Forget Martha Stewart. Here’s how we play house and keep the furry ones who live there happy, too
What do DINKs look for when we buy a home? It’s not the same list of “must haves” held by couples with kids, obviously; but it’s interesting to consider where our lists differ, and where they match. DINKs are fast becoming a powerful demographic in this county, with a buying power not to be ignored. And that means the real estate industry hasn’t ignored us; in fact, in some aspects of that segment of the American economy, we’re calling the shots.
Real estate, in the halcyon days before the economy’s crash in 2007 contributed almost 9% of the nation’s GDP. In 2011, that number fell below 5%. In trying to repair the industry, professionals are studying each market anew. And DINKs-- with our dual incomes and fewer expenses than families with kids-- make for excellent candidates for homeownership. Interestingly, our desires have real power not only to shape the real estate industry, but also to shape city planning and construction. In other words, DINKs are shaping the future.
Where We Match Parents
Before we delve into distinctly DINK desires, let’s look at how our demands parallel those of families with children. As prospective homebuyers, we DINKS compete with parents if we have pets, particularly dogs. According to a nationwide survey conducted by the American Pet Products Association, almost 62% of households-- 71 million homes-- included a pet in 2009 and 2010.That number was down in 2012, per USA Today reports, but still shows a striking love of pets as family members, especially dogs: “Most American pet owners have dogs: about 70 million of them in 36.5% of U.S. homes.”
DINKs have an even higher percentage of pet ownership, and, logically they spend more money on their pets than families with kids. Part of that spending goes into the homes they choose. As pointed out in ZipRealty’s ZipCode blog“When it comes to buying a house then, DINKs will look for pet friendly factors. In the case of dog owners who treat their dogs as children, their needs are remarkably similar to those of parents of young children.” Think about it: if you have a dog, you want a yard, just like parents want for their children. You want to live on a decently quiet street so your pet doesn’t get hit by a car. You want to be close to parks for dog walks. All those desirables attract parents as well.
Walkability: DINKs Kick the Suburbs to the Curb
But DINKs differ from parent homebuyers too, in very interesting and important ways. First off, we DINKs are an active lot. We don’t love cars as much as our parents and grandparents did, at least in terms of our desire to use them daily (and this could be partially because we don’t have to haul kids and their myriad accessories all over town). As a consumer force in real estate, DINK buyers most often want to be able to walk to as many essential services as possible. Alex Clark, a Realtor® in San Francisco confirms: “DINKs are definitely different than San Francisco families with kids looking to purchase. Walkability is important, as is access to recreation. Parking is less and less of a priority, hence the importance of walkability or the increasingly more popular “bike-ability.” Indeed, walkability and bike-ability have become musts with many DINK homebuyers.
This demand has real force on the industry. The George Washington University School of Business reports that walkable neighborhoods have now exceeded suburban ones in terms of demand. Their study found that for each 6% improvement in a neighborhood’s walkability score, rent prices for office and retail space increase 7%, apartment rents increase 6%, and home sale prices go up $133/ft2.
In stark contrast: suburban sprawl, which we DINKs don’t much care for. The performance (in local real estate markets) of suburban property in this country during the recent recession shows that as U.S. home values declined from 2008- 2011, areas located far from urban hubs have lost value most dramatically. Areas close-in, however, have either held their value or increased it. The Brookings Institute, in an economic analysis of “walkable” neighborhoods, explains: “This distinction in housing proximity is particularly important since it appears that the United States may be at the beginning of a structural real estate market shift….. a preference for mixed-use, compact, amenity-rich, transit-accessible neighborhoods or walkable places."
DINKs as Real Estate Consumers…and Problem Solvers
As a buyer in Portand,OR, I found walkable neighborhoods competitive to buy in. My husband and I actually opted for a smaller place with higher walkability than a larger place with less of it. We weren’t alone in that priority; we had to compete with several like-minded buyers. But most of those we encountered were also DINKs. A smaller home like the one we ended up buying would likely make for too cramped a situation for a family with kids. Again, the implications have reverberating power: smaller homes require less material to build and utilities to maintain. Plus, if buyers demand smaller homes, closer in to services, new construction will respond. Instead of hillsides dotted with McMansions, realistically sized homes clustered around a viable urban nucleus.
If we choose and create close-in, self-sustaining communities with little to no need for commuting, we help address several ecological, economical, and health related concerns facing the country. In other words, this trend basically puts DINKs at the forefront of real estate revolution.
Anna Marie Erwert is a Portland, OR based writer and teacher. A dedicated DINK, she thrives on dance, dogs, art, communing with nature, and witty repartee. Read her work in the SFGate’s On the Block and Culture Blog, CurbedSF, San Francisco’s The Front Steps and ZipRealty’s ZipCode blog. Follow Anna on Twitter: AnnaMarieErwert
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