Is Your Investment Walkable?

Traffic gridlock is one of the growing problems of modern life – so too are the stresses and delays which come with it. No wonder many people are getting wise to the advantages of leaving the car at home. How does this phenomenon have an impact on the property market?
One study of 15 American property markets posed this question and found that houses with above average levels of ‘walkability’ sell and rent for more than those with below average levels.
Suburbs and streets were given a ‘Walk Score’ by a report launched in the US in 2007. It has since also been introduced in Australia and New Zealand.
The Walk Score Index is freely available online and uses Google Maps to compute the distance between residential addresses and nearby destinations such as supermarkets, cafes, cinemas, parks, medical services, retail stores, schools, libraries, gyms and hardware stores.
Walk Score measures how easy it is to have what the report calls a car-light lifestyle. Neighborhoods with a good Walk Score sell and rent for more – and more quickly.
In Australia, cities were recently ranked according to walkability with Sydney achieving the highest score, then Melbourne, Adelaide, Brisbane, Perth and Newcastle. In New Zealand, the top two cities for walkability were Christchurch and Dunedin followed by Wellington and Auckland then Napier, Tauranga and Hamilton.
While the online Walk Score index is sometimes used by people looking for places to stay when they travel, the primary use is by renters and buyers. Selling agents are even beginning to incorporate this score into their advertising. It is much quicker and more accurate to give a suburb a Walk Score of e.g. 86 than it is to say ‘handy to shops, schools and transport’.
The relevance for investors is, of course, that if tenants are interested in a property’s Walk Score, then a property’s ‘walkability’ should be one of an investors’ first considerations when buying a property as this will translate into dollars when it comes time to sign a lease – and again upon re-selling. Furthermore they have the added satisfaction that they are investing in a property that is contributing to a more sustainable future-friendly lifestyle.

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