By Elaine Quigley, Realtor, CBR, CRS, GRI, Prudential Prime Properties
Maybe it's the high gasoline prices, the tremendous amount of heavy traffic and long commutes to the office that are fueling the growing interest in urban dwelling. Or, perhaps, it's just kind of cool to go green and be able to walk to most of the establishments that you once had to drive to for groceries, dining, gym workouts, retail shopping, and socializing.
Whatever the reason, urban living is in. In fact, it's becoming so much in demand that companies are specializing in creating urban developments that maximize big living in small spaces and using small lots.
Good design and high efficiency are key for these developments or homes. Urban areas are expanding with work-live spaces and attracting people who want minimal home tasks to care for and maximum entertainment options.
Globally it's quite impressive too. By 2010, according to the Global Health Observatory, more than half of the world's population lived in urban areas. In 1990 that figure was less than 40 percent. It's expected that six out of every 10 people will live in a city by 2030. An increasing technology and service industry and shrinking agriculture-based economy are part of what's causing the urban-living shift.
In the United States, the urban movement is also being driven in part by young families seeking the urban lifestyle. The twenty- and thirty-somethings want neighborhoods that have been revitalized, are safer, and offer more things for young professionals to do.
Some experts say the younger generations are settling for urban living because the acres of green grassy fields and open space that once existed in rural areas just aren’t affordable for most young buyers; that is, if they were even still an option. Many suburbs are shrinking too or becoming extinct.
Large yards and long commutes aren’t necessarily preferred by this group of younger generation buyers. Simplicity is. However, these buyers still aren’t convinced that a row house or apartment is most suitable. But the desire to live in a city is causing them to learn more about the ideal configuration.
Families are finding that sometimes being in a walkable neighborhood with good mass transit means a smaller, compact, and multi-story living space. This means the kids might be on one floor while the parents’ office is on another level. So while there isn’t the attached garage and driveway or big backyard, there's still space and privacy.
This generation is helping to improve inner-city neighborhoods and they’re even making some suburban areas more urban by encouraging the development of retail and other amenities in the area.
Many of those moving into the urban core areas of a city are hoping they can cut expenses by doing things like getting rid of a car and walking, bicycling, or taking mass transit to work. It's an effort to help offset the high mortgages that typically are part of urban living. Not all developing urban areas are high-priced but purchasing a home in an urban core area that's still undergoing many changes may mean waiting months or years before it's really an “urban lifestyle” with plenty of restaurants, jobs, and stores in walking distance.
Urban living has its perks and its challenges. Crime is typically higher and often the better schools are found in more suburban areas. But numerous cities’ downtown areas across the U.S. are being revitalized in hopes of attracting new residents. It seems the urban core is, indeed, the “in” thing in real estate.
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