A house with a garden – in the big city this dream is priceless for most people. Example Cologne: In the metropolis on the Rhine, the square meter currently costs around 3477 euros if buyers choose a property from the existing stock. For new buildings, owners have to put an average of 4929 euros on the table, an analysis by the financial service provider Kampmeyer shows. Tenants don’t get much better: rents in major cities have risen in sync with purchase prices. Families in particular can afford life in the big city less and less.
At the latest when children are out and about, many Germans are flirting with moving to a cheaper area. In the bacon belt of the metropolises, houses and apartments are still affordable, and rents are usually well below those in the big city. The catch: jobs in the immediate vicinity are rare, new jobs are created primarily in cities. People who want to move are often forced to commute. Around 40 percent of Germans travel to another district for the job, according to Postbank’s “Housing Atlas 2019”. In doing so, they always accept longer distances. On average, working people in Germany commute around 10.5 kilometers to work, according to a study by the Institute for Labor Market and Occupational Research from 2018. At the turn of the millennium, at 8.7 kilometers it was around a quarter less. The reason is simple: the more decentralized the location, the more affordable the prices are.
Some people willing to move may be tempted by the low real estate prices in the surrounding area to push the commuting distance to the limit of pain. However, this often proves to be a milkmaid’s bill, warn experts from the Hamburg World Economic Institute (HWWI). Because daily commuting is expensive. At first glance, costs for petrol or the public transport ticket seem to be negligible compared to saving money when buying a house in the surrounding area compared to the big city. However, a considerable amount can accumulate over the years.
A good rail connection pays off
On behalf of Postbank, the HWWI has investigated when a cheap property purchase in the surrounding area pays off for commuters – and when they start paying in comparison to a big city apartment. The experts compared the purchase of an average expensive 70 square meter apartment with the purchase of an apartment in a town in a nearby district. The result: those who commute to work by car pay more in most districts after 20 years at the latest than if they had stayed in the big city. “For commuters, good rail connections are the be-all and end-all,” says Eva Grunwald, head of real estate business at Postbank.
According to the study, those who commute to work by bus and train were the longest to benefit from the financial benefits. According to the model calculation, they drove at least 40 years cheaper in all examined districts before the costs of commuting outweighed the advantages of cheaper home purchases.
The most commuter-friendly city according to the ranking is Langen in the Rhine-Main area. If you live in the tranquil town and commute by train to Frankfurt am Main, 22 kilometers away, 220 days a year, you can travel 61.9 years cheaper than non-commuters. Neuss (52.7 years) and Dachau (52.4 years) followed in second and third place. The Stuttgart area is at the bottom of the ranking. There, commuters have used up their savings after a maximum of 30 years – if they take the train. Anyone who drives behind the wheel will process the money saved within 16 years.