The True Cost of Living In The 'Burbs

So many times we at Niklas Group run in to people who talk about living in the outlying areas of the city in order to save money and get more house. While it is true that by going to the outskirts of the city one can definitely buy more square footage for their dollar, it is very rare that it truly adds up. The following will explore two typical families in Calgary. One that lives in the burbs and the other the inner-city.

Jen and Bob live with their two school aged children in one of the developments by 22x on the south side of Calgary. They were able to buy a 1700 square foot 2 story, 3 bed and 2.5 baths with a double attached garage for $400,000. With 10% down payment and a 5 year rate of 3.2% amortized over 30 years comes to $1,552.00 per month plus estimated taxes of $200.00 per month for a total of $1,752.00. Not bad. They have 2 cars. Bob commutes to the core daily for work.  Jen works part-time in the inner-city but outside the core. She also takes some classes at SAIT. Their commute runs between 45 – 60 minutes for both of them depending on traffic.

Rick and Paige bought a town home in Killarney just a block away from the new C-Train station. Purchase price was $525,000 with a developed basement. With 10% down their payment is just over $2,300 per month with taxes. They have two young school aged children as well. The town home has two bedrooms up, a bedroom and TV room down with a total of 3.5 baths, a small yard and a single car garage. They both work downtown but Rick normally packs lunches, gets the kids ready and takes them to school and Paige picks them up.

They recently sold one of their cars and enrolled in Car2Go which is a car share program in Calgary. Paige takes the Car2Go in the morning, usually leaving around 6:30 AM, which allows her to get a quick workout in at a gym on 5th ave just before work. Rick drives the kids to school in the morning and does his daily workout when he gets off at 4:30. He takes the Car2Go home and Paige picks up their car and gets kids from school. It kind of sounds complicated but it actually works well! They eventually plan to use the C-Train more when the line opens in December.

Here are some of the quick comparisons:

Family 1: They really need two cars. The second vehicle runs around $700.00 per month with payment and insurance. While Bob could potentially look at public transit and lose one car, the commute time adds almost another hour for a return trip so they have decided against this. He parks a little ways from work in the belt line and pays $200 per month for parking. The average 50km round trip on the vehicle adds 250km per week in mileage and around $50 per week in gas. His commute time round trip at 2 hours per day adds up to around 480 hours per year in sitting behind the wheel. He used to love working out in the Gym when he was single and renting an apartment downtown. Unfortunately, with his current commute and family commitments, he just can’t find the time. Jenn used to love doing marathons. Now with the commute and other time commitments, she can barely find time to get a small run in on the weekend only. Both Jen and Bob share the shopping duties but both have taken to getting fast food and other takeout because they are just too tired during the week to think about cooking.

Family 2: They have proven that they can get away with one car. The Car2Go program for the most part works well. There are sometime challenges reserving a car that is within a block or two and sometimes getting out of down town can be a challenge when trying to book during the peak. The average cost runs around $8.00 per day and they do not have to pay for parking, insurance, gas, etc. The commute runs around 15 minutes each way. Once the C-Train opens up in December, this will become the main mode of transport but they still plan on using the car share program on occasion. Rick also parks in the belt line and takes the C-Train the rest of the way. He also pays $200 a month for an outdoor parking spot. Paige loves to stop at the Casel Marché ( in Casel on 17th by Niklas Group )on the way home and pick up fresh ingredients from Market 17 for dinner as well as a bottle of wine from J.Webb. Fridays Rick and Paige like to shop together and pick out some yummy food for Rick to cook during the weekend. The kids love Fridays as they each get an Aviv Scone from Vie Cafe!

So Family 1 has a larger house. Each kid gets their own room. They have a decent size back yard with a swing set that does not get overly used. Their housing cost are around $550 per month less that Family 2. However, if they were to add up the extra cost of the 2nd vehicle, the gas to commute, the lost time to take care of their health by exercising and eating right, they are quickly going in to a massive deficit. The time in the car alone is almost 1000 hours per year combined. That is equal to 41 days per year sitting behind the wheel of a car. Think about the family time, alone time and you time that is being sacrificed. Is it really worth the little bit of extra space and savings?

Family 2 obviously has to make some sacrifices. They need to live in a smaller footprint (however, if you go back to the 50′s and 60′s a 1000 square foot house was HUGE!), and their kids have to share a room. However, they are saving to move up to an infill in the next 4 or 5 years which will give the kids a little more space. They have very little yard, but lots of parks that are close by. They also find that they have more time to do walks and other outdoor activities as a family. Living closer to work gives more time for other things.

What are your thoughts? Who are some of your favourite inner-city builders? Let us know!