A few years ago, during headier times in the real estate market, we were all checking Zillow every 15 minutes to find out how much our housing values had increased. But in a sign of our strapped times, with gas prices skyrocketing and global warming a looming concern, another website is set to become a national obsession: Walkscore.
The idea is this: we’re all fat, cash-strapped, and concerned about rising sea levels, bat fungus, and the disappearance of the bees. In times like these, we have learned to look beyond whether a house has central air-conditioning or a heated garage. Now we’re thinking about environmental sustainability, minimizing our gas usage, and reducing our expanding waistlines. Nothing makes a house more sustainable than being located in a walkable neighborhood where you can park the car and use your feet. (Hey, you can also dump that expensive gym membership, too!)
If you go to Walk Score and type in your address, you come up with a score for your home’s “walkability,” along with a street map of nearby businesses. Scores run from 0 to 100, with 90 to 100 being a walker’s paradise, where it’s possible to live without a car. On the other end of the scale is 0 to 25, meaning driving only. (My Brighton condo came in at 82, by the way, which means it’s possible to get by without a car — which I do.) A neighborhood is considered walkable if it’s got a discernible center with a shopping center, is fairly dense, and if schools and workplaces are close enough that most people can walk from their homes. Naturally, once I heard about this little toy, I spent my whole weekend rating the “walkscores” of all my friends. (My folks’ Las Vegas home had a pitiful score of 23.)
Will this site (debuting last summer) take off as a new real estate tool? Hmmm.. not so sure about that. I think most people have a really good idea of a neighborhood’s walkability when they begin a housing search. For example, I wouldn’t even THINK of living in the suburbs, and didn’t look at any houses there, even though I could have bought three times the amount of space. I realized several years back that I could live more happily without a car and have organized my life accordingly. Others, meanwhile, are choosing neighborhoods based on school districts or proximity to I-495, and are organizing their lives accordingly. In the long run, however, maybe this site will help raise awareness among the suburban set about the high costs of living in a place where you are completely car-dependent. (Housing prices are dropping most precipitously, by the way, in these sorts of places.) Maybe it will encourage developers to build mixed-use developments that don’t force people into cars.
But whether this comes to pass or not, at least worrying about your home’s walk score is a whole lot healthier than worrying about your home’s property value!
29 Bigelow Street, #2, $359,000
BEDS: 2/BATHS: 1
SQ FT: 1000
WALK SCORE: 66 (Some walkable locations)
147 Kelton Street, #510, $330,000
BEDS: 2/BATHS: 2
SQ FT: 1000
WALK SCORE: 82 (Very Walkable)
2 Priscilla Road, #1, $374,000
BEDS: 2/BATHS: 1.5
SQ FT: 1144
WALK SCORE: 77 (Very Walkable)
46 Broadlawn,#B, $499,900
BEDS: 3/BATHS: 2.5
SQ FT: 1730
WALK SCORE: 23 (Driving Only)