Walkability Score a High Priority for More Home Buyers

According to Realtors, more and more prospective home buyers are making neighborhood walkability a priority in their search for a residence.

Along with bedrooms, bathrooms, and square footage, the "walkability" of a home's neighborhood is a hot topic among many house hunters. Real estate agents say the walkability factor has become more prominent for a variety of reasons, including increased gas prices, concern for the environment, even the convenience of having a choice to take a leisurely stroll for a gallon of milk instead of succumbing to the stress of fighting traffic and hunting for a parking spot.

Now a new free online tool called Walk Score rates a neighborhood's walkability and helps prospective home buyers determine what listings at which they should look. Simply type in a home's address on the website, and Walk Score will calculate its distance to amenities such as grocery stores, libraries, public transit, and restaurants. The website offers a score from 0 to 100, with the lowest being the most "Car Dependent" while the highest are considered to be a  "Walker's Paradise."

In June, Jacobs-Spaulding and Dana Cudo bought a 2-bedroom home in the Minneapolis Armatage neighborhood that scored a 55. It offered nearly everything they wanted, all within an easily-walked mile.

It's good news for some sellers who are trying to unload homes. A recent study by CEOs for Cities showed that homes in walking-friendly neighborhoods sell at higher prices. In 2009, the non-profit group compiled data from 94,000 real estate transactions in 15 U.S. markets (not including the Twin Cities). For every one-point increase in a community's Walk Score, the home values went up by as much as $3,000.

Some communities are at a disadvantage in regards to walkability. Homes within walking distance of desired amenities are hard to find in the suburbs, many of which are considered to be "car dependent". But some Twin Cities builders are trying to change that with new suburban developments placed nearer to city centers and lined with sidewalks that encourage walking.

Though Walk Score is a valuable tool, it does have its limitations. The Walk Score is an approximation, as it measures only the distance from a home address to a business or service - it doesn't include such factors as in topography, street design and sidewalks. Before using Walk Score as a factor in a home buying decision, put in the legwork to ensure that the area is walkable to your ability. Information about the area may have changed without being updated.

Walk Score, started in 2007, currently is the most popular online tool used to determine a home's walkability.

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