Haus Schwatz: Cati's DC Real Estate


Back To The Future -- How The Gas Prizes Will Change Our Towns And Could Make Our Lives Better

The lives of realtors in metropolitan areas are at a turning point.  And I'm NOT talking about a slowing market here.  What I'm talking about are our clients' criteria, needs and desires.  More and more buyers are weary of the suburbs now, at least the ones that aren't really "close-in."  Read on and you'll see what I mean.

A hundred years ago, a "suburb" was a green place to live that could be reached in 15 minutes on a streetcar.  Today, make that 1 hour and 15 minutes, and forget about the streetcars -- you're more likely to spend that time in a traffic jam or on a six lane highway.

If that frustation wasn't enough to reverse a trend, the $4+ a gallon might.  Anecdotally, we've already seen that many of our buyers rather go for the smaller, older and less handsome home if it puts them closer to where they want to be: work, shopping, and their social life.

The Washington Post picked this up in a remarkable cover story today (click on the headline):

Gas Prices Apply Brakes To Suburban Migration


Washington, DC, of course has consistently starred as one of the worst rush hour failures in multi-city studies across the US.  But it's also full of smart policy makers.  The heated commentaries and debate in the online version of the article attest to the fact that it was right on the money.

As realtors, we will be effected by new trends in housing choices more than anybody else.  I'd love to hear what my colleagues from other parts of the country think.  

© 2012, Catarina Bannier


Comment balloon 12 commentsCatarina Bannier • August 05 2008 12:43PM


I am seeing people move closer in and settle for a lesser house too.  Its so spread out in MN if you can believe it.  Suburbs go forever.

Posted by Chuck Carstensen, Minnesota Real Estate Expert (RE/MAX Results) almost 12 years ago

Hi Chuck, interesting to hear we're not the only ones!  Not sure what we're going to do with all those suburbs if this turns out to be a lasting trend, though...

Posted by Catarina Bannier, DC Real Estate The Smart And Fun Way (Compass) almost 12 years ago

It is the same in Texas. Most of my clients want to be close in and that means a smaller house, with a smaller yard and 15-30 minutes to downtown. The suburbs are 3-60 minutes to downtown with big sprawling homes with every amenity on a teeny tiny lot. There are still some who will buy this, but I won't be one of them.


Posted by Betina Foreman, Realtor, C.N.E., with WJK REALTY (WJK Realty) almost 12 years ago

We are going to see more live, work, play communities in our area in the future.  The whole idea that someone has to be sitting in an office in DC to get their job done is ridiculas. 

Posted by Pat Fenn (Marketing Specialist for CJ Realty Group/Cindy Jones Broker ) almost 12 years ago

Bettina -- that's amazing (up here we always think of Texans as people who like everything big cars, hair, houses...must be the media, LOL).  No, but seriously, i'm almost pleased to hear that people have noticed that a large home doesn't necessarily make for a better life.

Pat -- yes, and from VA it's even worse than from the MD suburbs.  It always amazes me what many people have put up with for so long with those bridges.  I don't go to VA too often but recently had to go a bunch of times within a couple of weeks, and it seemed that the traffic to get across the river was a little easier than it used to be.  I was seriously wondering if that had to do with gasoline and new choices that people were making.

Posted by Catarina Bannier, DC Real Estate The Smart And Fun Way (Compass) almost 12 years ago

I think it will become more of a trend in the future, because not only is it annoying to spend so much time on the road, it is also bad for the environment and wastes our precious resources. In Chicagoland, they've said on the news that traffic has gotten better since the gas prices went up, so it is definitely having an effect on people who are choosing to ride the Metra or carpool.

Posted by Kelly Sibilsky (Licensed Through Referral Connection, LTD.) almost 12 years ago

we drive every where here in Greater phoenix, scottsdale, -- amazing how the slowest areas in terms of real estate sales are the furthest from metro phoenix

Posted by James Wexler ( almost 12 years ago

Kelly, I really hope you're right, and I also hope that the trend will be realized by the government and local representatives so that more can be spent on smart public transport solutions.  It's kind of ironic for me to say that, since you pretty much have no choice as a realtor (unless you specialize in only one and the same condo complex). 

Funny, I have also been thinking that the traffic has eased up a little here, but thought maybe it's the summer.  We'll see.

James, thanks for stopping by.  This just proves that--even though you drive everywhere--Arizona is no different.  People are just sick of the long commutes.  But again, I wonder what's going to happen to those remote areas...

Posted by Catarina Bannier, DC Real Estate The Smart And Fun Way (Compass) almost 12 years ago

Cati, I have been working with people moving here from other areas, and nobody wants to be far out.  And forget Metro.  They want to be near the bicycle routes that lead downtown.  And they are my age!!!!!  And an inspiration!

Posted by Patricia Kennedy, Home in the Capital (Redfin) almost 12 years ago

Pat, did you see the cover of the Style section last Sunday, all about how Washingtonians discover the bike as a--how revolutionary--means of transportation, rather than just as exercise equipment?  The picture showed this woman on heels and in a skirt (and NO helmet!) on her comfortable old-fashioned bike.  That's how she gets to her office, and apparantly the sales of old lady-type bicycles are going up!  I have one, big padded leather seat and all,  and when I bought it at The Bicycle Place a few years ago, they gave me the weirdest look.  I had to order it from a catalog they pulled out from under the counter.  I just wanted to have fun and get around--who would have thought I started a trend ;-)

Posted by Catarina Bannier, DC Real Estate The Smart And Fun Way (Compass) almost 12 years ago

Here it is (the bicycle article): . As someone who grew up biking through a certain European capital (and with a mother who held the firm opinion that it is always preferable to walk 4 flights of stairs rather than waiting for some elevator), this really excited me...

Posted by Catarina Bannier, DC Real Estate The Smart And Fun Way (Compass) almost 12 years ago
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