October 26th, 2009
Walk-ability and Property Values
I checked out my house on www.walkscore.com
Walk Score helps people find walkable places to live. Walk Score calculates
the walkability of an address by locating nearby stores, restaurants,
schools, parks, etc. Walk Score measures how easy it is to live a car-lite
lifestyle-not how pretty the area is for walking. In Googles ongoing effort
to take over the world, Walkscore is a tool to evaluate how "walkable" a
particular property is on a score of 1-100. And Google is trying to get real
estate websites to integrate WalkScore.
For my Maple Grove home I scored a "38". My friends house just off Lake
Cahloun Parkway near Uptown Minneapolis also scored "38".
That looked a little odd that we would score the same. Until I started
looking at the data. A pharmacy they claim is only .81 miles from house is a
45 minute walk. Then I figured it out-they assume I can walk across
Interstate 94! They neglected the to add the 2 miles to pick up the bridge
over the freeway. The local grocery they cited has been a fitness studio for
a while now. And the Pizza Hut they say is .39 miles? I have no clue where
that came from.
What Walkscore ignored is the beautiful trail that is in my backyard that
leads directly to 3 parks, a major office park and a preschool. And it
didn't take into account that Maple Grove Transit stops a 5 minutes walk
from my house, which should influence the "car dependent" label it gave me
with the 38 score.
The Urban Land Institute economist Joe Cartwright from Ceos For Ciities
presented a studying showing how walkability increases property values. The
study was done of 15 US cities, with Chicago being the only colder climate.
13 of the 15 cities demonstrated more walkable areas had higher property
values after accounting for a number of other factors. The only city that
had a negative relationship between walkability and property values was Las
The study was based on a huge data pool: all of the home sales in each of
the 15 cities in a 12 month period. The average suburban score is 42. The
study claims in increase of value ranging from $700 to $3,000 (depending on
the city) for each point increse in Walkscore.
How valid is the study when the data is so poor? Or if the data is
consistantly bad all over does that make it OK when you have enough of it?
His overall conclusion though, I do agree with:
For those communities where walkability is highly valued (like San
Fransisco) the higher the walkability the higher the impact of walkability
on property values.
The speaker said his next project is to evaluate the impact of transit
accessiblity on property values. Last week I took Maple Grove Transit for
the first time, as I was downtown all day. It was awesome, and I wish the
buses ran more frequently and during the evenings. Enroute to I-94 it goes
down a couple residential collector streets and picks up/drops off people
right at their house! (Just try that with suburban light rail!) It made me
wonder about property values on these higher traffic roads which I presumed
had lower property values due to the traffic. But if the residents take the
bus to work everyday, is the property actually worth a premium to them?
I won't hold my breath about this economists study fleshing this out if he
is again relying on Google Maps.