Bicycle bells could soon sound like cha-chings for buyers and sellers living along the projected 15 miles of installed bike lanes connecting parts of Midtown to the Beltline and beyond. As Curbed Atlanta reported last month, paint and asphalt crews have been hard at work finishing new two-way lanes on the 10th Street corridor. The new dedicated biking lanes are only the first phase of a 26-item project list approved by the City of Atlanta, expanding bike infrastructure from Monroe Drive (at the Eastside Trail) and eventually running a more central route along Peachtree Street. But it's hard to hear the implications for homeowners and house-hunters — either positive or negative — over the public's overwhelmingly triumphant bells and whistles. When bike-friendly infrastructure breaks ground, how can we expect property values to respond?
As it turns out, experts say sellers and buyers would be wise to welcome bike lanes to the neighborhood.
REMAX Around Atlanta's Maura Neill, a realtor who has specialized in the Atlanta market for more than 12 years, believes new bike lanes serve as a serious selling point that extends beyond individual property owners and makes Atlanta an attractive urban dwelling post on the national scale.
"The new bike lanes are absolutely an attractive selling point, putting Atlanta in the limelight as a progressive city," she said. "There's a shortage of inventory in the Atlanta real estate market right now. The metro area was down 21 percent in inventory this time last year (2012), so when you add a citywide initiative like this, I think we're going to be seeing listings that would have been sitting for 60 to 90 days a few years ago, going under contract within 24 hours — easy."
When it comes to similar projects, the statistics in other cities are fascinating.
As reported by urban advocacy blog This Big City, Vancouver saw a similar effect in 2010 with 65 percent of realtors using new bikeways as a selling feature on a home. Pittsburgh, whose bike lanes were added in 2007, found that bike lanes not only influenced residential real estate activity, but ignited commercial and business activity as well. And, in North Carolina, realtors found that 40 homes adjacent to the Shepherd's Vineway Bikeway saw property increases of $5,000 and up.
As the blog also notes, research found that bike paths were placed a shocking third on a list of 39 features that homebuyers defined as crucial in buying homes in a new community.
Neill warns homeowners, however, not to get overzealous when it comes to putting out those "for sale" flyers.
"We don't want to see huge, overnight jumps in home prices, because that could inflate the problem of inventory and potentially scare away buyers," she said. "Sellers may see a slight jump in the qualitative increase in the value of their home, but at the end of the day, it comes down to the buyer's perceived value."
Anecdotally, home prices around Charles Allen and Monroe Drive have seen a healthy climb in the past decade. In July 2002, this home at 991 Taft Ave. NE sold for $480,000. Today, after substantial renovations, it could be yours — for close to $750,000.
Another home on 9th Street that went for $385,000 in 2001 recently sold this past spring for $725,000, an 88.3 percent change in 12 years. Public records also reveal a number of homes in the area that were listed for around $325,000 between 2010-2011. If all trends follow their expected upswing, those homes could stand to see a large boost in value within the same period of time.
Rebecca Serna, Atlanta Bicycle Coalition executive director (and recent expat to the Kirkwood neighborhood), says both avid cyclists and casual bikers are increasingly likely to pay upwards of $5,000 more for a home if it means more space — on the street, that is.
"When people realize the savings of not relying solely on a car, they're much more inclined to pay a little more now in exchange for saving a lot later," she said. "The old 'drive to qualify' [for a mortgage] paradigm is shifting as people forego the family car. Factors like time and money saved are much more valuable than the number of square feet."
Serna noted that the Atlanta Bicycle Coalition is currently conducting a study on the commercial business effects and economic benefits of local bike infrastructure, due to be released this fall.
"[We] were inspired by a study conducted in several large metropolises called 'Bicycling Means Business,'" she said. "The findings showed an interesting parallel to what we're seeing here — people on foot and on bike are not buying as much in quantity on each trip, but they're returning much more frequently."
Overall, Serna says bike lanes create not only profit, but an important sense of community, as alternative transit routes attract and retain graduates of the area's most prominent universities. And that's enough to make housing around bike lanes rich, both in terms of experience and equity.
Conclusion: New bike lanes are revitalizing a city long overdue for smarter alternative modes of transportation. But, to urbanists, there's also the question of how secondary effects — like frustrating traffic congestion along newly narrowed roads that accommodate bike lanes, or the relationship between pedestrian traffic and crime — might also affect those property values.
For now, Neill says sellers can look forward to a slight bump in property value, but perhaps more importantly, faster closing dates or offers that are closer to their initial asking price.
"Those looking to sell will certainly benefit from the qualitative selling points — greater mobility, access to popular city hubs, shorter commutes to work — but I wouldn't expect or encourage dramatically increasing the price of your home because of this," she said. "It's a great time to sell a home, search for a home and capitalize on all the buzz."
— By Curbed Atlanta contributor Amanda Serfozo
[Above: Cyclists photo credit: Frontdoor.com]