RE/MAX Agents and Two Recent Studies Agree: Choosing Home in a Walkable Neighborhood is a Smart Move in the Metro Chicago Real Estate Market

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Buying a home in or near a walkable neighborhood served by public transportation, restaurants and shops is often a smart financial move in the metropolitan Chicago real estate market, according to RE/MAX Northern Illinois agents and a pair of recent studies.

Buying a home in or near a walkable neighborhood served by public transportation, restaurants and shops is often a smart financial move in the metropolitan Chicago real estate market, according to RE/MAX Northern Illinois agents and a pair of recent studies.

It's little surprise, then, that more buyers today opt to live in higher-density neighborhoods dotted with entertainment, dining and transportation options. Such locations give buyers a chance to ditch their cars and get to know their neighborhood and neighbors on a more intimate basis.

And when it's time for buyers to sell, homes located in walkable neighborhoods served by public transportation tend to fetch both higher prices and generate more showings, RE/MAX Northern Illinois agents said.

Matthew Boemmel, a broker associate with Chicago's RE/MAX Exclusive Properties, not only sells homes in the Chicago neighborhoods of Lincoln Park and Lincoln Square -- known for their restaurants, shops and access to public transportation -- he lives in the area. So, he knows firsthand just how attractive the single-family homes and condominiums there are to buyers.

"Sometimes our car sits in the garage for a week," Boemmel said. "We don’t touch it. We can walk to the cleaners and the grocery store. It creates a tight community. There is a streetscape. You are running into people and seeing your neighbors. That has a positive impact on the neighborhood, and it attracts more buyers when it’s time to sell."

You don't have to rely on anecdotal evidence, though, for proof that buying in a walkable downtown area is a smart move. Two new studies provide statistical evidence.

RE/MAX Northern Illinois recently published a study saying that the median sales price of homes in 116 area communities with Metra train service jumped 5.6 percent in the first half of 2013 when compared to the same time period last year. The median price of such homes hit $170,000 during this period. In communities without Metra service, the median sales price of homes in the first half of the year rose only 2.3 percent to $148,000.

Then there's a new study by the Center for Neighborhood Technology and the National Association of Realtors® showing that housing sales prices were stronger in Chicago from 2006 through 2011 for homes that were located near public transportation. According to the study, The New Real Estate Mantra: Location Near Public Transportation, the average sales prices for homes located within walking distance of commuter rail and bus stations in Chicago were 30 percent higher than for the region in general.

The good news for buyers in Northern Illinois is that there are plenty of communities in the region – not just in Chicago itself – that offer walkable downtowns and excellent access to public transit.

Geneva, Ill., a Chicago suburb along the Fox River, is known for its downtown filled with restaurants, chocolate shops, antique stores and boutiques. It also has Metra service, with a station on the edge of its downtown shopping district.

“All things being equal, you will get more showings when you are selling a home in or near downtown,” said Chris Hansen, a broker associate with RE/MAX Excels of Geneva. “Having a nice house that you can walk from to downtown is definitely a selling point. For many people, that’s quite a lure. Being located an easy walk from downtown parks, shopping and the river can add a lot to the marketability of a home. Our downtown areas are nice. They’re visually appealing. What’s not to like?”

This isn’t to say that downtown homes are for everyone. Some buyers still prefer less crowded settings, and in rural areas, downtowns might be part of an older business district, while new business development pops up closer to the edge of town where ample land is available. Often, the homes located close to these newer business strips come with higher price tags than do the homes near a community’s older downtown.

At the same time, rural communities frequently lack the public transportation that draws so many buyers to downtowns in larger suburbs and cities.

Consider Byron, Ill., where Kitty Moring serves as managing broker and owner of RE/MAX Professional Advantage. The downtown business strip in Byron isn’t a large one – just a few blocks – and many new businesses are opening in business strips outside the downtown. As a result, home buyers needn’t live near downtown Byron to be close to services and shops.

This doesn’t mean homes downtown aren’t worth as much as homes in other areas of the community, but there isn’t the noticeable price jump associated with this downtown strip that can be documented for other more transit-oriented downtowns across the Chicago region.

“It’s a little different in a rural area such as ours,” Moring said. “People like to live all over our community. We like our downtown, but when you’re in a smaller town, living in or near a walkable community isn’t something that’s typically on the minds of buyers.”

In many communities, though, walkable downtowns translate to homes that are in greater demand. Boemmel says that he often sees his clients walking to farmers markets and restaurants in Chicago’s Lincoln Square neighborhood.

“They bought in the area so they could take advantage of the businesses and amenities on the weekends,” Boemmel said. “There are always people out and about in the community.”

Hansen reported that a growing number of home buyers are becoming aware of the financial benefits of buying in a walkable neighborhood. One buyer recently asked him what a Walk Score is. When Hansen explained that it’s a ranking of how easy it is for residents of a neighborhood to exist without their cars, the buyer was immediately interested.

“People are getting more tuned into walkable neighborhoods,” Hansen said. “They’re seeking them out.”

RE/MAX has been the leader in the northern Illinois real estate market since 1989. The RE/MAX Northern Illinois network, with headquarters in Elgin, Ill., consists of 2,000 sales associates and 100 individually owned and operated RE/MAX offices that provide a full range of residential and commercial brokerage services. Its http://www.illinoisproperty.com and http://www.remax.com websites are leaders in consumer visits among real estate franchise brands. The http://www.global.remax.com website allows consumers to search properties around the globe; http://www.theremaxcollection.com is a specialized portal of luxury properties across the U.S., and http://www.remaxcommercial.com displays commercial properties available nationwide and abroad. The northern Illinois network is part of RE/MAX LLC, a global real estate organization with 90,000+ sales associates in 90+ nations. The RE/MAX organization has been recognized for numerous industry honors for excellence, and its Associates continue to lead the industry in professional designations, experience and production. Nobody in the world sells more real estate than RE/MAX. RE/MAX is the official real estate partner of Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals and the national sponsor of Susan G. Komen for the Cure®.

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