Monday, July 24, 2017

What Makes a Neighborhood?

We recently talked at a meeting about trends in neighborhood preferences among buyers.  The average first-time homebuyer is a millennial, and the average buyer is a Gen Xer.  For a long time, people thought that those groups would only live in cities, and only commute on foot, by bike, or by public transportation.  It seems now that that's not entirely true, but there are some real differences that our agents are seeing in Greater New Haven.

Once younger buyers have children, they care a great deal, as did their parents and grandparents, about school quality.  They also tend to prefer more space, both inside and out.  Unlike their parents, however, they want to spend less time commuting, maintain less in the way of house and grounds, and live in a setting with shops, restaurants, and parks.  That's what is meant by the new "walkability" scores that show up on real estate websites.  People want to be able to get milk, see a neighbor, or arrange a play date without getting into a car. 

We are seeing this show up in New Haven, for instance, where East Rock now seems almost suburban to buyers, but has sidewalks and foot traffic everywhere, with coffee shops and other neighborhood attractions and institutions.  Most people drive many places, but want the freedom to walk children to school, or sit on a front porch and converse with passersby.  It's a feeling of safety in numbers, but also of community.  Bigger homes on bigger lots that are farther apart appeal to a different group, smaller in number, that want to entertain, love the spacious feeling of older homes built in a bygone era of grandeur, and want backyards and big gardens.  They also like walking places, but crave more privacy. 

In the suburbs, we see the same trends playing out. Spring Glen, with its high walkability score, is selling quickly.  On the Shoreline, houses and condos near the Guilford Green are at an all-time premium.  There is a second reason for this, which is that older buyers also care about walkability and convenience, and they also want less space and smaller lots to maintain.  The two groups compete for the closer-in properties along the Shoreline, although the smaller homes in East Rock are still large, and attract mostly growing families. 

This means that there is a large supply, almost everywhere, of the biggest homes in a town.  Some of that relates to taxes, but just as much to lifestyle.  Whether busy with young children, or free to travel more, buyers are choosing smaller, sometimes cheaper, and always as walkable as possible.  So, if that's the type of home you own, think about now as a good time to sell!