Whether you believe it’s a resurgence of health-consciousness among homebuyers of all income levels, a return to a more “continental lifestyle” that values sidewalk cafes and leisurely strolls along grande metropolitan avenues, or a post-pandemic appreciation of fresh air and freedom from restrictions, there is no doubt that Americans today increasingly embrace neighborhood walkability as a popular trend, particularly when making decisions about luxury real estate purchases.
Some European capitals never gave up the tradition; cities like Amsterdam now favor the bicycle over motorized vehicles, and residents of cities throughout the Mediterranean region prize their city squares and plazas for their people-friendly ambience. Others are creating new pedestrian-only zones to reclaim their former “small-town” feel.
WALKABILITY SCORES INFLUENCE HOME VALUE
While many suburban communities still require long commutes to places of employment, newer development places a priority on neighborhood amenities that offer the chance for homeowners to enjoy parks and natural areas close to their homes. The desire for additional walkability has been growing in recent decades, and today’s buyers, it seems, are more than willing to pay for the privilege of having their favorite destinations close at hand.
A survey of “flagship” developments in some unlikely places illustrates this new trend. From Boca Raton in Florida, to a community in the heart of West Hollywood, California, today’s buyers appear ready to park their vehicles and don their walking shoes — for shopping, dining out and recreation, maybe even for commuting to work.
A June 21, 2022 Forbes article mentions Bloom on Forty Fifth, a 92-unit upscale condominium development in historical Hell’s Kitchen, New York, that is as close to offices as it is to luxury shopping and running paths. A luxury Manhattan rental development puts residents in close proximity to notable eateries and entertainment, and these are not isolated examples.
UNDERSTANDING WALKABILITY SCORES
While many planned communities have designated walking paths, sports courts, pools, golf courses, playgrounds, picnic areas, and dog parks for resident enjoyment, and downtown high-rises provide abundant features that focus on comfort and convenience, luxury real estate professionals have not often listed walkability scores as a desirable amenity. Times, however, are changing. Savvy buyers today are willing to pay for the privilege of having their favorite destinations close at hand!
Walkscore.com, a site that rates nearly every zip code in the United States based on specific walkability guidelines, began to rate neighborhoods in 2007. Research confirms that a single point difference in walkability score can represent a value difference of $3,250.
Walkability scores — ranging from 0 to 100 — are broken down in the following ways:
- Car-Dependent: Typically suburbs far from a city core, or rural areas. Even simple errands are likely to require a vehicle.
- Mostly Car-Dependent: This category includes homes and apartments on the fringes of a metropolitan area. Residents in this category may be able to walk to public transportation stops or to walk or ride a bike to a park or other leisure-time activity, but are not generally able to walk to school, to work, or to shop.
- Moderately Walkable: Access to recreational facilities in this category may be feasible via bicycle or by walking, especially in higher price categories, but the distances required to walk to shops, businesses, or restaurants may make them accessible only to highly-motivated, fit residents.
- Mostly Walkable: Homes within this scoring range are almost always located within a mile of most facilities, including grocery and other retail stores, conveniences such as laundry or dry cleaners, repair shops, eateries, neighborhood entertainment, parks and recreational facilities, gas stations and repair shops, walk-in clinics, and the like.
- No Car Necessary: Markets, restaurants and bars, a variety of shops, doctors, dentists, office buildings and recreational opportunities such as parks and movie theaters, libraries, museums, and galleries, will be located within a reasonable and easily-accessible perimeter. This score typically applies to select neighborhoods in large cities and to smaller towns throughout the country.
Walkscore.com scores can be supplemented by the National Walkability Index (NWI), created by the EPA to highlight the proximity of borderline areas to “very walkable” zones.
Today’s buyers, it seems, are willing to pay for the privilege of having favorite destinations close at hand. Whether walkable destinations include schools, shops, restaurants, parks, golf courses and recreational venues, or offices, museums, theaters, and galleries, is an individual choice, but it is apparent that today’s buyers are willing to pay a premium for higher walkability scores.
It’s something to consider — for a wide variety of reasons, and planned communities in both cities and suburbs are likely to include walking and jogging trails, landscaped gardens and play areas, fishing ponds and putting greens to improve walkability scores.