All posts in “Real Estate Matters”

Now Serving Over 20 Million Scores Per Day

That’s almost 14,000 Walk Score, Transit Score and Bike Score ratings being shown to home and apartment shoppers every minute! Wow.

Every day we hear from renters, home shoppers, property managers, realtors and real estate developers about the growing importance of walkability, short commutes, bike-ability and access to public transit. As such, it’s no surprise to see a growing body of research highlighting walkable neighborhoods as economic engines, talent magnets and valuable real estate investments. And we expect this trend to continue. Four in five millennials say they want to live in places where they have a variety of options to get to jobs, school or daily needs; and three in four say they’ll likely choose to live where they do not need a car to get around.

We’re honored to see the real estate industry continue to embrace Walk Score as the leading measure of neighborhood walkability. For example, earlier this year, Walk Score was added to NAR’s Green MLS Toolkit. And, as a RETS compliant data point, Walk Score is now easier than ever for MLS to add to their systems.

Laura Stukel

“The RESO Data Dictionary evolves in response to home buyer demand. Walk Score is a great addition to the Dictionary because home shoppers are increasingly looking for walkable places to live. Walk Score makes it easy to quickly evaluate whether a house is located near food, shopping, parks, schools and other neighborhood amenities. And since homes save so much energy from location efficiency, Walk Score is a natural choice to include. Data fields like Walk Score also appear in the Green MLS Toolkit, increasing standardization and making it easier for local MLS to add,” said Laura Stukel, REALTOR L.W. Reedy Real Estate and manager of Elevate Energy’s Value for High Performance Homes Campaign.

Transit Score Market Coverage

Transit Score is Now Available for Over 350 Cities

I’m also pleased to share that Patent No.: US 8,738,422 B2 “Systems, Techniques, and Methods For Providing Location Assessments” (aka Walk Score) issued earlier this year. Congratulations to Walk Score founders Matt Lerner, Jesse Kocher and Mike Mathieu. This is great recognition for their industry leadership and insight into the importance of measuring the walkability of every address, neighborhood, zip code and city.

Here’s to helping more people find walkable places to live!

What Makes a Great Apartment Search?

Think back to the last time you moved.  You might have thought, “I want a better commute and I want to live near the people and places I love.”

Whether you’re a so-called millennial (born after 1980) who likes using your smartphone more than driving a car — or whether you’re an aging baby boomer who wants to drive less — more and more people are looking for what we call “walkability.”

Our goal is to help people find walkable places to live.  So we were thrilled to find out Walk Score was named one of the 5 best apartment search tools by Lifehacker and our newly updated iPhone app was named one of 4 essential iPhone apps by Wired Magazine.

Here are some tips and tricks to find your Walker’s Paradise:

Compare Commutes

Favorite any address on Walk Score to compare commute times to the places you travel frequently.

Compare Commutes

Search By Commute Time

You can search for apartments by commute time driving, on public transit, biking, or walking with our Android app and iPhone app or on our website.

Compare Floor Plans

Our new Floor Plan viewer lets you quickly browse floor plans and prices for any listing.

Floor Plan Viewer

Get Your Score Card

And last but not least, whenever you’re looking for a place to live make sure to check your score card.

Score Card

 

Let us know what you think makes a great apartment search!

 

New Ranking of Best U.S. Cities for Public Transit

Today we’re announcing a new ranking of the best cities in the United States for public transit.

We’ve calculated the Transit Score for 316 cities and almost 7,000 neighborhoods to help home shoppers and apartment hunters find places to live with better commutes and more transportation choices.

Where Can You Live Car-Free?

Here are the best U.S. cities for public transportation.

Rank City Transit Score
1 New York 81
2 San Francisco 80
3 Boston 75
4 Washington D.C. 70
5 Philadelphia 67

New Public Transit Ranking by Region

How does your city compare to other cities in your region?  See the full list of cities.

Regional Transit Score Ranking

The older Northeast cities with established subway systems have the highest scores.  West Coast cities that have made more recent investments in light rail also score well.  Although cities in the south have a low average Transit Score of 38, there are many neighborhoods with high scores such as Downtown Houston or the Brickell Neighborhood in Miami.

