How Drive Time Will Change Real Estate (and Make You a Better Agent)


People no longer measure distance in miles or kilometers. We measure distance in time. In this post, we'll explore how this will impact real estate in a big way.

We'll also explain how adding the ability to search by drive time to your REW website will have huge benefits to home buyers and your real estate business.

We Measure Distance in Minutes, Not Miles

Test yourself:

If you were driving to work and your boss called you, would you say, "I'm 1 mile away," or "I'm 5 minutes away?"

If someone asked "how far is it to the nearest gas station?" Would you say, "2 miles down the road" or "5 minutes down the road?"

If someone were looking for a home, would they want a home that's within 30 miles from work, or within 30 minutes from work?

The reality is that we now measure distance in minutes, not miles.

And our world is changing to reflect that. In many cities, digital highway traffic signs are already reflecting how "far" away you are from downtown, in minutes. People aren't interested in how far they are. They're interested in how long it will take them to get there.

What does this mean for real estate?

Fact: Home Buyers Care About Drive Time

73% of home buyers consider drive time to work and/or school a key factor when searching for a home. Other key buying factors are price, beds/baths, and schools.

For a real estate listing, you would never guess the number of bedrooms or bathrooms in a home. And you would never guess which school board the home falls into, or the price of the home.

So why do real estate agents (and their websites) guess when it comes to typical drive time from a home? After all, it's a key buying factor.

It's time to take the guesswork out of buying a home.

What's the Difference Between Real vs. Typical Drive Time?

One crucial distinction to make is the difference between real-time driving data and typical driving data.

You have already asked yourself, "can't I just search Google Maps to find out drive time?" But Google maps only provides real-time data. That's live traffic data, with current traffic or weather conditions.

On any given day, there could be a mattress on the road, a sporting event, bad weather, or a car accident. In fact, there are 28,000 car accidents per day in the US.

It's rare that real-time driving data will actually give you an accurate depiction of a typical day.

The same goes for testing the drive out yourself. How can you reliably know that the test drive you made on a Monday is actually reflective of a typical commute to work?

What home buyers actually want to know when they're making the decision whether or not to invest in a home is typical drive time. That is, what morning or evening commute should they actually expect?

By the Way, Traffic is Getting Worse

It's also important to know that traffic is bound to get worse. Much worse.

The economy is directly correlated with traffic. The more money people have, the more cars they buy. As the U.S. and Canadian economies improve, you're bound to see more traffic.

Add to this fact that in the U.S., the middle of the country is hollowing out. 77% of Americans now live 1 hour from the coast.

And in Canada, the number of people moving to metropolises like Toronto and Vancouver is only expected to increase.

And one more thing: Self-driving cars are coming. Once people don't need to focus on driving in their cars, they'll be able to focus on other things.

If people are able to work in their car, as part of their commute, they're far less likely to care about a short commute time. That means more cars, and more driving.

As a result, traffic will get worse, harder to understand, and more frustrating. You don't want your customer to be upset and have buyer's remorse thanks to faulty driving estimates they received from their agent when they bought a home.

But we have a solution.

About INRIX Drive Time

INRIX Drive Time provides the typical drive time data that home buyers need.

Through data collected anonymously from 300 million cars, GPS devices, and cellphones, INRIX is able to calculate typical commute time between any two distances.

This has a big impact on how people can search for homes.

Now, INRIX Drive Time comes as an add-on to every new Real Estate Webmasters website. On top of usual search fields like price and beds/baths, site visitors are able to search by homes by specifying:

  • Location
  • To/From
  • Arrival time
  • Desired drive time

The result is a polygon search of all homes in the market that land within that specified commuting time.

For example, you could specify all homes within your desired price range that result in a 30-minute-or-less typical commute time to work.

Imagine how much easier that is than trying to guess which neighborhoods are "close enough" to work.

But beyond providing a much better user experience, Drive Time data actually reveals new findings about real estate, and dispels a few common myths.

Two Real Estate Distance Myths

There are two pervasive "distance" myths when it comes to real estate:

  1. Living physically closer to work results in a shorter commute time than living further away.
  2. A longer commute means more house for your money.

Let's break those down.

Myth 1: Living Physically Closer Means a Shorter Commute

This is a common belief that is easily dispelled. Living closer to downtown can actually mean longer commute times.

Why? Many suburban or less central homes have quicker and easier access to highways. They face less traffic when leaving their neighborhood.

