How do people decide where to live?

Is it schools, walkability, transit, or cost?

Conventional real estate wisdom says home buyers pop up along with the daffodils every March. And, despite reports of a market slowdown, this year’s looking no different.

Wouldn’t it be interesting to know why people choose to live where they do?

PSRC thinks so. In our regional travel surveys, we ask participants—renters and owners—why they picked the place they live (since where you live has a major impact on where you travel).

We wanted to know how school quality, affordability, walkability, and transit affected decision-making for households in various income categories. We used our most recent data, 2017.

Not surprisingly, one factor struck a chord with folks at every income level: Affordability.

The findings closely match what we saw in our previous survey in 2014. Maybe that's because not every household moved during the last survey period. And, of course, affordability was important then, too.

But it’s worth noting (as if anybody could forget) that housing prices climbed significantly between 2014 and 2017.

Other reasons for choosing a home varied much more widely across income levels.

School quality, for example. Households earning $100K or more were a lot more likely to rank school quality as “very important” compared to those in lower income brackets. The simple explanation may be that survey participants in the highest bracket were more likely to have kids than those in the other brackets.

On the other hand, there's walkability. The less wealthy the household, the more value they placed on walkable neighborhoods and being near local activities. That might be because the lower-income households in our survey tended to be smaller in size, younger, and less likely to own cars.

Not unexpectedly, we had similar findings for transit. If you don’t have a car, then buses and trains matter a whole lot more for getting around.

You can read the full story here.

PSRC conducts regional travel surveys every other year. Read more about this travel survey story and others.

We’re revving up for our 2019 travel survey, so stayed tuned.