Walk About – A Rising Trend

It doesn’t take a genius to realize that living near our light rail line gives people easy access to a LOT of cool stuff. In Arizona, the term walkable community seemed like an oxymoron for a very long time. To some, it probably still does. We have cars, why would we need to walk anywhere? After all, we are more known as a sprawl city rather than urban enthusiasts, right?

Maybe not.

It’s no big secret that there has been a national trend towards a more urban lifestyle. ( Yes, I know, it’s not for everyone. ) We read about it in all kinds of publications. The “drive until you qualify” mentality has mostly been discredited, making for a cruel joke on people looking for “less expensive” housing. What was easily overlooked was the expense of time, gas, pollution, car maintenance, and quality of life. People need to open their eyes and see where they want to spend their time. Instead of endless hours behind the wheel of a car, it might be more enjoyable to hang with family and friends at a ball game, in a park, at a restaurant or just chilaxin at your humble abode.

Coveted Lifestyle?

On the New York Times web site, we recently read another article about urban lifestyles titled “Now Coveted – A Walkable, Convenient Place.” The article makes some very interesting observations in that, some of the most coveted real estate in America is not necessarily located in the suburbs but in walkable urban locations.

Our research shows that real estate values increase as neighborhoods became more walkable, where everyday needs, including working, can be met by walking, transit or biking.”

While many of us have been fans of the neighborhoods surrounding the METRO light rail line here in the valley, urbanism is still not as widely accepted as it is in other parts of the country – yet. As our real estate market rebounds, people seem to be making some wise choices. AZCentral recently reported that “Metro Phoenix’s median resale-home price has climbed 23 percent since August from a 12-year low of $112,000 to $138,400 last month.” This little nugget got me interested in comparing the pricing of homes near the Phoenix light rail line with other homes in Phoenix, Tempe and Mesa ( cities with light rail).

Location, Location, Location 

If you look at the 381 homes, condos, and townhomes that have sold near ( approximately 1/2 mile ) the light rail line since January 1 of this year, the average price per square foot has been $98.89. If you look at homes in Mesa, Tempe and in Phoenix that have sold since January 1, the average price per square foot has been $75.31 ( per AZ Regional MLS data ).

Now you can analyze the crap out of these numbers if you want, but a few things stand out to me when I talk to people looking to live along the line.

1. There isn’t a ton of housing available

2. People are willing to pay more for their lifestyle

3. Infill projects are needed, demand is high

Willo Historic District

Cool homes in the coveted Willo neighborhood

Granted, not everyone lives in highly walkable neighborhoods and many of them enjoy their life just fine. Believe me, I’m not trying to say that we all need to live close to the light rail line. I’m just saying that it is a GREAT choice for many people. As a Phoenix ( Gilbert ) AZ transplant recently said about moving to Seattle and enjoying a very walkable neighborhood: “I know that I covet my very walkable urban apartment in Seattle” said Jay Thompson of Zillow.com. As an occasional light rail rider here in the valley, Jay has told me more than once that he loves his new place near a great transit system.

Obviously, our pricing and the true urban experiences found in some of the larger cities around the country differ quite a bit.  But as the demand here grows and the real estate market recovers, we are sure to see a lot more interest in our most walkable neighborhoods…

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