Literally Walking the Walk– Walkable Communities are Green Communities

The word pedestrian pertains to walking. But another somewhat derogatory meaning is: monotonous, dreary, commonplace, dull–which is what some diehard city dwellers often think of suburban living.  Well, tell that to the homeowners with a 70-100% walk score on even though they live in “the burbs”. Tell that to my clients whose home sold for $40,000 above list price in 2009 in the middle of a housing recession, partly because their 1938 cape cod was walking distance to the vibrant Clarendon section of Arlington, VA. Walkability is the new green and sustainable. All over the country “more and more buyers want to live where they can park their cars and use their feet.”  And even though that often means living in the city, it doesn’t always.  An August 2009 Study by CEOs for Cities, a national network of urban leaders, found that in 13 out of 15 markets they surveyed nation wide, home values were higher where there were substantially higher levels of walkability.  In their study “going from an average level of walkability to the 75th percentile raised the value of the median house by between $4,000 and about $34,000, depending on the market,”  The New York Times discusses the trend in Street Corner vs Cul de Sacs in a January issue.

In the May 2010 issue of Washingtonian Magazine, the cover article titled “Tales from the Boom and Bust–the Wild Ride of Local Real Estate”, there is a list of 100 neighborhoods and how they’ve fared in the last three years.  After studying this list carefully, it’s clear that the only neighborhoods that have posted an increase in value in the last three years are very walkable neighborhoods such as Adams Morgan, Dupont Circle and Georgetown in DC; Clarendon, Ballston, Crystal City and Rosslyn in Arlington; and Old Town and Del Ray/Rosemont in Alexandria. These neighborhoods have all posted a net gain in value in the last three years of at least 2%.  Cleveland Park has gained a whopping 23% in the last 3 years! This is a highly walkable neighborhood with an abundance of larger single family homes. The median home sale price in Cleveland Park went from $474K in 2008 to $625K in 2009! Contrast these neighborhoods to Great Falls (down 25%), Fairfax Station (down 16%), Ashburn (down 28%) and Gaithersburg (16%) to name a few, to see what I mean about the value of walkability. And even neighborhoods that haven’t posted gains have lost far less in value if the walkability level is high.

Now, if city living is just not your thing, more and more suburban communities are building walkability into their smart growth plans. The New Urbanism movement promotes mixed use walkable communities. Self contained suburban communities built around town centers and light rail systems are part of the new wave of community development. Ellen Dunham-Jones is the director of the architecture program at Georgia Tech.  She’s written a book called Retrofitting Suburbia: Urban Design Solutions for Redesigning Suburbs that is a fascinating look at the potential for turning gas guzzling, car focused suburbs into models of walkable neighborhoods. Locally we have a number of walkable suburban communities as another article in the May issue of Washingtonian points out.

Sustainable living is no longer decided solely by whether you have solar panels, geothermal heat, good insulation, bamboo flooring, tankless hot water heaters, etc.  Being able to walk or even bike to the important places in your life is not only healthy for your body and the planet, it’s money in the bank when sell your home. You may pay a premium for buying in a highly walkable neighborhood but what you save in transportation will surely make up the difference.  Think one car instead of two, lower insurance, less money on gas and lower car maintenance costs.



Gayle Fleming


My purpose is to serve my clients and advocate for their highest and best good, so they attain their real estate goals.


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