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Kathryn Carlson's Blog

By Kathryn Carlson | Broker in 80209

Walkable Neighborhoods Driving Real Estate Interest

by Phoebe Chongchua

The closer your home is to shops, restaurants, community parks, and the easier it is to get around on foot increases buyer interest in your neighborhood and maybe your home.

With highly fluctuating gasoline prices and many people trying to conserve in an unstable economy, buyers are looking for ways to scale back. Walking is one of them. A home that's located in a neighborhood that offers pleasant and easy walks to multiple retail stores and eateries scores high among buyers, according to a report by a George Washington University professor. Compact urban areas like the Washington, D.C. area are seen as a national model that showcases how it's possible for residents to live and work in Washington without needing cars.

The author, professor Christopher B. Leinberger, of the "DC: The WalkUP Wake-Up Call" report says walkable urban areas offer the strongest housing market. Simply put, the ability to walk the streets is what is driving interest to these neighborhoods.

It's now a prominent feature on many listings. Some even include a "Walk Score" which lets you know how easy it is to navigate the neighborhood on foot. Real estate listing agents also know to highlight a home's proximity to shops that are within walking distance.

But what's changing are the types of retail stores that make the area appealing. Today, the regionally significant walkable urban areas feature not only restaurants, grocery stores, and coffee shops, but also museums, libraries, offices, and different types of housing. That's what makes the Washington area popular. Spanning across seven counties, Washington has 43 of these types of areas (referred to in the report as "WalkUPs").

The report indicates that the value of housing in these walkable neighborhoods is greater than in the suburbs where a car is a necessity. According to the report, on average, a home in a highly walkable neighborhood can bring in almost 60 percent more annually in residential rent than homes in neighborhoods where cars are needed.

Since most people are so busy, a majority of those surveyed, according to the National Association of Realtors, prefer at least mixed-use neighborhoods and a reduced need for driving to various locations such as the office and other activities.

The growing interest in walkable neighborhoods also favors the healthy living trends that are increasingly becoming popular. More people are taking an interest in walking or bicycling to work and other activities. Ride sharing is also gaining favor.

Technology is also making it easier to navigate around neighborhoods and cities on foot. There are apps that guide walkers around towns and show the best routes and places to stop and enjoy refreshments or pick up some necessary household items.

Local governments are seeing how the interest in walkable neighborhoods is helping local economies. Many are encouraging development projects that allow high-density residential areas combined with retail and office space and a surrounding walkable core.

However, making certain that the walkable path to these retail stores and office spaces is both pleasant, easy, even beautiful and enjoyable is key to the planned development and the neighborhood's success.

Published: November 30, 2012

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