Walkability Wins as Most Desired Bay Area Housing Feature

by arlene on July 28, 2012

I recently had the opportunity to share current market updates with colleagues from San Francisco, Sonoma and MarinCounties. We had gathered as a group of Realtors particularly interested in “green” and sustainable practices, to share our stories with Build it Green, a local non-profit that encourages green building practices. We learned that our markets share some key aspects:

  • Multiple offers are being received on the most desirable properties
  • There is lots of cash in these areas, and it’s coming from young couples, downsizing boomers and investors (more about that in another GreenBungalows article)
  • An increase in off-market sales occurred in all of these areas during the first half of the year
  • Non-contingent offers typically are the successful ones. While none of us as agents like to write such an offer, it may be what it takes to acquire the most desirable property in a super-hot market.

So what are  the most desirable of properties? There were some local differences, but a pattern emerged:

Walkability wins.

The number one sought-after housing feature in the greater San Francisco Bay Area is a life-style issue. The ability to leave the car and walk to transit or amenities is huge. Being able to shop and visit bookstores or restaurants without dependence on a car increases a home’s desirability, and that translates to increased value.

Just a few years ago neighborhoods that provided quiet and privacy were the most desirable.  Gated communities in the suburbs came at a premium, and in the Berkeley area where I live and work, the hills were sought after for their views and privacy. There was also the cache of living in the neighborhood that many U.C. faculty members called home.  Proximity to amenities is now the most desired feature for clients in all demographics. Young singles and couples want to be near the buzz, and older couples want the ease of not needing a car. Realtors now use a high score on the website Walkscore as a marketing tool.

It appears the Bay Area is not the only area where walkability has increased in value.  A recently-released Brookings Institute study assigned monetary value to the proximity of amenities in the Washington D.C. area. Walkability had a striking ability to increase dollars per square foot in that metro area, with the highest impact being among rental rates.

My group of real estate colleagues welcomes the trend, as there will be energy savings and a lower reliance on oil. However, conservation was not the primary motivation for interest in homes near amenities. My colleagues and I all agreed: having a sense of community now trumps privacy.  More details in my next post!



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