How’s this for a cultural shift: most Americans would forgo square footage for a house near a Starbucks.
For generations of strivers a big house was one of the most important emblems of status, a four bedroom jacuzzi-tubbed signpost along the roadway to success. The Jeffersons were movin’ on up; the Clampetts got their Beverly Hills mansion with a ce-ment pond in back. Now, it seems, you’re a nobody if you can’t walk out the front door and get a latte.
According to the Community Preference Survey conducted by the National Association of Realtors, 77% of Americans say that walkability is an important factor in their housing decision, and they prefer nearby restaurants over schools, churches, parks, and movie theaters. 88% say that they would choose a smaller home in a neighborhood with nearby amenities over a larger home where they have to drive everywhere.
If you’ve ever lived in a highly walkable neighborhood, you already know what a beautiful thing it is. It gives you convenient access to the daily destinations of life. If you’re lucky, you can walk to school or work. If you’re even luckier, there are groceries, a decent bakery, and the all-important cup of coffee within walking distance.
A premium coffee vendor is no small thing to a neighborhood. It speaks to the area’s economic and cultural vitality; it signals that the neighborhood has arrived. A successful cafe can add to a neighborhood’s momentum, drawing in more businesses and raising property values, an upswing cycle that realtors and civic associations refer to as the ‘Starbucks Effect.’
You can learn the walkability rating of any home or business. Walk Score calculates a score from 0–100 for any address— 100 is a Walker’s Paradise and 0 is totally Car Dependent. The algorithm assigns points based on the nearby amenities, as well as factors like cul de sacs (not a walk-friendly feature) and block lengths (shorter is better). A car-free lifestyle becomes possible with a score upward of 80.
Check your Walk Score and see how it matches up against some of these well-known residences:
The Brady Bunch ranch house had a Walk Score of 74; very respectable for the San Fernando Valley.
Monica’s lower Manhattan apartment on Friends scores an unbeatable 100 points.