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We love our cars and subway stops, too

Posted by Rona Fischman January 6, 2011 02:00 PM

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While I am on the topic of location, I want to mention location choices based on commute and travel distances.

One would think that the choice to be in or out of the city is the choice between daily mass transit use and walking versus daily car use. In dense cities, where parking is precious -- like Boston’s Back Bay, North End and parts of Brookline -- it is a major expense to keep a car. Other cities – with street parking—like Boston’s Jamaica Plain, Hyde Park, or Somerville and Cambridge, residents expect the best of both worlds. They want their cars, walkability, and mass transit, too.

My more urban buyers want to be a relatively short walk to the subway. Anything else is a compromise. Many of these buyers do not use the subway to commute to work. They drive. They also need parking for one to two cars. Many site resale concerns for their choice. Many are willing to pay more to live near the subway that they never use.

Buyers who move to the close-in suburbs, by and large own cars. This is true even if they use a bus to the subway or a commuter train to go to work. Cars seem necessary as soon as the dominant house type becomes single family. Places as close to the city as Arlington, Watertown, and Medford seem to be car-land.

My buyers in the suburbs pretty much all have a car or two. There, walkability and mass transit seem to still have a premium. I have conversations like this with my suburban buyers:

Buyer: “I want to live in [one of a list of suburban towns] but I want to be no more than a ten-minute walk to the town center and to the commuter rail stop.”

Me: “Which station do you commute to, South Station or North Station?”

Buyer: “Neither, I drive to work, but I want to be able to get into Boston without driving, if I have to.I want to be able to walk into town if I have to.”

This pattern has been consistent throughout the time that I have worked in real estate. People seem willing to pay more to be walking distance to town centers and to mass transit, yet these same people pay thousands to run a car, too.

Is it that buyers want it all? Is it really about resale? Is it a subconscious awareness that car-dependency is bound to get more expensive as time goes on? Are buyers anticipating that they can cut costs by dropping a car in the future?


This blog is not written or edited by Boston.com or the Boston Globe.
The author is solely responsible for the content.

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About boston real estate now
Scott Van Voorhis is a freelance writer who specializes in real estate and business issues.

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