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‘Walkability’ is the New Driving Factor behind Property Values

“Walkability” is the new word when it comes to what buyers are looking for when they’re evaluating properties. But what is walkability? And where are the most “walkable” neighbourhoods in Canada?

The term “walkability” refers to the amount of amenities in any one particular neighbourhood, and the accessibility of those amenities to community residents without needing a vehicle to do it. The Real Estate Investment Network says that it is this walkability factor that buyers are looking for. And the more walkable the neighbourhood, the more buyers want into it, and the more they’re willing to pay.

REIN research analyst Allyssa Epp says that some areas are simply more walkable than others, and she cites Calgary as being one of them.

“The city of Calgary has seen inner-city neighbourhood real estate prices skyrocket in recent years as people become fed up with long commute times from outer suburbs,” she said. “Between 2000 and 2012, the 10 communities that saw the largest spikes in average home prices were in the city’s core and surrounding neighbourhoods. Of these 10 neighbourhoods, the average home price increased between 205-260 per cent – a result that the Calgary Real Estate Board says is directly linked to proximity to more amenities and an increase in alternate transportation options.”

Sano Stante, former CREB president and current agent with Re/Max Real Estate Central, says that he also sees this trend happening; and he even has a new word for a term that’s also recently new: gentrification.

“Gentrification is the new normal: Mature, inner-city communities and those with plenty of walkable amenities are blushing with all the attention they’re getting,” he says on his website. “Buyers are not shy about knocking down modest homes on good lots or renovating homes that have the bones and adequate floor plate.”

Richard Cho, senior market analyst in Calgary for Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation, also chimes in, saying that without the expense of a vehicle, home buyers are willing to pay more for their house.

“A lot of prospective buyers can really appreciate not having to get into their cars, managing through traffic and finding parking, to get to their favourite places,” he says. “Homes in areas where services and amenities are a close enough walk definitely appeal to buyers, with many willing to pay a premium.”

And, Ms. Epp also points out that not only is this trend new, it’s interesting to see as past generations have always sought to liveĀ outside the city, making homes in the suburbs the ones to see the highest prices.

“Up until the mid 1990s, suburban homes only accessible by car were a sign of social status, costing more per square foot than any other type of housing. Today, some of Canada’s most valuable real estate can be found in urban locations with high [walkability] rankings,” she says.

What do you think? Would you rather live close to the city’s core, or in the surrounding suburbs? And how much more would you pay for a home that was centrally located to everything you needed?

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