I work in San Francisco and live nearby, so I was particularly intrigued by a recent headline on a national news site about a protest there.

The story was about a "nude in" by some folks protesting what they considered to be a misguided campaign to make nudity illegal (San Francisco’s municipal code doesn’t prohibit public nudity).

The piece featured a short article, a longer-than-normal photo slide show of the protesters, and a slew of comments. I skimmed the article and scrolled straight to the comments, which I just knew would offer at least one major laugh.

I was amazed to see the comments focused instead on the price of gas in San Francisco that day, as revealed in one of the photos accompanying the story — $4.29 for a gallon of regular.

When I told this story to some relatives who live in a locale with a much lower cost-of-living, they got stuck on gas prices, too! "It’s beautiful, but so expensive to live there!" they clucked, shaking their heads.

I guess it’s a sign of the times. Even naked people are no longer a distraction from what’s really on Americans’ minds: their personal economics.  Here are three features I see post-recession home buyers focusing on in a way they didn’t before.

Access to alternative transportation

A high-earning professional I know who recently relocated for work told me she targeted neighborhoods for her new home by taking a cab to her office and walking 15 minutes in several different directions to narrow down areas within walking distance.

According to Walk Score, a company that’s developed an algorithm to calculate the "walkability" of cities, neighborhoods and properties, every additional point in a home’s Walk Score adds $500 to $3,000 to its value.

With gas prices expected to remain high, today’s buyers are voting for both walkability and access to public transportation with their wallets.

Sustainability of home values

Those intrepid souls who are in the market for homes right must be wary of the prospect of buying into a declining market. If prices are still falling, the home they purchase could soon be worth less than they paid for it. On the other hand, they may also be able to take advantage of bargain-basement home prices and record low interest rates.

Buyers — especially those who have the freedom to choose to shop in several different cities or even states — are taking a hard look at short- and long-term economic factors.

They want to know how many large employers and industries are in a place, and whether more are moving in or leaving town. What the area’s population growth, and what’s it projected to be over the coming decade? How hard hit was an area in the current recession? The harder the hit, the longer it may take for the local economy to stabilize. Buyers-to-be are subjecting all of these issues to more intense scrutiny.

Ability to "age in place"

Aging in place simply means to stay in your home as you grow older, sometimes with home health care if needed, rather than moving to an institution or assisted-living community. Aging in place can benefit individuals, families and communities, and has even been shown to increase longevity and be significantly less expensive than institutionalized care (assisted living can run anywhere from $34,000 to $70,000 a year).

However, not every home is well-suited to having a senior live there over the long term. Many Americans who plan to grow old in their own homes — or foresee the possibility that an aging parent might move in with them — are looking for homes with suitable features such as:

  • ground-floor master suites;
  • stairs and hallways wide enough to accommodate scooters, wheelchairs and lifts; and
  • level-in entries (meaning there are no stairs to get to the front door).

If you’re buying, and not already factoring these things in, consider whether and how they fit into your own priority list. And if you’re selling, these features might be worth touting in your home’s marketing; touch base with your agent to collaborate on highlighting these newly important features to prospective buyers.

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