Seattle real-estate agent Matt Warmack saw the writing on the wall the day he walked past a popular downtown condo. A sign proudly stated: Walk Score: 100.
He knew that this was just the beginning of a trend in the way urban properties are being successfully marketed.
“It’s something that promotes the efficiency of a community,” he says.
Walk Score (Walk Score.com) is an online tool that provides potential homebuyers and renters with an index measuring the “walkability” of neighborhoods. Its growing popularity means that when people buy a house, they’re no longer just looking for curb appeal. These days they want to know a lot more about the neighborhood and its amenities.
Since launching in July 2007, Walk Score has become a popular tool not only for homebuyers but also for agents who are trying to market properties in a down economy. Walk Score uses Google Maps and business listings to determine a location’s walkability, which is loosely defined as the ease with which a resident can access everything from parks to grocery stores to entertainment venues, such as movie theaters and night clubs.
Thus, a property that has a score of 90 to 100 – defined as a “Walkers' Paradise” – means that most errands can be accomplished on foot, and many people can get by without owning a car. A “Driving Only” score of 0 to 25 means that there are virtually no neighborhood destinations within walking range.
Some things are not factored in, such as street widths, block lengths, safety, topography, public transit, freeways and bodies of water.
Average weather conditions also are not factored in.
Walk Score co-creator Matt Lerner says the site receives an average of 100,000 visits per day. Increasingly, it’s a tool for real-estate agents, as well.
“We hope to see more listings that read 2 bedrooms, 1 bathroom, 1,200 square feet, Walk Score 90,” he says.
Walking is good for the health of neighborhoods and the planet because it is more environmentally friendly, Lerner adds.
It also is healthy for those who live in areas that have high Walk Scores. The Sightline Institute, a Northwest think tank, recently found that residents who live in urban areas where homes are mixed with stores and services and the street network is designed for walking are less likely to be obese; suffer substantially fewer chronic illnesses such as diabetes, lung disease, and hypertension; and have a lower risk of dying in a traffic accident because they drive less.
Walk Score reports that communities that have a high walkability index tend to:
• Revolve around a discernable center, whether it's a shopping district, a main street, or a public space.
• Feature neighborhoods dense enough for local businesses to flourish and for public transportation to be cost effective.
• Provide for everyone who works in the neighborhood: young and old, singles and families, rich and poor.
• Offer parks and public space to gather and play, along with wheelchair access
• Form a connected grid of streets that improves traffic by providing many routes to any destination.
• Place buildings close to the street to cater to foot traffic, with parking lots relegated to the back.
• Include schools and workplaces close enough that most residents can walk from their homes.
Warmack, who specializes in selling downtown condos, says he’s already seen Walk Score used as an emblem of local pride and lifestyle choices. He took the time to look up the Walk Score and later shared the score of 93 with everyone who reads his blog.
It also adds one more conversation piece to the mix, he notes.
Don’t be surprised if in the near future someone says to you “My Walk Score is 93. What’s yours?”
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