As the national economy grows stronger and workers are returning to jobs in droves, one negative aspect that has arisen in the process is the increase in traffic in major metropolitan areas. According to Lawrence Yun, chief economist for the National Association of REALTORS®, increased traffic is simply a function of a healthier economy and stronger job force.
“Skilled workers move where they can find work, creating more traffic and driving up housing prices,” said Yun. “It creates a positive feedback loop; the more skilled workers employed in an area, the more others want to move there.”
REALTORS® are finding that the increased traffic in metro areas is affecting the direction in which both commercial and residential real estate is moving. A main motivation for home buyers has always been to facilitate the commute to work, either by moving closer to public transportation or closer to work making for a shorter drive, ride or walk commute.
For many agents, this indicates a shift in real estate development toward more walkable communities, with amenities such as shopping, transit and entertainment within walking distance. Younger, single buyers have taken the lead in buying up homes in these types of communities, while those with marriage and parenthood on their plates are leaning toward different commuting needs.
Home Buyers with Families Looking to Reduce Commute, Not Eliminate It
While a large constituency of the population is looking to eliminate the car altogether, there is still a large portion that wants to live outside those urban communities where home and living costs are easier to afford.
“There are 250 million cars in the U.S. and the auto industry is booming. Also, housing prices are highest in the biggest, most walkable cities. Consumers won’t move to the city for the convenience of transit or walkability if they simply can’t afford to live there,” said Anthony Downs, economist from The Brookings Institution.
Many of today’s consumers are looking to cut commuting costs, but not eliminate them altogether. Those with children and families are still finding tremendous value in owning a car and using not only to get to work, but to shuttle kids to and from school and various activities.
“Seventy-three percent of recent home buyers said that commuting costs were an important factor when deciding whether or not to purchase a home,” said NAR economist Jessica Lautz. “Of the 73 percent who said that commuting costs were a homebuying factor, the median age was 38. These are the people who are driving to work every day and dropping their kids off at school.”
In recognizing that different demographics of home buyers are expecting vastly different purposes out of their homes, REALTORS® are at a greater advantage to finding the perfect home for their clients. As cities continue to grow and commutes become a greater issue in the future, a well-versed history will aid agents greatly in assisting their clients.