Foot-Friendly Neighborhoods

2014-01-11T11:20:00Z Foot-Friendly NeighborhoodsBy Erik J. Martin CTW Features nwitimes.com
January 11, 2014 11:20 am  • 

Mixed-use, walkable communities are all the rage for modern homebuyers – and for good reason

Americans favor walkable, mixed-use neighborhoods that provide shorter commutes, per the results of a National Association of Realtors survey. According to the study, 60 percent of those polled prefer a community with a blend of houses and stores and other businesses that are easy to get to on foot versus communities that involve more driving between work, home and recreation.

Additionally, the survey revealed that, although a property’s size does matter to consumers, they’re willing to sacrifice size for a coveted neighborhood and less time commuting.

New Sacrifices

Fifty-two percent fancy a single-family detached home with a large yard. However, more than half said they’d sacrifice a home with a larger yard if it resulted in a shorter work commute or it meant living within walking distance of stores, schools and restaurants

And, 78 percent indicated that a house’s size is less important than their chosen neighborhood.

Eric Fredericks, a Rancho Cordova, Calif.-based urban planner and founder of website/blog Walkable Neighborhoods, says the latter statistic surprises him the most.

“The trend for decades in America was larger and larger houses to accommodate additional belongings, but I think with the popularity of walkable neighborhoods and the aging population, Americans are starting to realize that driving to places may not always be an option,” Fredericks says. “Also, a lot of folks have learned about the benefits of having options within walking distance.”

Convenient Scores

As to why 60 percent favor neighborhoods with a mix of homes and retail offerings, “the old adage, ‘location, location, location’ has, in part, given way to ‘convenience, convenience, convenience,’” says Jon Stewart, agent with John L. Scott Real Estate in Seattle.

“With the lives of those in both urban and suburban areas becoming more complex by the day, the trend of viewing areas offering a mixture of residential housing and commercial convenience with shorter commutes will, in my opinion, only increase,” Stewart says. “Anything to reduce time in the car and increase time concentrated on living will be prioritized.”

Lindsey Kinnsch Michael, mortgage loan consultant with Kinecta Federal Credit Union in Manhattan Beach, Calif., says living in mixed-use, walkable communities offers several advantages to homeowners.

“You can get exercise easily and conveniently, you can save a ton of money on gas and car maintenance, and you will most likely take advantage of more opportunities the community affords you because you’re exposed to them daily,” Michael says.

She adds, “There is also a comfort in knowing that you can rely on your own two feet, as opposed to a vehicle, to get where you need to go on a daily basis.”

Individual Preferences

However, the decision to compromise home size for easy accessibility and proximity is not an easy one for every home shopper to make, Stewart says.

"It’s as individual a decision as those making the choice. There are still consumers who are looking for the 4,000-plus square foot home on two acres of land. But in areas that offer mixed-use neighborhoods, there is a trend toward either bungalow living or larger homes designed to encompass most of the lot. In urban areas, there is no short supply of clients who are very willing to compromise size for the sake of convenience,” Stewart says. “It’s a matter of the individual’s definition of ‘quality of life.’”

Before selecting a neighborhood, experts recommend considering several important criteria.

“Ask yourself,” Michael advises, “will you feel safe in the neighborhood and the home? Does the home’s layout and storage capacity make sense for your life? Do you have guaranteed parking? And can you walk easily to places you would frequent and that would fit into your lifestyle?”

Also, before choosing a mixed-use area, “consider noise,” says Rob Anzalone, CEO of Fenwick Keats Real Estate in New York City. “Is there commercial traffic? Are there noisy restaurants or bars? What is the neighborhood zoning? And will you have close proximity to parks and green public areas?”

These additional aspects can change the way people view walkable and mixed-use communities.

© CTW Features

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