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May 10th, 2013

Walkable neighborhoods offer great benefits and high home values

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We’ve been talking a lot lately about the different factors that contribute to a home holding its value over time. A home near good schools and one that’s close to public transportation are two such factors. But also, homes with “walkable” streets are another important factor for many of today’s buyers.

Below is a post by Krissy Schwab, first appearing on our partner site the Zing blog at Quicken Loans:

Fran Images--SoldI really love the area I live in. It’s quiet and a close drive to pretty much everything I need. But I long for the days when I lived in Ypsilanti because I could pretty much walk everywhere. If I felt like meeting up with some friends and grabbing a beer, I just walked a few doors over. I woke up at 8:45 a.m. to get to class at 9 a.m. My favorite part though, was never having to deal with traffic jams or parking on campus. I rarely, if ever, used my car.

In many ways, living in a walkable part of town was incredibly convenient. These areas aren’t just for college students though. Walkable neighborhoods have tons of benefits for home buyers.

What Is Walkability?

Walkability is a score that takes your city or address and evaluates its proximity to restaurants, parks, libraries, shopping centers, grocery stores, schools, public transit and a host of other amenities. The closer you are to them the higher the score.

Scores are broken down into five separate categories:

  • 0–24 means you must own a car to run errands.
  • 25­–49 means there are a handful of places near you, but you still require a car.
  • 50­–69 means your area is fairly walkable, but you still need a car.
  • 70­–89 means you can walk to most a majority of places.
  • 90–100 means you do not need a car at all.

You can find out the walkability of your future or current home at Walk Score. They also offer scores for public transit and biking.

Benefits of Living in Walkable Areas

Purchasing a home in a walkable area does cost you a bit more money, but it’s definitely worth the extra investment. From your own health to the environment, experts agree that living in a walkable area has great benefits.

Resale value

A recent study by CEOs for Cities called “Walk the Walk” notes, “Houses with the above-average levels of walkability command a premium of about $4,000 to $34,000 over houses with just average levels of walkability in the typical metropolitan areas studied.” This may bump up the initial buying price, but the resale value of living in a walkable neighborhood works to your advantage when you decide to sell.

Health benefits

Walkable communities are often more active areas and can keep you and your family healthier. A University of Utah study notes, “A man of average height and weight (6 feet, 200 pounds) weighed 10 pounds less if he lived in a walkable neighborhood versus a less walkable neighborhood. A woman of average size (about 5-foot-5, 149 pounds), weighed six pounds less.”

Positive economic impact

Walkable communities also draw in local businesses and investors. Local Government Commission uses Lodi, California, as the poster child for economic growth in walkable communities. They spent more than $4 million dollars reworking their downtown area to make it more pedestrian friendly. This, along with development incentives, drew 60 new businesses to the area, dropped the vacancy rates from 18% to 6% and increased downtown sales tax revenues by a third.

Spend less money on your car

If you aren’t driving as much, naturally you’ll probably be spending less money on gas for your car. Since you aren’t also racking up the miles, it’ll also help your car last longer and lower your maintenance costs. Depending on how much you drive, that could be hundreds of dollars back in your pocket. Who knows, you may not need a car all together.

Lower pollution levels

Since foot traffic doesn’t generate mass amounts of carbon dioxide, walkable communities have a positive impact on the environment. Less traffic congestion means reductions in air, water and noise pollution. Most of these areas are also riddled with trees, which also offer tons of great benefits.

Despite the increase in purchase price, buying a home in a walkable community has several benefits and may increase the resale value of your home. Mike Mathieu, founder of Walk Score, says, “’Walking the Walk’ shows definitely what we’ve always believed – walkable neighborhoods continue to be a good investment, and are one of the simplest and most effective solutions to fight climate change, improve health and strengthen our communities.”

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About the HSH Blog

HSH.com's daily blog focuses on the latest developments in the mortgage and housing markets. Our mission is to relate how changes in mortgage rates and housing policy, as well as the latest financial news, impacts consumers, homebuyers and industry insiders alike. Our 30-plus years of experience in the mortgage industry gives us an edge as we break down the latest changes in an ever-changing market.

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Tim Manni

Tim Manni is the Managing Editor of HSH.com and the author of their daily blog, which concentrates on the latest developments in the mortgage and housing markets.

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