choices. If you choose to live far away from work so that you can have the big house, or the big yard, or the peace and quiet of living in the suburbs, then that's your choice. The price, of course, is a long commute. And until someone invents a cheap teleporter, physical distance will always be a problem with respect to getting to work.

Let me emphasize that: ALWAYS.

The first thing that needs to happen, because it's the cheapest and easiest thing to do, is for private employers to start allowing more of their employees to telecommute if possible. I know that the Big Banks already do this to a certain extent, but in a time of $4 gasoline, employers could do us all a favor and start letting more of their workers work from home if circumstances allow. With telecommuting, it doesn't matter how far away from the office you live.

Oh, and I think it's precisely the wrong reaction to just start rubber-stamping lots of expensive rail projects. Energy costs are up all over the board, so rail is increasing in cost the same as cars are. The main reason to add rail is to cut congestion; but if people are driving less, then congestion should reduce all by itself and lessen any perceived need for rail.

Bradley Dilks said...


I am so glad you are back!!!

I agree somewhat with your thoughts... people who haven't bought something already will probably consider something closer to their job than they may have a year ago. But I don't see in the near future that people are going to start throwing up for sale signs in their yards to move closer. They still have to consider resale value of their house and if they are moving closer who is going to buy their house? Just like the craze to get rid of SUV's right now... While gas has gone up a dollar over the past year the increase has been slow and delibertely done by the oil companies so that the consumer gets use to the price before it goes up again...very nice marketing plan. People should cut back elsewhere and keep their SUVs for now. Like cut back on eating out. consolidate trips. It also depends on where you are at on paying for your car.

Drilling off the coast won't solve the current price increases because to get oil from there would take 10 years to actually hit the market.

Americans have been spoiled with cheap gas prices and cheap energy prices and unless we change and start building an empire we lose more and more control over the prices we pay for items.

It is the main problem when you go from a manufacturing/producing society to a service/consumption society.

eye_dee_ten_tea said...

Hmmm, let's see...

(Telecommuting + Cost of gas when I do need to go into "the city") - (know-no-bounds city taxes + crime + bad schools + crumbling infrastructure + cost of gas to get out of "the city" to shop) =

I need to move further out....

Anonymous said...

My attitude is "If it doesn't affect me then I don't care."

I live in a major city, so I don't own a car... any price increases of other products as an indirect result of higher gas prices is more than offset by the fact that I don't have to pay for gas, insurance, etc, etc, etc.

Anonymous said...

^ exactly.

I live in Charlotte, a mid size city and have been car free for two years now. It can be done quit easily. Once you get use to allowing yourself a few extra minutes to get around it becomes second nature.

The lack of Chjarlotte driving stress due to taking the bus/LYNX, my bike or walking is a super benefit as well.

I don't think I will ever own a car again. If I need one for a weekend getaway I rent one. I've saved almost $7,000 a year on gas, insurance,oil changes, maintenance and car payments. I retire in 20 years. Do the math, that's $175,000 more saved plus interest. Cars depreciate rapidly, gas, oil, maintenance and insurance are just like vapor. They are never recovered.

This "American Institution" of the automobile was a huge line of crap we have been fed our entire lives.

Anonymous said...


Before you jump all over me .... I retire in 25 years=$175,000.

Anonymous said...

I live in NYC so I can get by without a car in a big way. Mass transit is always available... or like a previous poster commented... you can always rent or borrow a car. Best of all, I have a mountain bike with street tires... Exercise, fun, and no gas expense... Oh what a feeling, No Toyota!

Anonymous said...

I agree that living in the city would save money on gasoline.

The problem is that most city condos or apartments are much more expensive on average. Also, downtown Charlotte employment is somewhat limited. With Wachovia and Bank of America cutting jobs so heavily, that will affect the opportunities downtown.

Of course, the coming glut in condos could make it more affordable.

Anonymous said...

What coming glut of condos ? There's only one new building that will beging move ins in December 2009 and that's Catalist and it's only 27 stories.

The next one up for completion will be the VUE which is very likely to not be completed until 2012 and that is a super luxury building. My size $380k unit at Avenue was $975k at the VUE. Sure it had a ton more upgrades but please, $995. The VUE doesn't effect me in the least.

Novare resold all but 6 of the 90 units that came back due to people not being able to get financing. They did it in about 7 months. With those numbers I don't think there is the decline of interest in uptown living that so many "doom and gloom" naysayers keep spouting.

210 Trade, 300 S. Tryon and The Park wont be finished until 2012 at the earliest either

Catalyst is the only modestly priced building and only building out there for the next 3 or so years.

So how is there a "coming glut" ?

Anonymous said...

Real estate prices in Charlotte's "inner ring" suburbs reflect the desire of people to live close to work, shopping and entertainment without having to sacrifice a yard and other perks of suburban life. For many first time homebuyers, these neighborhood are already too expensive. However there are deals for be found in areas like Merry Oaks and Windsor Park. These two neighborhoods are well connected with CATS and are just a 10 min drive to Uptown. Plaza-Midwood's creeping gentrification is moving down Central Ave. Surrounding neighborhoods will see dramatic value increase as people make shifts as described in the article Mary references.

Anonymous said...

I agree in premise that the desirability of living "in the city" will increase for a number of people. The biggest hinderance in my opinion though is schools. If you can get schools sorted out, then I would expect a flood of people returning to the county.

That said, I live in a very close in neighborhood, and paid a premium for that neighborhood because of the high quality of that school. There are plenty of other neighborhoods that I would have considered if not for the school districts.

I'm not sure if any urban school systems have successfully reinvented themselves, but its time to pull out all the stops.

As far as gas prices....I could care less. If you have chosen a lifestyle that makes you completely dependant on factors outside of things you control, then thats your choice, so own it, and quit whining.

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