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Walkability Wins as Most Desired Feature in San Francisco Bay Area

Real Estate Agent with Red Oak Realty

I recently had the opportunity to share current real estate market updates with colleagues from San Francisco, Sonoma and Marin Counties. 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 a 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.

Posted by

Arlene Baxter, CRS, Green

Red Oak Realty -- "Seriously Local"

Berkeley Office, 1891 Solano Avenue

Cell: 510.717.1799  GreenBungalows.info   DRE#01209552

Dr. Paula McDonald
Beam & Branch Realty - Granbury, TX
Granbury, TX 936-203-0279

I believe it Arlene.  I have been to San Francisco a couple times and it's no fun having to look for a parking place.  Living in Texas the hills of San Francisco are killers!!  Nearly coughed up a lung running there.

Jul 28, 2012 06:29 AM
David Popoff
DMK Real Estate - Darien, CT
Realtor®,SRS, Green ~ Fairfield County, Ct
I love the walking score.com website, two thumbs up on this post.
Jul 28, 2012 06:39 AM
Arlene Baxter
Paula and David, Thanks for your comments. What's interesting is how thoroughly values have changed in our area. For a century being in the hills was considered the goal of those with the money to afford it. The views were the best, but there was also a sense of elitism. Now it's a special buyer who seeks out the hills. I now have two sets of buyers, both in the $1M range, who are specifically wanting to be walking distance to amenities, and are looking to leave homes in the hills. Having kids is seems to increase buyers motivation several fold to get closer to amenities!
Jul 28, 2012 08:30 AM


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