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2013-12-23 14:24:10
Survey: Buyers prefer walkable communities
Picture of Cal Musselman

          Most homeowners would agree that the location of their home is just as important as the home itself. That’s why consumers cite community as one of the most important factors when choosing a home. Recent research has shown that most homebuyers say their ideal neighborhood is one with a mix of houses, stores and other businesses that are easily walkable, rather than neighborhoods that require more driving between home, work and recreation.

          According to the National Association of Realtors 2013Community Preference Survey, respondents noted that while the size of the property does matter, consumers are willing to compromise a bigger house for their preferred neighborhood and less commuting. When asked to identify their ideal community, the most popular choice was a suburban neighborhood with a mix of houses, shops and businesses. The least popular was a suburban neighborhood with just houses.

           The second most popular community type was a rural area, where 16 percent of respondents said they would prefer to live. Coming in third at 15 percent was in a city near a mix of apartments, offices and shops.

           Interestingly enough, most people prefer the type of area in which they already live. In rural areas, only 25 percent of people want to live somewhere else.

            In addition to community type, Americans also have distinct preferences regarding home style. The survey showed that a majority of Americans (55 percent) prefer houses with small yards within easy walking distance of schools, stores and restaurants to houses with large yards that require more driving. Even more people (57 percent) prefer houses with smaller yards and shorter commutes compared to houses with larger yards but more driving.

            While Americans say they want walkable communities, it seems they do so only to a certain point. The survey found that a majority of consumers said they prefer communities where it is easier to walk and their commute is shorter; however, when comparing a single-family house to an apartment or townhouse, the detached home was the winner — even with a longer commute and more driving. Nearly 60 percent of respondents said they would rather have a single-family home than a shorter drive. In fact, more than three-quarters of all Americans said they would prefer to live in a single-family detached home.

            When choosing a specific place to live, 86 percent of respondents cited privacy from neighbors as the most important feature. Coming in second at 80 percent was sidwalks and places to take walks. Nearly three-quarters of respondents said high-quality public schools was important.

            Consumers’ second-tier priorities included being within an easy walk of community amenities (69 percent), easy access to the highway (68 percent) and being within a short commute to work (65 percent).

            Americans are divided on whether urban versus suburban versus rural living is preferable. More than 50 percent of respondents said they wanted to live in a place “away from it all” while 44 percent prefered being in a community “at the center of it all.”

            Most Americans say they are happy with their access to parks, sidewalks, large discount stores and places to exercise, but they feel their communities are lacking some features. About half of survey respondents said there are not enough shops, restaurants or public transit options within an easy walk. Nearly 50 percent also said there are too few safe bike routes.

            “Realtors build communities and care about improving those communities through smart growth initiatives,” said the Realtors association in response to the survey results. “Growth patterns, economic development and quality-of-life issues are inextricably linked to the success of communities and residents.”

            Consumers who are looking for just the right community whatever their preferences can look at their various options with the help of a local Realtor. Buyers and sellers can find one at UtahRealtors.com.

Cal Musselman, President of the Utah Association of Realtors


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