NAR Study Says Millennials Not Only Demographic Desiring Walkable Communities

Real Estate In-Depth | December 2017

WASHINGTON—It is no longer just millennials fueling interest and investment in walkable communities. According to a new report from the National Association of Realtors, members of the silent or greatest generation (those born before 1944) also prefer smaller homes in neighborhoods with easy walks to shops and restaurants.

The 2017 National Community and Transportation Preference Survey, www.nar.realtor/reports/nar-2017-community-preference-survey, which polled adults from across the U.S. about what they are looking for in a community, found that 62% of millennials and 55% of the silent generation prefer walkable communities and short commutes, even if it means living in an apartment or townhouse. Gen-Xers and baby boomers still show a strong preference toward suburban living, with 55% of both groups saying that they have no problem with a longer commute and driving to amenities if it means living in a single-family, detached home, the report states.

“Realtors understand that when people buy a home, they are not just looking at the house, they are looking at the neighborhood and the community,” said NAR President Elizabeth Mendenhall, a sixth-generation Realtor from Columbia, MI and CEO of RE/MAX Boone Realty. “While the idea of the ‘perfect neighborhood’ is different for every homeowner, more Americans are expressing a desire to live in communities with access to public transit, shorter commutes and greater walkability. Realtors work tirelessly at improving their communities through smart growth initiatives that help transform public spaces into these walkable community centers.”

According to the survey, the majority of Americans, 53%, would prefer to live in communities containing houses with small yards but within easy walking distance of the community’s amenities, as opposed to living in communities with houses that have large yards, but they have to drive to all amenities. In 2015, 48% of those surveyed preferred living in these type of communities.

However, responders with school-age kids in the home, regardless of their generation, show a greater preference for conventional suburban communities. Sixty percent of all responders with kids in school said they prefer larger homes and yards that require driving, and that number jumps to 63% for millennials with kids in school.

The survey also found that a majority of Americans, 88%, are very or somewhat satisfied with the quality of life in their communities, and 51% of those people believe that the walkability of their neighborhood contributes to that quality of life.

The report found that women, particularly young women, prioritize walkability and public transit more than older or younger men. Fifty-four percent of young women said that sidewalks and places to take walks is a very important factor in deciding where to live, and 39% said the same about having public transit nearby. However, when it comes to a short commute to work, youth was a greater indicator of preference than gender; 49% of young women and 48% of young men said being within a short commute to work was a very important factor in deciding where to live.

While 60% of adults surveyed live in detached, single-family homes, 21% of those respondents said they would rather live in an attached home and have greater walkability. Sixty percent of those surveyed also said that they would be willing to pay a little or a lot more to live within walking distance of parks, shops and restaurants.

When selecting a new home, respondents indicated that they would like choices when it comes to their community’s transportation options. Eighty-six percent of survey participants said that sidewalks are a positive factor when purchasing a home, and 80% place importance on being within easy walking distance of places.

When it comes to respondents’ thoughts on transportation priorities for the government, 73% indicated that maintaining and repairing roads and bridges should be a high priority, with expanding roads to help alleviate or reduce congestion as the next highest priority, at 54%.

The survey of 3,000 adult Americans living in the 50 largest metropolitan areas was conducted by American Strategies and Meyers Research in September 2017.