COVID-19 makes car-dependent neighborhoods more popular: study

·Reporter
·2 min read

Car sales are booming during the coronavirus pandemic — and suburban neighborhoods where driveways are more common than buses — are booming, too.

More than ever before, Americans are buying homes in neighborhoods where most errands, like going to the grocery store, require a car, according to a new study by Seattle-based listing site Redfin, which compared home sales with neighborhoods’ walk score. Redfin defines a neighborhood as “walkable” if some or most errands can be accomplished on foot, while “car dependent” means most errands require a car.

“When everything is closed — offices, shops, restaurants — walkability doesn’t carry a premium anymore,” said Daryl Fairweather, chief economist at Redfin, referring to coronavirus lockdowns across the nation.

Modern suburban houses.
Car-dependent homes have become pricier, according to new data by Redfin. Credit: Getty Images

In the biggest annual increase since Redfin started tracking the data in 2014, car-dependent neighborhoods had a 14.9% increase in home prices in October compared to the same time last year, reaching a median price of $345,000.

Meanwhile, fewer homeowners in car-dependent neighborhoods sold their homes during the pandemic, with supply down almost 40% in October compared to the same time last year. In walkable areas, inventory was down only 10% compared to the same time last year, Redfin found.

“It makes sense that car-dependent neighborhoods would see stronger price growth right now since people are leaving dense urban areas for suburban car-dependent neighborhoods,” said Fairweather, who noted that “prices in walkable neighborhoods are still doing quite well.” Prices for homes in walkable neighborhoods, which were more expensive than car-dependent homes before the pandemic, recorded an 11.3% increase to $383,000.

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Car-dependent areas tend to be more affordable and offer larger square footage and yards, making them more attractive to Americans sheltering-in-place during the pandemic. Coupled with data on U.S. car sales during the pandemic — new car and truck sales rose 30% in the second quarter, according to car-selling platform Edmunds — suggests that Americans are building their lives around social distance-friendly transportation.

“People are avoiding public transportation and walking around in public. It’s more nerve wracking. They are turning to cars more now, and they want to have nice garages [for the cars],” said Fairweather.

Sarah Paynter is a reporter at Yahoo Finance.

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