Real Estate

These shoes are made for walkin’: What Millennials want

Millennials prioritize neighborhood amenities that are within walking distance of their homes. photo: Leipnizkeks

Ihear this repeatedly from today’s Millennial buyers: “I want to be able to walk to things — stores, wine bars, restaurants, and coffee shops.” These sorts of neighborhoods have always been popular, but Millennials almost demand it. And that’s OK!

Millennials are people born between 1982 and 2004, and this particular buyer group is far more open in terms of where these “walk-to” neighborhoods might be found. Previous generations of buyers wanted to be close to Fillmore, Union, or Chestnut streets. Then it expanded to include Polk and 24th streets, as more interesting businesses moved into these neighborhoods. Buyers were always happy when they found that wonderful combination of a home they loved and close proximity to great places and fun things to do.

But Millennials are open-minded and, in fact, they are creating these new walk-to neighborhoods. “If you build it, they will come,” and just as true, if it is built and they come, a neighborhood will follow. Market Street, Hayes Valley, Inner Mission, Mission, Dog Patch, and even Hunter’s Point are now infilling with new housing developments. These bring in new, younger buyers, and this in turn revitalizes neighborhoods, as cool new eating places and shops open to accommodate these new residents.

Some of this occurred with the introduction of high-tech private bus routes. In the beginning, we would hear, “I want to be near a Google bus stop for work.” Consequently, these areas took off, attracting these new residents. A short time later, businesses flocked to these neighborhoods to provide residents with the dining, products, and the services they sought. Clearly, this has been a win-win for all. These areas have gotten a great shot in the real estate arm, and businesses are being created to meet needs.


This does not mean that the neighborhoods along Union, Chestnut, Fillmore, Polk, and 24th streets are no longer popular or in demand. They are. Indeed, the tech buses come to the north side of town, too, to pick up employees. It’s just that Millennials don’t limit themselves to only these areas. They see potential in other neighborhoods throughout San Francisco.

Another thing I’ve noticed is many Millennials do not even own a car. This is one of the reasons they want to live in walk-to neighborhoods. Having a private garage is not as high on their list of priorities as it has been with other buyers. New buyers think nothing of jumping on the private business bus for transportation to work, or calling Uber or Lyft to get to where they need to go. But most of all, and perhaps best of all, they simply prefer walking to driving.

So when checking out a property (or considering putting yours on the market), be sure to check the walkability score online at It’s easy to do, and I always include that score in my listing promotion. In fact, I make a list of fun things to walk to in the neighborhood to hand out at showings. People of all ages appreciate that, not just the Millennials.

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Stephanie Saunders Ahlberg has been a real estate agent for over 30 years and joined Hill & Co. in 1983, where she has consistently been among the top 10 salespeople. She can be reached at