And a neighbourhood’s ‘walkability’ to those amenities is becoming increasingly more important to potential homebuyers. REIN says the latest research shows that there is indeed an association between a neighbourhood’s Walk Score and the value people place on real estate in that neighbourhood. “The city of Calgary has seen inner-city neighbourhood real estate prices skyrocket in recent years as people become fed up with long commute times from outer suburbs,” said REIN research analyst Allyssa Epp. in a commentary. “Between 2000 and 2012, the 10 communities that saw the largest spikes in average home prices were in the city’s core and surrounding neighbourhoods. Of these 10 neighbourhoods, the average home price increased between 205-260 per cent – a result that the Calgary Real Estate Board says is directly linked to proximity to more amenities and an increase in alternate transportation options.”
However, overall Calgary was recently ranked the least walkable in a top 10 list of Canada’s biggest cities. The results were calculated by Walk Score, an American company that “measures how easy it is to live a car-lite lifestyle.” Vancouver placed first with a score of 78 out of 100 while Calgary scored 48.
“The automobile should no longer be the only form of transportation that should be on an investor’s radar. If accessibility is one of the key determinants of real estate demand for a region, why not take it one step further and look into the impacts of an area’s walkability on property prices?,” said Epp, adding the Walk Score results for Calgary show there is a need for improvement as the demand trend in this area is definitely increasing. Former CREB president Sano Stante, a realtor with RE/MAX Real Estate Central, identifies ‘gentrification’ as a trend in the local housing market this year. “Gentrification is the new normal: Mature, inner-city communities and those with plenty of walkable amenities are blushing with all the attention they’re getting. Buyers are not shy about knocking down modest homes on good lots or renovating homes that have the bones and adequate floor plate,” he writes on his website.
Richard Cho, senior market analyst in Calgary for Canada Mortgage and Housing Corp., said it can be a real bonus for people to live only a few steps away from various amenities and services. “A lot of prospective buyers can really appreciate not having to get into their cars, managing through traffic and finding parking, to get to their favourite places,” he said “Homes in areas where services and amenities are a close enough walk definitely appeal to buyers, with many willing to pay a premium.” Epp said younger generations are or can be increasingly disinterested in automobiles as a form of transportation. “Up until the mid 1990s, suburban homes only accessible by car were a sign of social status, costing more per square foot than any other type of housing. Today, some of Canada’s most valuable real estate can be found in urban locations with high Walk Score rankings,” said Epp.
Vancouver and Toronto top the rankings.
Rollin Stanley, the City of Calgary’s new general manager of planning, development and assessment, said in an interview with the Herald in January that one of the good things about Calgary is we’re a young city and also have a very young population. “One of the great things Calgary has done is getting transportation further out,” he said. “That’s something that not a lot of cities have done very well at all. We’re going to be able to build on that as we grow along these corridors that are under-utilized. “We’re going to see changing dynamics in how we think about these properties and how we can grow the population base closer in. I think that’s one of the big challenges.”
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