How to sell bikeability: the unexpected benefit for buyers

by Chip Bell


Urban buyers today would have hated the 1950s.

In the Urban Land Institute’s “America in 2015” report, a survey of U.S. residents found that approximately half considered “walkability” a top or high priority when determining where to live. But in many ways “walkability” is a misnomer, because research increasingly shows that what buyers really want is bikeability.

The U.S. Census reports that bicycling has become the “fastest-growing” form of transportation among commuters, ULI confirmed. From 2000 to 2014, during which the shift from sprawl to walkability really took hold, the number of people biking to work increased by more than 60 percent.

In a separate report published by ULI – “Active Transportation and Real Estate” – the institute challenged itself with a question: who is biking and why? As evidenced by the bike-friendly developments that now freckle most American cities, the answer is “all kinds of people…for all kinds of reasons.”

The report reads: “Communities big and small are now investing in bicycle and pedestrian infrastructure.”

Trends in biking are helping to reshape developments and the cities in which they reside, bringing all sorts of recordable benefits. The American Journal of Preventative Medicine found that people like in walkable neighborhoods have a 35 percent lower risk of obesity. In a report from the European Cyclists Foundation, researchers determined that if European Union citizens were to adopt the levels of cycling common in Denmark’s population (600 miles per person annually) 26 percent of the 2050 greenhouse gas targets set for transportation would be achieved through bicycle use alone.

The real selling point

But abstract benefits such as health and climate change are not always the strongest selling points for buyers, which is why when it comes to showing off a property in a bike-friendly neighborhood, agents should focus on property values.

According to ULI, investment in bikeability helps boost real estate values by injection “order and predictability” to areas that are otherwise becoming congested from growing populations and motor vehicle use. And the numbers support the assertion.

In 2009, CEOs for Cities, a think tank for developing ideas to boost economic success in U.S. cities, determined that “homes located in areas with above-average walkability or bikeability are worth up to $34,000 more than similar houses in areas with average walkability levels.”

ULI pointed to several examples to add credence to CEOs for Cities findings:

Dallas, Texas. Since the opening of the 3.5-mile (5.6 km) Katy Trail in the Uptown neighborhood of Dallas in 2006, property values have climbed nearly 80 percent, to $3.4 billion, according to Uptown’s business improvement district.

Radnor, Pennsylvania. A 2011 study by the GreenSpace Alliance and the Delaware Valley Regional Planning Commission found that properties within a quarter-mile (0.4 km) of the Radnor Trail in Radnor Township, Pennsylvania, were valued on average $69,139 higher than other area properties further away. Real estate listings in Radnor frequently mention trail access in their advertisements.

Minneapolis, Minnesota. A University of Minnesota study found that, in the Minneapolis/St. Paul area, for every 1,312 feet (400 m) closer a median-priced home is to an off-street bicycle facility, its value increases by $510.

A driving force for urbanization in Atlanta

The trend has already caught on in Atlanta, where the city’s Ponce City Market, a 2.1 million-square-foot mixed-use redevelopment project opened in phases between 2013 and 2015, has already helped encourage $2.4 billion in private development and reinforced the selling power of bikeability.

Ponce was built with a trove of bike-oriented amenities that include: bicycle storage, a bicycle valet service, a bike workroom, extra-wide hallways to accommodate bikes, elevators that accommodate bikes and showers for bicycle commuters. And the reason is that it directly links to Atlanta’s BeltLine, a transit and trail loop around the city.

“The Atlanta BeltLine is a driving force in the urbanization of Atlanta,” said Jamestown Companies, the project’s developer. “Ponce City Market’s direct connection to the BeltLine is one of the best amenities we have to offer our community.”

In 2013, as Ponce was just beginning construction, RE/MAX Realty in Atlanta touted the attractiveness of the BeltLine’s bikeability to homebuyers, reporting that prior to the trail, homes along the corridor had typically sold in 60 to 90 days. After the BeltLine’s installation, those same homes were selling within 24 hours.

A call to real estate professionals

“These trends are reshaping destinations across the globe, and have the potential to benefit people of all income brackets, since biking provides mobility for those needing or wanting a less expensive alternative to automobile ownership, maintenance, and use,” ULI’s active transportation report read.

The institute hopes to specifically empower real estate professionals in facilitating the development of more bike-friendly communities (while also appealing to their business sides), including in its report:

Through supporting bike infrastructure, real estate professionals who influence the built environment can play a significant role in creating healthier, more sustainable communities. They can also help position their projects and communities in a marketplace that increasingly values active transportation.

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