As the economy heads toward recovery, the number of road warriors -- people who travel constantly for work -- is rebounding dramatically.
"Business travel is back with a vengeance," says Chris McGinnis, an expert on the topic and director of the consulting firm Travel Skills Group (www.travelskills.com). Are you a road warrior -- someone who does at least 10 business trips annually? And are you also a prospective homebuyer who seeks a location that will enhance, rather than detract from, your hectic lifestyle?
If so, McGinnis says that in the ideal world, you'll move to a region with excellent airport access.
While air travel for business is increasing, the vast majority of business travel still involves driving. Among those traveling often by highway for work are consultants, pharmaceutical company representatives and many salespeople.
Alan Pisarski, an expert on road travel and author of "Commuting in America," recommends that car-bound road warriors choose a location with relatively easy access to major highways, ideally in a mid-size city that's normally free of traffic congestion.
"The first rule is to be in a suburb near an interstate highway so you can get on your way quickly without having to fight your way through colossal city traffic," says Pisarski (www.alanpisarski.com).
Here are a few home-buying pointers for road warriors:
-- Factor time and stress management into your equation.
It's no secret that stress is a major factor for those who travel frequently. That's doubly the case if both partners in a household have demanding travel schedules.
Business travelers typically know how many days per month they must devote to trips. But some fail to factor in the required preparation time for their trips and the time needed to decompress after the trip is over.
In advance of a house-hunting expedition, Merrill Ottwein, a real estate broker and a past president of the National Association of Exclusive Buyer Agents (www.naeba.org), recommends you write down the specifics of when and where you travel, doing a tally of the hours you typically expend. This will help you foresee how much time and energy you have left for ground transportation hassles and domestic chores.
"You simply have to be realistic about your scheduling limitations," Ottwein says.
-- Consider a "hybrid" home community.
A majority of homebuyers favor the idea of owning a classic detached house. They enjoy the privacy and sense of control that comes with full ownership of four walls.
But you don't necessarily have to forgo your single- family home dream to obtain some home maintenance conveniences associated with life in a subdivision with upkeep services, says Sid Davis, a real estate broker and author of "A Survival Guide for Buying a Home." He recommends you consider a new "hybrid home" community.
As an added plus, hybrid home communities typically give you an added element of security that helps lessen fears that a break-in could occur while you're away.
-- Look for a neighborhood where residents are mutually supportive.
Because it's a refreshing contrast to their hectic routine, some business travelers seek out a peaceful country setting for that get-away-from-it-all feeling when they're home.
However, Ottwein says living in a rural area is usually a poor choice for frequent travelers.
"If you're single and out on the road, you'll always worry something will go wrong back home and there will be no one there to handle the problem. Alternatively, if you're married to a stay-at-home partner, that person could get very lonely living out in the country while you're away traveling," he says.
Ottwein recommends that business travelers consider a neighborhood where the homes are close together and most residents are friendly and approachable.
Ottwein says it's surprisingly easy to determine if a neighborhood is welcoming or standoffish.
"Find a weekend day when you can walk through the community and talk to residents. Ask them about the pros and cons of living there. If people give you a cold reception, take that as a red flag," he says.
-- Seek out a cul-de-sac setting.
Some sharp business travelers know a secret for finding a home where neighbors relate well and are mutually supportive: move to a cul-de-sac.
"A cul-de-sac is a sociological unit just above the family. It's a quiet zone where everyone socializes. Usually, people living on a cul-de-sac help each other out, which can be great for the business traveler," Ottwein says.
-- Think through your particular ground transportation needs.
With each year that passes, Ottwein notices that traffic congestion is a larger and larger concern for his road-warrior clients.
"Whenever possible, my clients love to live near a rail line that can speed them directly to the airport without agonizing over nasty traffic issues. Rail is usually more predictable than road access," he says.
Of course, those in sales and marketing jobs who cover a regional territory typically can't take advantage of rail lines to offset the hardships of driving in traffic-ridden areas. Even so, they should still concern themselves with the best possible access to major highways.
"Business travelers who count on roads to get them to clients and meetings ideally will live at a crossroads point between two major highways. That's a lot better than living way off the beaten path," Ottwein says.
(To contact Ellen James Martin, email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.)