SAINT PAUL, Minn., Jan. 20, 2015 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) -- The total costs to own a car is typically the second biggest expense Minnesota and Western Wisconsin home buyers encounter, but knowing what that total amount will be has remained a hidden expense – until now.

Local Realtors for the first time can show consumers a calculation of their estimated total car expenses based on the specific car they drive, their commuting costs and local neighborhood car insurance rates using powerful new technology provided by NorthstarMLS called TLCengine.

"While home buyers typically focus on mortgage rates and their total monthly housing payment, few compare total transportation costs when choosing a place to live," said Peter Sparr, of Edina Realty, Roseville, MN and Chair-Elect of NorthstarMLS.

"Now real estate agents and brokers can provide you with your total car cost estimate, computed by TLCengine, based on the make, model and year of the car you drive and factor in the distance you are traveling to work, your average miles per gallon, fuel costs, maintenance, and includes the auto insurance rate where each home you are considering is located," Sparr said.

According to the Center for Neighborhood Technology, while housing is considered "affordable" when it costs less than 30% of a family's household budget, total transportation costs, including public transportation (and in some markets, tolls) can consume as much as another 26% of household income for families who live in Minneapolis.

"It is not uncommon for families to pay more than half their total income just for housing and car expenses," said Krishna Malyala, founder of TLCengine, the technology that helps agents and brokers show local home buyers not only total car costs, but also the "TLC" or "True Lifestyle Costs" overall, which can vary by the home and its location.

"It helps Realtors empower buyers to compare one home to another, not just based on the price of the home, but what it will really cost to own each home by factoring in the hidden costs, including transportation expenses," said Malyala.

"It may not sound like a lot to save $400 a year because the car insurance rate is lower for a home in one Neighborhood versus a home in another Neighborhood," added Malyala, "But over the years, it adds up."

The Center for Housing Policy reports that "combined housing and transportation costs grew faster than local incomes between 2000 and 2010" in each of the 25 top metro areas it studied. In Minneapolis, the Center reported housing and transportation costs rose more than two times as fast as family household income.
"We're also dispelling the 'drive till you qualify' myth, because while you might find lower housing prices the farther you drive away from the city, your combined housing and transportation costs may actually be more," Malyala added.

"Realtors want to help homebuyers make great financial decisions," Sparr said. "The best home buyer is a fully informed buyer." Sparr notes anyone can contact a local Realtor® who is a member of NorthstarMLS to obtain the free TLC cost estimate report. For homebuyers, they can search and compare these costs among more than 30,000 single-family homes listed for sale today on NorthstarMLS.

"Once consumers see all the things that TLC does," Sparr said, "It really helps consumers buy with eyes wide open, which benefits everyone."

TLCengine, which is integrated into each NorthstarMLS listing, includes 31 unique lifestyle cost variables to run complex calculations and provide easy-to-understand reports. That allows Realtors to help consumers gain deeper insight when shopping for a home.

Over time, according to Malyala, TLCengine estimates will continue to improve as real estate agents are able to add new data into the system from actual expenses that sellers provide, increasing its accuracy.

"It's a no obligation, completely free to the consumer, offer," Sparr added, noting most real estate agents throughout Minnesota and western Wisconsin can provide the TLC report as they are members of NorthstarMLS.

About NorthstarMLS®

NorthstarMLS® supports nearly 15,000 Realtors and appraisers in Minnesota and western Wisconsin, providing participating brokers and agents with fast and reliable information services and resources that make local property markets perform efficiently and effectively for both buyers and sellers. NorthstarMLS facilitated nearly 70,000 real estate transactions, valued at $15.1 billion, in 2013, and provided access for real estate professionals to more than 45,000 active listings, more than 1.4 million comparable and sold properties, and millions of property records from all Minnesota and Wisconsin. NorthstarMLS is owned and operated by the Regional Multiple Listing Service of Minnesota, Inc. (RMLS). RMLS is owned by the Realtor shareholder associations of Minneapolis and St. Paul, and provides services and support to the Western Wisconsin REALTORS® Association, St. Cloud Area Association of REALTORS® and the Greater Lakes Association of REALTORS®.

About TLCengine

TLCengine provides a patent-pending TLC (True Lifestyle Cost) engine that takes into account 31 lifestyle cost variables, helping real estate agents for the first time provide consumers with the "true costs" of home ownership. Local real estate agents help home shoppers use this technology to compare the real "cost to own" among homes in different neighborhoods and cities. Founded by Krishna Malyala, a Keller Williams Real Estate agent and former technology vice president at Citigroup, TLCengine launched in 2013 at Real Estate Connect in San Francisco, the industry's leading technology conference, and was one of 23 firms selected for Connect's Startup Alley and has been selected for 2015 Inman Connect NYC to appear on its highly coveted "New Kids on the Block" panel.

Photos accompanying this release are available at:

Kevin Hawkins 
WAV Group Communications
(612) 584-1852 direct