Those who live downtown may actually face bumper-to-bumper gridlock their entire commute to work, making the drive time longer than their counterparts who live physically further away.

Myth 2: A Longer Commute Gets You More House for Your Money

Right now, people pay more money to live physically closer to the city core, because they believe it will mean a shorter commute (myth 1).

But people don't want to live physically closer. What they really want is a shorter drive. We just learned above that closer does not equal faster; therefore, it's also a myth that a longer commute will get you more house for your money.

Dispelling the Myths with INRIX Drive Time

When you search for homes within driving distance, you'll see that driving distance isn't a perfect circle, it's more like an irregular polygon.

This irregular shape reveals there it's quite common for homes to be physically further away, but with a shorter commute and lower price than homes that are physically closer.

With Drive Time search, you get the best of both worlds: you can live further out and save money, but actually end up with a shorter drive time.

Conversely, Drive Time also gives home sellers the ammunition not to have to give a price discount for people to have to drive further in distance.

How Drive Time Benefits Real Estate Agents

Having dispelled the myth that living further away always means a longer commute, you as a real estate agent can help your clients make smarter, more educated decisions, identifying neighborhoods where others may not be looking yet.

And your clients will thank you for years.

Of course, any benefit to your clients is a benefit to you. But how does Drive Time directly help you as a real estate agent?

1. Show Fewer Homes Per Sale

According to the NAR, it took approximately 100 million showings to sell 5 million homes in 2017.

That's an average of 20 home showings per transaction. As a real estate agent, your time is money. The more you can reduce the number of showings, the more return on investment you get for your time.

How do we reduce the number of showings? It starts with the online home search.

Typically, home buyers search for homes online that match their criteria, and then ask the agents to show them their list of favorite homes.

Then, the home buyer will visit the home, and rule it out. Remember, there's a 95% chance they won't choose that home.

As an agent, your online search tool shouldn't just be finding homes they might like, it should also be ruling out homes they won't like.

By giving your clients the ability to search by drive time, they'll rule out homes that are too far from work, school, daycare, or whatever is most important to them.

You'll be able to reduce the average number of showings down from 20 to maybe 5 or 10, allowing you to do more with your time.

2. Shorten Your Sales Cycle

Here's a typical scenario: The buying couple is down to 5 houses. They want to know what their commute time from work will be to/from each home every day.

The agent tells the couple to try the drive from house A on Monday, house B on Tuesday, house C on Wednesday, house D on Thursday, and house E on Friday.

This adds 5 unnecessary days to the buying cycle.

By Friday, it's possible that house A may not even be on the market anymore. Even worse, the couple could experience a slower-than-usual drive, and change their mind based on an anomalous commute.

Thanks to drive time data, the buying couple can shorten their decision cycle without having to guess the drive time. That means more sales for you, in less time.

3. Win More Leads from Open Houses

At most open houses, the visitors dodge the listing agent as much as possible.

Their belief is often that they don't need an agent until they've decided on a home, as they can simply search for homes online. After all, that's how they found this house.

But now imagine that you could impress them with drive time data, live from the house.

Providing clients with information they can't find online is far more likely to convince them that you should be their agent—compared with handing them your card.

That's what a real estate agent has to do: provide value that potential clients can't easily find online.

And as of 2018, the search portal giants like Zillow and Redfin don't have INRIX Drive Time data—so that's a unique advantage you can offer your clients.

4. Earn More Relocation Leads

Relocation clients will benefit from drive time data more than anyone else.

When moving to a new city, their number one intention is to find a home close to their new job—because that's why they're moving in the first place.

By offering a useful tool like drive time search, relocation clients are way more likely to choose you over the competition, because right away, they can see that you provide value that they can't find elsewhere.

5. Provide More Value

This bears repeating: by having more information at your disposal, you will help your clients make better decisions—which is your primary function as a real estate agent.

Not only does that help your clients, but they're also far more likely to refer you to their friends, families, and coworkers if they had an incredible home buying experience—all thanks to you.

How Do I Add Drive Time to My Website?

Real Estate Webmasters is proud to offer the first widely available implementation of INRIX Drive Time for agents, teams, and brokers.

With every new REW site (both the Vision and Discover), a subscription to INRIX Drive Time means that the drive time home search is built directly into your website.

It's time to:

  • Show fewer homes per sale
  • Shorten your sales cycle
  • Win more leads
  • Provide more client for your clients

To learn more about adding INRIX Drive Time to your Real Estate Webmasters website, visit our INRIX Drive Time page.


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