What Makes a Community Walkable?

There are several factors homebuyers look at when considering where to plant roots. Cost is obviously a big one, as are factors like home and lot size. But buyers are increasingly seeking out neighborhoods that lend to walkability, and you may want to do the same.

— What Makes a Neighborhood Walkable?

— What Are the Benefits of a Walkable Community?

— Will You Pay More to Live in a Walkable Community?

— Where Can You Find Walkable Neighborhoods?

— How Can You Tell if a Neighborhood Is Walkable?

— What Are Some of the Most Walkable U.S. Cities?

— Are Buyers Focusing on Walkable Communities?

— Should You Buy a Home in a Walkable Neighborhood?

[Read: How to Buy a House.]

What Makes a Neighborhood Walkable?

At its core, walkability refers to the option to get places on foot, as opposed to having to drive. Taylor Marr, deputy chief economist at Redfin, says he defines a walkable neighborhood as one within close proximity to amenities, from parks to schools to restaurants and stores.

But that’s not the only way to measure walkability. Marr says that infrastructure plays a role, too. Specifically, he says, walkable neighborhoods have sidewalks residents can use, as opposed to being forced to walk along the side of a road.

Natalie Tsay, senior PR specialist at Niche, a platform that aims to connect students and families with colleges and schools, agrees with this assessment. “In an extremely walkable place, residents should be able to get wherever they need to go by walking or biking,” she says.

What Are the Benefits of a Walkable Community?

One major perk of living in a walkable area is the convenience. If you have stores and eateries just a few blocks away, you can access those amenities more easily.

There’s also the potential to reap savings by moving to a walkable neighborhood. “Residents can save a lot of money by not owning a car, or not having to use it often,” says Tsay.

Living someplace walkable can also lend to better health. Frequent walking could improve your physical fitness level and potentially help stave off medical problems.

Tsay also points to the social aspects of walkable neighborhoods as being a benefit. “Though it’s harder to quantify … there’s a level of camaraderie and true community in a walkable town that can be hard to find elsewhere,” she says.

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Will You Pay More to Live in a Walkable Community?

Millennial homebuyers in particular tend to prioritize walkable living, says Marr. As such, he explains, there’s been an increased demand for these communities over the past decade or two.

Not shockingly, “prices have become expensive for walkable living,” says Marr. As such, especially in the wake of the pandemic, buyers have begun prioritizing space and affordability over walkability to a greater degree.

This doesn’t mean they’re abandoning the idea of being able to walk everywhere from their doorsteps. They’re seeking out suburban areas that are walkable rather than major metro areas where the population tends to be denser.

Where Can You Find Walkable Neighborhoods?

It’s easy to associate walkability with city living. But that doesn’t mean you won’t find a walkable community outside of a city center where the bulk of homes for sale are apartment-sized or smaller.

“Some states are relaxing zoning laws to allow for other types of housing that can create walkable neighborhoods,” says Marr. He’s seen an increase in suburban neighborhoods with a high Walk Score, a metric Redfin uses to measure walkability based on factors that include proximity to amenities and the types of roads walkers have access to.

Tsay agrees that walkability is expanding to the suburbs. “Areas with higher population density tend to be the most walkable, so those who consider walkability a top priority will find the best options in cities,” she says. “But that doesn’t mean you can’t find a walkable community a little further out. Plenty of suburbs have good Walkability Grades on Niche.”

How Can You Tell if a Neighborhood Is Walkable?

Much of the time, you can determine if a neighborhood is walkable by simply scoping it out. See how close homes are located to shops and restaurants, and do some walking around yourself to see if most of the neighborhood has sidewalk access with safe crossings. And if you can’t scope out in person a neighborhood that you’re thinking of moving to, sites like Redfin and Niche assign scores to different areas that can help you get a handle on walkability.

Redfin’s Walk Score, for example, will spit back a number from 0 to 100 based on the address you input (and it works for cities, suburbs and rural areas alike). A score of 0 to 24 indicates that a neighborhood is extremely car-dependent, whereas a score of 70 to 89 indicates that a neighborhood is very walkable. And a score of 90 to 100 is deemed a walker’s paradise.

Niche’s Walkability Grade, meanwhile, is based on similar factors. These include the percentage of residents who primarily walk to work, access to stores and eateries, and area safety.

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What Are Some of the Most Walkable U.S. Cities?

According to Redfin data from 2020 (the most recent data along these lines), the 10 most walkable cities in the U.S. are:

— New York

— San Francisco

— Boston

— Philadelphia

— Miami

— Chicago

— Washington, D.C.

— Seattle

— Oakland

— Long Beach

Clearly, these cities largely have one thing in common — they’re major ones. But Marr insists there are plenty of walkable communities in smaller cities.

Are Buyers Focusing on Walkable Communities?

Some real estate professionals have noticed an uptick in buyers who are seeking out homes in walkable areas. Ian Langsam, a licensed South Florida Realtor at Coldwell Banker and National Association of Realtors member, says buyers are increasingly coming in with a walk score in hand in the course of seeking out homes.

“(Walkability is) something more and more buyers are considering as gas prices rise,” he says. “But I also have buyers who work from home and appreciate being within walking distance of cafes, restaurants and shops. Traditional offices are often near these establishments. So when your home is your office you’d like the same access.”

Alex Capozzolo, co-founder of Brotherly Love Real Estate in Philadelphia, concurs. “Homebuyers are showing more interest in walkable communities,” he says. “Homebuyers are now more focused on healthy living, mental well-being and comfort. All these factors come under the wider spectrum of the walkability concept.”

This increased interest in walkability is something sellers are in a prime position to capitalize on. Capozzolo says the real estate agents he works with make a point to emphasize walkability in their listings.

Should You Buy a Home in a Walkable Neighborhood?

If being able to walk almost everywhere is important to you, then you may want to prioritize walkability over other factors when pursuing a home purchase. Financially, though, a home in a walkable neighborhood could end up being a great investment.

Redfin has found that homes within walking distance of schools, stores, parks and other common amenities sell for an average of 23.5%, or $77,668, more than comparable properties that are car-dependent . That, along with the health and community benefits, makes the case to focus on walkability when buying a home.

That said, if a larger amount of living space is important to you, then you may want to move to an area that’s more car-dependent. As Marr says, “It doesn’t make sense to build a cluster of restaurants in a rural area with acre-sized homes.” If that’s the setup you want, then you can generally expect your options for finding a walkable neighborhood to be limited.

[READ: How to Decide Where to Live.]

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What Makes a Community Walkable? originally appeared on usnews.com

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