Many people who work full time in major employment areas like large cities are likely to call a commuter town home. But what is a commuter town exactly?
It’s an area that’s “primarily residential, without industrial or strong economic engines of its own,” says Laura Brodniak, a real estate agent with Windmere Real Estate in Seattle.
A commuter town is sometimes called a bedroom community—a nod to the fact that many of the residents leave for employment during the workday but return in the evening.
These types of communities can vary in population, but the one thing they have in common is their proximity to a major employment center whether that’s a large city, suburban community, or resort area.
Commuter towns can develop outside an urban employment area where sky-high rents and mortgages drive workers to seek housing elsewhere. Stamford, CT, for example, is a commuter town for people who work in New York City.
Commuter towns can also develop when a small town loses its manufacturing center. Residents may want to continue to live there, but need to commute elsewhere in order to find employment. Steubenville, OH, a former steel town, has now become a commuter town for people who travel to Pittsburgh for work.
Life in a commuter town
Commuter towns generally have few local businesses, which is one of the main distinctions between these types of communities and suburbs. But similar to suburbs, commuter towns will be proximate to cities and major employment centers. They also may be in rural or semirural areas.
Commuter towns generally offer more space compared with the surrounding suburban and urban areas, according to Eddie Chang, broker and director at Seattle King County Realtors.
“You tend to get better bang for the buck in commuter towns than in urban areas,” he says. For many people, this means they can afford a larger home for less money than what they could afford in the city.
Other services add to the quality of life in commuter towns.
“There are often great schools, good transportation to the city, and good health care options,” says Brodniak.
On the flip side, living in a commuter town means you won’t have access to the wide variety of restaurants, major event venues, large malls, festivals, and other local cultural events that are found in a city.
And of course, there’s the expense and inconvenience of your daily commute.
The future of commuter towns
As technology advances, changes in how and where Americans work may change how we perceive commuter towns.
“With more people working remotely, fewer people may commute,” Brodniak says. Still, she doesn’t think this will make commuter towns any less desirable.
Even though people may not need to commute to work, most commuter towns still offer them the chance to own a relatively affordable home on a relatively large lot.