Hop in your car, jump on any major highway on a weekday morning, and you’ll see why homeowners are increasingly preferring to live in walkable communities.
Honestly, we’re tired of the traffic, know that driving isn’t good for the environment and have come to terms with the fact that hours confined to our cars is time not spent doing healthy things for our bodies or our lives.
According to a recent Home Design Trends Survey by the American Institute of Architects (AIA), homebuyers prefer walkable communities and those with easy access to public transportation. A similar survey of consumers by the National Association of Realtors® also found that walkable communities are growing in popularity among Americans, especially Millennials. But it’s not just the younger generations who are asking for this healthier, carefree option. The Washington Post reports that retiring Baby Boomers are downsizing and buying urban homes at twice the rate as Millennials.
Many Baby Boomers (including me) grew up in suburban neighborhoods where sidewalks were the norm, and the local school was a few blocks away. But while rapid development in urban centers brought about more suburban subdivisions with pools and playgrounds, some neighborhood amenities like sidewalks were sacrificed and we became dependent on personal vehicles. Today, as homebuyers have seen the charm of homes built in the 1950s and 1960s (and older), there is a renewed interest in living with some of the simplification and conveniences that our parents and grandparents did.
According to walkable.org, walkability focuses on neighborhood or village scale development, with many nearby places to go and things to do – more than just sidewalks and street crossings. Walkability factors may include mixed-use developments, design and placement of buildings, and connectivity between housing and desired attractions. Walkable neighborhood residents are typically diverse and of mixed incomes, and streets are friendly for pedestrians, bikes and public transit.
Walkability comes with a price. Homes in more walkable areas tend to have higher sales prices than homes in more car-dependent neighborhoods, says a recent study based on data from Walk Score, an online tool that assigns points to an address based on proximity to parks, stores, schools, libraries, etc.. Each additional point on Walk Score corresponds to an average of 0.9 percent greater home value. Two North Carolina cities – Charlotte and Raleigh – rank in the Top 50 most walkable cities with population greater than 200,000 people. Specific walkable neighborhoods cited include First, Second and Fourth Wards in Charlotte and Oakwood, College Park and Stonehenge East in Raleigh.
But walkability also comes with benefits. According to Walk Score, the average resident of a walkable neighborhood weights 6-10 pounds less than someone in a sprawling neighborhood. Less time in the car means less cost for gas, repairs and the vehicle itself. CO2 emissions to the environment are reduced, and time spent in community activities increases.
As builders begin to meet the pent-up demand for homes not built during the Recession, we should see some new construction trending toward walkable neighborhoods. If you’re ready to take a walk, ask your Allen Tate Realtor which communities might be the right ones for you.