Quantifying the value of walking
Tags: ashley park, carbon, carbon emissions, ceos for cities, charlotte north carolina, cortright, home values, homes, Housing, neighborhood, walkable neighborhoods, walking, walking distance, wilmore
CEOs for Cities just released a study showing that homes located close to shops, schools, churches, offices, libraries, parks, and restaurants are worth more than similar homes in less-walkable neighborhoods.
The report, “Walking the Walk: How Walkability Raises Housing Values in U.S. Cities” by Joseph Cortright, analyzed data from 94,000 real estate transactions in 15 major markets. Cortright found that in 13 of the 15 markets, higher levels of walkability, as measured by Walk Score, correlated to higher home values.
Walk Score uses a formula to calculate how well a neighborhood is connected to local shops, offices, and recreational areas, with 0 being car-dependent and 100 being a “Walkers’ Paradise.” Generally speaking, 70 and above means that a neighborhood is quite walkable, so most people could probably live without a car. 50–69 means that the neighborhood is somewhat walkable. In other words, some shops and amenities are within walking distance, but many locations still require a bike, public transportation, or car. 25 and below generally means that most daily activities have to be done by car!
Cortright found that in typical metropolitan areas, if a property could increase its Walk Score by one-point it would see a correlated increase in the property’s value ranging from $700 to $3,000, depending on the market. Denser urban areas like Chicago and San Francisco, for example, tend to see property increases that are larger than less dense markets like Tucson and Fresno.
Here’s an example of the effect of walkability on housing values from my hometown, Charlotte, North Carolina. Cortright compared two neighborhoods. One, Ashley Park, has an average Walk Score of 54, and the median home price is $280,000. The other neighborhood, Wilmore, has an above average Walk Score of 71. Despite the fact that Ashley Park and Wilmore have the same average income and that a home in Ashley Park could have the same amount of square footage, bedrooms, and bathrooms while being the same age and distance from the central business district, the home in Wilmore would be worth about $34,000 or 12 percent more. To say it another way, if you were to pick up the $280,000 house in Ashley Park and place it in Wilmore, it could be worth $314,000!
So, not only is your quality of life impacted by how walkable your neighborhood is, your home’s value is too! Another interesting way to look at the correlation between home values and Walk Score is to use Zillow.com. Zillow is a free online real estate site where you can search for homes for sale, find home prices, see home values, view recently sold homes, and check mortgage rates. Each house listing has a Walk Score. Here are listings for homes in Wilmore and in Ashley Park on Zillow.
If you still aren’t convinced about the benefits of a walkable neighborhood, check out this report from the Transportation Research Board titled ”Driving and the Built Environment: The Effects of Compact Development on Motorized Travel, Energy Use, and CO Emissions.” Though long, the paper essentially says that creating compact, walkable neighborhoods can encourage people to drive less, which is crucial for reducing carbon emissions. Considering that the United States expects to double its current housing stock of 105 million units by 2050, it is important to think about how those homes will be constructed and whether new neighborhoods will be car-dependent. The Transportation Research Board report suggests that if 75 percent of this new construction is more compact, emissions can be reduced by 10 percent or more just because people are driving less. Of course, emissions could be reduced further by using renewable electricity generation, more fuel efficient cars, and greener homes. Thus, walkable neighborhoods can help reduce carbon emissions, too!