Around here, we have talked about the economic impact of the Phoenix light rail system many times. There have been several studies mentioned over the past couple of years to make those points, even though the obvious transformations have occurred. Known as a sprawling metropolis, the metro Phoenix area has indeed embraced a more urban lifestyle. The “drive until you qualify” mentality that was once so rampant is taking a back seat to a more realistic approach to housing affordability. Quality of life appears to be changing for large demographic groups of people, and they are taking into consideration a larger picture than just a house payment. Time on the road, along with the cost of a vehicle, fuel, and maintenance, are all being considered in the overall monthly outlay of resources.
Recently, my friend Jason Berman mentioned a very interesting article titled “The Next Real Estate Boom”. Knowing Jason as a super smart guy, and knowing my interest in the real estate business, I decided to take a close look at the article. The article speaks about many interesting topics – all of them seem to be very relevant to many discussions we have had here at Rail Life over the past few years. Given Jason’s mortgage background, I have a feeling that the talk of location efficient mortgages got his attention. While niche mortgages like green mortgages have been talked about here in the past, there is a lot of data suggesting that location efficient mortgages could be a significant part of an economic rebound.
“Fannie Mae has been experimenting with an interesting new product: “location efficient mortgages.” Instead of relying solely on credit score and income to determine whether a borrower qualifies for a mortgage, these loans use electronic map systems to take into account how much homeowners will have to pay for transportation.”
Part of the argument is this; You purchase a home near the light rail line and your cost of living is less, your carbon footprint is smaller and your quality of life is greater. After all, is that 2 hours spent behind the wheel of your car the most productive time of your day? Is living a more urban lifestyle something that millions of people may be looking to do over the next decade or so? Apparently, more than a few people think so.
According to this Brookings Institute article, the near future promises a huge demand for urban walkable neighborhoods.
“the Great Recession has highlighted a fundamental change in what consumers do want: homes in central cities and closer-in suburbs where one can walk to stores and mass transit. Such “walkable urban” real estate has experienced less than half the average decline in price from the housing peak.”
So, let’s go out on a limb and say that these mortgages become widely available. What’s the use? Is there enough demand for such a product on a large enough scale to attract people back to real estate as a viable investment in their future? Are there enough people looking at transportation and other costs when considering a monthly housing payment? Are greenhouse gas emissions even part of the overall equation?
The two largest demographics said to be leading the coming charge for a more urban lifestyle are baby boomers and the millennial generations, which are said to make up nearly half of the American population. Walkable neighborhoods near entertainment, conveniences, hospitals, and great public transportation systems are said to be where much of our future demand may lie. Creating ways to fulfill that demand will take proper planning along with public and private investment. Yes, there is a glut of property on the market right now, but what happens when the demand for walkable neighborhoods increase along with the demographics of growing sections of our populace? Will there be a resurgence in city living? Take a look at the Brookings article and see if it made you think of as many things as it did me. I’ll see if I can’t get one of my mortgage buddies to write some more about location efficient mortgages in the future. I’ll also see if we can’t dive a little deeper into the demographic shift that could be coming as well.
The map below shows a small sample of some of the homes near the METRO light rail system in the Phoenix area. We’ll be adding to the list in the near future. 🙂
View Homes Near METRO light Rail in a larger map