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Walkable Communities A Top Priority in Housing Boom

One of the major trends in the recent housing boom is that home buyers are now purchasing smaller, more urban homes to avoid long commutes, writes James R. Hagerty in a Wall Street Journal article. James Z. Pugash, chief executive officer of a company which finances housing developments, Hearthstone Inc., predicts that American cities will become European-like, with more midrise developments, fewer square feet per person, and higher housing costs.

The article also cites a 2004 paper for the Brookings Institution by Virginia Tech professor Arthur C. Nelson that says there are at least tentative signs of a rising demand for more compact living environments combining offices, entertainment, and homes. Mr. Nelson cites as an example Arlington County, Virginia, near Washington, DC. He writes that in 1990, the conventional wisdom was that the county was completely “built out” and there was no space for more residents. However, the county is encouraging higher-density housing on former industrial sites and transit-oriented development (TOD). The county is still growing rapidly, yet the character of established neighborhoods is being preserved effectively.

Speculation is that the desire for urban living in walkable communities will continue to grow, and condominium construction is soaring. In the 12 months prior to September, sales of condos and cooperative housing rose to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 942,000 units, up 14 percent. In the same time frame, sales of single-family homes rose only 6.9 percent.

The National Association of Realtors (NAR) also recognizes that a top priority of homebuyers is to purchase a home in a walkable neighborhood. “Realtors don”t just sell homes, we sell communities and neighborhoods,” said NAR President Walt McDonald, broker-owner of Walt McDonald Real Estate in Riverside, California in a press release for the 2004 American Community Survey.

“This survey shows that most Americans prefer to live in walkable communities with a shorter commutes, sidewalks and amenities close by, a trend Realtors have seen first-hand. Smart growth communities are the wave of the future, especially since they”re heavily favored by prospective buyers and minorities, who represent a growing share of the homebuying market.”

Some interesting statistics emerged from this survey – the top priority for 79 percent of Americans in deciding where to live was commute time of 45 minutes or less. 87 percent of people planning to buy a home in the next three years place a high importance on a shorter commute as their top priority. Other top priorities include having sidewalks and places to walk (72 percent) and easy access to highways (75 percent).

Walkable Neighborhoods recognized that homebuyers want to buy homes in walkable communities, but there seems to be a disconnect when it comes to Realtors who really understand what constitutes a walkable community. Therefore, potential homebuyers are not getting matched up with agents who truly understand their needs and are not offered the best matches. Walkable Neighborhoods looks to bridge that disconnect buy working with several major real estate companies and educating agents on what REALLY makes a neighborhood walkable. We hope that homebuyers can simply contact us on their desired location and be matched up with the best agent who understands their needs. We have partnered with several major real estate firms that have agents in nearly every town in America (and many in other countries) so that we can match people to walkable neighborhoods, wherever they may be. For more information on this program, please visit our homebuying section at http://www.walkableneighborhoods.com/homes/.

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