Lose the car?

A few years ago I read a great book, “Suburban Nation:  The Rise of Sprawl and the Decline of the American Dream.”   Sounds depressing, doesn’t it?  But it’s not, it’s about the New Urbanism movement (not so new anymore, this book was published in 2001).  I bought ten copies and passed them out to some of our real estate agents and a few builders.

There are a variety of discussions, but one of the authors’ theses is that given intelligent urban redevelopment, much of what was historically attractive about our towns and cities can be recreated.  Things like having walkable neighborhoods, with front porches and amenities that you can get to without driving a car.  The book goes on to talk about moving into the city, getting rid of your rig, and evaluates the savings of having no car — between insurance, gas, maintenance, and depreciation, even a modest car can cost $6,000/year.  If you don’t have to spend that money, you can perhaps afford to move closer into the city — $500/month = $83,000 in mortgage amount (at 6%) — so you can trade your $300,000 Marysville rambler for a $380,000 townhome, saving not only the environment (by not driving), but also 10 hours a week of commute time.   If you need a car, get take one by walking block to Flexcar.

Our sister company, Real Property Development Company LLC, builds these project.  We have townhomes that are built or being built in five Seattle neighborhoods:  Crown Hill (Ballard); Lake City; Queen Anne; the University District; and Fremont.  And it’s one thing to just talk about walkable neighborhoods and “close to everything!”  It’s another to actually rate it.  A website I found today actually helps you to quantify the “close to everything” factor:  WalkScore.com.  It basically does a proximity search for neighborhood amenities, then rates the home from “worst to best” on a scale from 1 to 100.

Here’s the scores for a few of our current listings:

2830 NW 56th St. — $399,950 — Newly converted Condo in the heart of Ballard    Walkscore Score:   92 out of 100 
4814 38th Ave NE — $729,000 — Brick Tudor close to UW in Bryant  Walkscore Score:  82/100
12316 33rd Ave NE — $365,000 — New Zero Lotline Townhome in Lake City  Walkscore Score:  74/100
2500 Dexter Ave N — $799,950 — 1950′ Condo, Big View, Queen Anne  Walkscore Score:  58/100
2211 NE 175th St.  — $428,950 — Shoreline Renovated Rambler  Walkscore Score:  52/100
5601 1st Ave NE — $349,950 — Great contemporary home in Everett  Walkscore Score:  28/100

Maybe someday Zillow can bake this into its Zestimate?  For now, buyers that want to be “in-city” can use this as an easy tool to see how “walkable” their target property really is.

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