A mother and toddler walk down a path in the suburbs.

Buyers will pay a premium for walkable communities 

Younger generations are especially motivated by walkability, even if it means paying more, giving up yard space or living in a multifamily dwelling.

July 5, 2023
4 minutes

Key points:

  • NAR’s 2023 National Community Transportation Preferences Survey found that more people overall are prioritizing walkability.
  • The vast majority of Gen Z and millennial buyers are willing to pay more for a home in a walkable community.
  • Residents of walkable communities report having a better quality of life.

Forgot the big yards and long commutes. Today's buyers want to walk, not drive, to places in their neighborhoods, and that's especially true for Gen Z and millennial homebuyers.

And they're willing to pay more for that privilege, according to NAR's 2023 National Community Transportation Preferences Survey of adults across America's 50 largest metropolitan areas.

Younger buyers most likely to pay a premium for walkability

The vast majority of younger buyers value walkability, with 85% of millennials and 92% of Gen Zers surveyed saying they would pay more to live near parks, shops and restaurants compared to the national average of 78%. About one-third of both groups said they would pay "a lot" more.

Overall, more respondents in this latest survey were willing to pay a premium for walkability compared to previous surveys conducted in 2020 and 2017.

Big yards not as big of a deal

Prospective buyers were also more likely to give up yard space if that meant they could walk to places in their neighborhood, with 56% of respondents opting for a small yard in a walkable area vs. 44% who preferred a large yard but would have to drive to the places they need to go.

Having school-aged kids did not dissuade millennials from forgoing a large yard: 56% of millennials with kids in school would choose for a small yard in a walkable neighborhood, while the numbers were swapped for Gen Xers with kids in school. Fifty-seven percent of respondents in that generation would prefer a large yard even if it meant driving more.

Townhouses, apartments gain appeal

The desire for a walkable neighborhood led a small majority of total respondents to indicate they would choose a townhouse or apartment near local amenities and their place of work over a single-family detached home that was farther away — a reversal from the 2020 survey, which found that more buyers would opt for a detached home.

This preference was most distinct for younger buyers: 69% of Gen Zers and 55% of millennials would opt for a multifamily dwelling that was closer to shops and allowed for a shorter commute. Gen Xers, baby boomers and the silent generation were more evenly split, with a slight preference for a single-family detached home.

Walkability associated with a better quality of life

The survey found that living in a walkable community was correlated with having a higher quality of life, as 48% of respondents in such neighborhoods said they were "very" satisfied with their quality of life compared to about one-quarter of people in less walkable areas.

When choosing where to live, respondents said a safe community was the most important factor, with walkability coming in second — and they want local governments to make it easier for developers to build walkable communities, with 49% indicating it should be a "high priority" or "extremely high priority."

Public transit a priority, but road maintenance is top infrastructure concern

When it comes to transportation, 75% of respondents said that road maintenance and repair is a high priority, with 38% labeling it as an "extremely high priority." Support levels were starkly divided between generations, as 91% of the silent/greatest generation said highway maintenance is a high priority compared to 65% of Gen Z respondents.

The generations were less split in their attitudes toward public transit. Nearly half of all respondents said they support expanding public transportation options, which represents a 5% increase since July 2020. Gen Z showed the most enthusiasm, with 57% saying public transit was a high or extremely high priority. Gen X was more lukewarm, with 41% indicating it should be a high priority. Overall support lags below 2015 levels, when 53% of total respondents supported the idea.

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