Park the car and put on the walking shoes. Homebuyers are ranking a home's walking distance to schools, stores, neighborhood parks, and more as high on the list of influences to buy a home. Buyers are interested in purchasing a house that allows them to get around without the car.
According to one study of 90,000 homes in the U.S., being able to walk to nearby amenities can increase the value of the home by as much as $3,000 and if there is "location efficiency"—a calculation that measures transportation costs—the number of foreclosures in a neighborhood is impacted. "For a lot of Americans, the whole problem of traffic congestion and having to drive everywhere to do almost anything has made other choices more attractive," Kaid Benfield, director of the Washington-based Natural Resources Defense Council's Smart Growth Program told the Wall Street Journal.
Other influences increasing the appeal of a home's walkabilty are two demographics: the baby boomers and the first-time homebuyers. Both of these groups don't want to be isolated. They want the convenience of having stores and restaurants close by. Also, unstable oil prices, make parking the car a well-liked idea.
Does this mean everyone is moving to the city? Not at all. The home doesn't have to be in the heart of downtown but if the home has walking-distance amenities, it's likely to attract more buyers. With that in mind, sellers should pay close attention to how their homes are being marketed. A website called Walk Score, (read my column, Can Walk Score Improve the Value of Your Home? ( Insulation Floors over Unheated Areas, Ventilation Systems Air Vapor Barriers (Vapor Retarders), Venting Roofs )) figures out the distance from any address to various amenities. However, it is a "as the crow flies" measure. In other words, it won't tell you how easy the terrain is, such as if there are hills or rivers that must be walked around because they're lacking a bridge. The website developers are looking into making some adjustments to account for these issues. The website does give buyers an idea of how close a home is to stores and restaurants but it doesn't provide information on safety, upkeep of the neighborhood, whether there are sidewalks or other street designs.
Sellers who want to emphasize their home's walkability can use the Walk Score site to calculate their home's rating. Then they can use neighborhood pictures to show the ease of access to amenities, the topography, and couple that with detailed information about the area to gain more interest from buyers. Topography is a vital influence in determining if people will actually walk in a particular neighborhood. If there are 4 lanes of traffic and lots of congestion, even though the distance is short to a store, many will opt to drive. Being specific in your marketing materials (especially online) about the proximity to desired locales, but also the ease of pedestrian access, may be a selling point that gets buyers to physically drop by your home for an in-person look rather than just perusing it via the Internet. So while many sellers are used to talking about good schools and low crime in their neighborhoods, it seems buyers now want more—they want a walk in the park that's going to take them to the corner market, the dry cleaners, restaurants, the pharmacy, and back home using an accessible pedestrian route.