October 2016 | By Melissa Dittmann Tracey
They may judge homes based on superficial elements when they should be going deeper than that. One real estate agent encourages buyers to look at factors of a property that impact their mental, physical, and emotional well-being.
Not to add more pressure to your buyers, but the home they choose can have a huge impact on their health and relationships, from higher rates of obesity and physical ailments to the direction of their marriage, a growing number of studies show. Where your home is located “presents a buffet of simple fitness and lifestyle choices, and most of them are made subconsciously,” says Matt Parker, a sales associate with Keller Williams Realty in Seattle who documents the extent of the home-health connection in his book Real Estate Smart: The New Home Buying Guide. “There are direct and indirect effects from the homes we live in. People tend to view their home as a material item that they purchase and decorate, but it actually becomes the hub of all other aspects of your life.”
Buyers tend to worry more about having the nicest finishes and upgrades in a home, but Parker makes the argument that there are other factors that should guide their home search. And you, as their real estate agent, are like their personal trainer, helping them to choose a home where they’ll thrive physically, mentally, and socially.
Parker urges agents to encourage buyers to slow down their decision-making process so they don’t purchase a home they’ll later regret. “They are making decisions so quickly on a home they’ll probably own for the next 10 years, yet too often, they really only take about two hours to make that decision in touring a property and talking with their agent.” Consider some of the latest research and how you can apply it to help guide your home buyers to their ideal healthy home.
Promote Green Views
People who live in homes that have tree-lined landscapes or commanding views of natural surroundings tend to have lower levels of stress, according to the study “Urban Street Trees: 22 Benefits” by researcher Dan Burden. Other studies have also linked green views to an improvement in concentration, air quality, and even life expectancy. Older people who live in green neighborhoods tend to live longer, and adults who live in the greenest urban areas are three times more likely to live a healthier lifestyle, according to research cited in Parker’s book.
What you can do: Have your clients carefully assess the views from the home’s windows, particularly in the kitchen, where people tend to spend most of their time. If there aren’t any green views there, make recommendations for how they can easily add some. For example, add outdoor bamboo or hanging plants or cover a visible fence with flowing vines. Also, encourage your clients to map the home’s location on Google Earth so they can view satellite images of its proximity to green space. Promote fitness or leisure activities nearby. Parker says when he lists a property, he includes photos of nearby parks, tennis courts, dog runs, or skate parks in the MLS.
Walkable neighborhoods have been linked to longer lifespans as well, according to a 2002 study in the Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health. The presence of a park within walking distance of your home can encourage physical activity, which leads to decreased health risks and a better night’s sleep. A 2007 smart-growth study in Atlanta found that 37 percent of residents in highly walkable neighborhoods met the U.S. Surgeon General’s recommendations of 30 minutes of daily moderate physical activity, compared with just 18 percent in the least walkable neighborhoods.
What you can do: Look at the walkability score of the property on websites such as WalkScore.com, which also includes average commute times by bike and car. Houses within walking distance to jobs, schools, shopping, parks, and other amenities may not just do a body good but help at resale, too. A high walkability score can help boost a price of a home by an average of $3,250, according to a 2016 Redfin study. If your listing has a high walkability score, promote it.
Talk Up Social Aspects of a Home
Open layouts, which have been popular in recent years, can have a mix of good and bad health effects. Studies have noted a greater connectedness among family members who live with fewer walls separating them, as well as greater control over the information their children are consuming, Parker says. But researchers at the University of Notre Dame and Cornell University also recently found that removing barriers between the kitchen and living room can encourage people to eat an average of 170 more calories per day than those with a closed floor plan.
Neighborhood trends can also influence social connections, Parker says. Studies suggest that people who live in neighborhoods where obesity is common increases their likelihood of gaining weight. And people who are happily married can help their neighbors model such a relationship, according to a 2013 study in Social Forces, a peer-reviewed academic journal.
What you can do: Encourage your home buyers to take a stroll around the neighborhood to gauge how comfortable they feel, Parker says. They’ll get a sense for who lives there and be able to answer the question: Do I want to be like them?
Go For a Test Drive
As commuting times increase, people often experience higher cholesterol, more chronic pain, and an increased likelihood of obesity. About one-third of commuters with a daily commute of at least 90 minutes experience chronic neck and back problems, and the number of miles logged may be the single biggest factor related to obesity, according to a 2006 study, “The Link Between Obesity and the Built Environment.”
What you can do: Have your clients outline a day in their prospective house. What time do they need to wake up to get to work? How will they feel after the commute? Where will they be running errands, and where will their kids go to school? Where will they take the dogs for a walk? “You can predict how you feel at different points of the day,” Parker says. “For example, if you now have a 90-minute commute, will you be in a bad mood the rest of the morning or when you get home, and how will that affect your relationships?”
“When you consider these things collectively, it can be like ‘wow,’” Parker says. “When you look at it this way, the countertops or the refrigerator brand really mean nothing. It’s the location and the views from your windows that could really have the biggest impact on your health and could be the most important for improving your relationships, too.”
“Copyright NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS®. Reprinted with permission”