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Smart Growth in Real Estate

The other new trend these days in real estate is ‘smart growth’, which means building sort of self-containing communities rather than sprawling suburbs. If you live in the suburbs you might have to drive all the way to town to get a coffee or buy milk, but in these smart growth communities you'll have stores nearby as well as parks and bike trails - well, that's ideal, but you get the idea.

Smart growth developments aren't cults or Amish enclaves. They're still suburban communities but just include parks, shopping areas, and business centers, so you don’t have to travel too far to get what you need or to go to work. And, they're usually built near highways or direct routes to business centers. So you still feel like you're living in the relative quiet of the suburbs but still close to work areas.

A few reasons why smart growth is growing in popularity in the real estate industry:

  • Americans are getting older, and they want to get around without a car
  • Fewer households have as many children and don't require as much space
  • Younger generation wants to live near parks, waterfronts, cafes, shopping, public transit systems, and people
  • Desire walkable neighborhoods
  • Sustainable communities (local food sources)
  • Shorter commutes to work

To me, this seems like a wise trend but has its detriments. People don’t want to feel claustrophobic and cut off from the world. They do want to feel safe and have easy access to stores, restaurants, and recreational areas, but there needs to be a fairly easy way to get to the main center of town.

It's one thing to save time and money by living in a 'smart growth' community, but nobody wants to live in a community that's cut off from the rest of the city. The exodus from the suburbs is happening because millennials want to be closer to the action downtown.

Exampe: The Legacy Development

Take this new development in the Boise area. It’s a new development along the lines of ‘smart growth’ - which are really specialty real estate projects. The Legacy Development in Eagle, Idaho, just outside Boise is one example that's currently in the works. This is a new 700-acre sub-division in Eagle, which will have 1,500 homes, but what makes it unique is it will include golf, tennis, soccer and swimming facilities all within in walking distance.

It's not uncommon for these 'smart growth' communities to have a celebrity type name attached to them. The Legacy has three soccer players backing the community: Brandi Chastain, Julie Foudy and Mia Hamm all lent their star power to the community as they're backing the Legacy soccer academy associated with the development.

And it's not just soccer that has the star power backing in the Legacy Development, there's the Jack Nicklaus golf academy, Mark Splitz swim academy, Jim Courier tennis academy, and the Brad Duke speed school. The average price of a home in this development is not outrageous either, coming in at $200,000. This is good price, especially for the Eagle area, which can range from $300K to $600K. Eagle is a more affluent suburb of Boise with a number of sprawling McMansions as well.

Exampe: The Cliffs

Then there’s Gary Player’s real estate venture, called The Cliffs, with a Tiger Woods built golf course and wellness center as part of the community. The Cliffs at Mountain Park in Travelers Rest, South Carolina is another of those specialty real estate communities that lures in a unique residents - in this case I'd say a more wealthy and perhaps retiring age resident. The lots have a broad range of price points, from $300K to the million dollar range.

These smart growth type of developments are targeted to a very specific market, overall, most of potential home buyers or renters are affected by the rise in gas prices and their sense of the environment in general – whether that’s their carbon foot print or the health of their children. Smart growth communities try to help people save money, take to heart their health and the health of their children, and offer a beautiful home for residents to live in - can't go wrong with that intention.

Increasingly, and even though it’s always been about location, location, location, one of the key factors today could be the proximity to public transportation, freeways, and business centers (where people work). Sure, there are more and more people working remotely, especially in the computer industry, where all you need is an Internet connection, but the face-to-face meeting and daily interactions are still part of the business landscape. We’re not in some science fiction movie or space age world just yet.

Extra: You have to factor in the possibility of more extreme weather in areas where your properties are located. Why buy properties in an area where the local government isn't protecting the residence from the possibilities of a storm?

Of course, for all your properties you must have the appropriate insurance in place. Whether that's earthquake and fire coverage in and near California, flooding in the Midwest, or hurricanes in the southeastern part of the United States. The world is changing, global warming is something that's real and should be taken into account.

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