A 200 km commute to work? Worth it for a cheap mortgage

Is a cheap mortgage worth a two-hour drive to work? For one St. Thomas, Ont., woman, the answer is yes.

Tammy Hurst-Erskine said she's saving more than $400 a month by living in St. Thomas and commuting to Toronto

Tammy Hurst-Erskine bought a home in St. Thomas, something she said wouldn't be possible in Toronto. (Paula Duhatschek/CBC News)

A series exploring real estate, trends and the importance of home 

Eleven months ago, Tammy Hurst-Erskine ditched the Toronto housing market and bought a house in St. Thomas, Ont. 

But she kept her job in the big city.

That means that three days a week, she wakes up at four, drives at least two hours to be at work for seven. At the end of the day, it's another two hours home. 

"I drink a lot of coffee; it's a problem," said Tammy Hurst-Erskine who explains her inexpensive mortgage makes the long drive worthwhile.

While it may sound unusual, even unpleasant, CBC London has heard from others who have recently relocated to the London area but have kept their professional stake in the GTA.

Affordability, they agree, was a big selling point. 

"When I realized that I could own a house in St. Thomas for about $400 a month compared to renting a small apartment [in Toronto], that was a pretty big eye opener," Hurst-Erskine said.

Cheap mortgage + Close to family = worth it

The social media manager made up her mind to buy less than a year ago when she fell in love with a three-bedroom Victorian home. The mortgage costs her $800 a month—a steal compared to the $1200 she spent on her Toronto apartment.

The average home price in Toronto in July was $775,220, compared with $323,716 in London-St. Thomas, according to the London-St. Thomas Association of Realtors.

But price wasn't the only factor in Hurst-Erskine's decision to commute 200 km one-way to work. She now lives closer to other family members and can play a role in their lives. 

"I saw an emergency list on my [family's] fridge and I wasn't on it because I'm over two and a half hours away. I was like 'Whaaat?'"

The catch: you've gotta love driving

Hurst-Erskine said her love of driving means the commute isn't so bad. (Paula Duhatschek/CBC News)

Hurst-Erskine, who's originally from northern Ontario, thinks that she might be uniquely qualified for this kind of living arrangement.

Growing up in small towns meant that she developed a love of driving early. Even when she lived in the city, she spent a lot of time on the road visiting family around Ontario.

"Driving is not a big deal for me. My car is only a 2010 and it has almost 300,000 kilometres on it," she said.

She also loves spending time alone: another necessary quality for people with lengthy commutes. 

If worst came to worst, she said she would be fine with driving to Toronto five days a week.

"I really enjoy the time in the car to be reflective," she said.

"I get to really zone out and just be me in the car, thinking about life and or just listening to music or whatever.

Her advice to others considering buying with the intention of commuting to the GTA? You better like driving and being alone.

Starting Monday, CBC London begins of week long series called Home Values.

We'll be looking at the real estate market in London and area.

We'll ask people why they live where they live.  We'll ask them why they love their homes.

We'll also delve into the issues surrounding rent and affordability in London.

And, on Friday Sept. 15, London Morning will broadcast live from Ilderton, one of the communities that has been attracting new residents.


Paula Duhatschek


Paula Duhatschek is a reporter with CBC Calgary who previously worked for CBC News in Kitchener and in London, Ont. You can reach her at