Living Near Public Transit

There’s growing evidence that buying a house or renting an apartment near public transit is a smart idea.

  • First, it’s likely a better investment.  The National Association of Realtors found that home values performed 42% better when they were located near public transit1.  In Boston, a recent study showed that home prices near public transit outperformed the region by 129%2.
  • Living near public transit saves you money. The average American spends $9,859 per year on their car3. Did you know this is the equivalent of a $135,000 mortgage?!  Transportation is the second largest expense for American households4.
  • And living near good public transit might just make you happier5 — after all, nobody likes being stuck in traffic.

Walk Score helps you find apartments near public transit with our unique search by commute time features.  Download our iPhone app or Android app to find a place to live with a better commute.

mobile-near-transit

Transit Score Ranking Methodology

Our ranking is based on the average resident’s access to public transit in a city.  To compute our ranking, we calculated the Transit Score of over 1.9  million locations in 316 cities.  We use a population-weighted methodology to compute the average Transit Score for a city.  Our top 10 cities list includes cities with populations over 500,000 people.  Read more about Walk Score methodology.

2014 Ranking of Most Walkable Cities & Neighborhoods

most walkable us cities and neighborhoods

Just in time for New Year’s resolutions to live healthier and save money, we’re announcing our 2014 ranking of Most Walkable U.S. Cities and Neighborhoods. Read the official press release.

We hope this new ranking helps people find great places to live that offer a breadth of nearby amenities including food, entertainment, shopping, schools, parks, bike lanes and public transit. Being able to walk out your door and leave your car at home more often is great for your wallet, health and quality of life.

Walk Score Ranking of Largest U.S. Cities

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# 1

New York

Walk Score: 87.6
New York

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# 2

San Francisco

Walk Score: 83.9
San Francisco

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# 3

Boston

Walk Score: 79.5
Boston

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# 4

Philadelphia

Walk Score: 76.5
Philadelphia

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# 5

Miami

Walk Score: 75.6
Miami

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# 6

Chicago

Walk Score: 74.8
New York

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# 7

Washington D.C.

Walk Score: 74.1
San Francisco

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# 8

Seattle

Walk Score: 70.8
Seattle

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# 9

Oakland

Walk Score: 68.5
Oakland

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#10

Baltimore

Walk Score: 66.2
Baltimore

 

Based on our Street Smart Walk Score algorithm and analysis of over 10 million addresses and 2 billion walking routes for 2,500 U.S. cities and more than 10,000 neighborhoods, the 2014 ranking is our most sophisticated to date. Read our 2014 rankings methodology.

Live Healthier, Happier & Save Money in 2014

“The typical American family spends 1/5th of their income on transportation and countless hours are wasted commuting long distances,” said Jeff Speck author, Walkable City: How Downtown Can Save America, One Step at a Time. “Walk Score is leading the way in helping people make smart and informed decisions about where to live. Nothing makes as big of an impact on your health and quality of life as finding a better commute and living in a walkable neighborhood.”

  • Be Healthier: The average resident of a walkable neighborhood weighs eight pounds less than someone who lives in a sprawling neighborhood.
  • Be Happier: People who live in walkable communities are more socially engaged and trusting than those who live in less walkable areas.
  • Save Money: The average American spends over $9,000 per year on their car making cars the second largest expense for most households, costing more than food, clothing and health care.

Find Your Neighborhood Today

To help you get started, we created this list of select Walker’s Paradise neighborhoods where you can live healthier, happier and car-free in 2014. In addition to having a Walk Score of over 90 all of these neighborhoods also offer access to excellent public transit with a Transit Score of 70+.

Learn more about our apartment and rental search and download our updated Apartments and Rentals iPhone App to search for places to live by commute time, access to public transit, Walk Score and your “Gotta Have” amenities.

 

Walk Score Network Grows to Over 30,000 Websites

Thank you to the roughly 10,000 websites that added Walk Score to their customer experience over the past 6 months! That’s ~50% growth since April and ~600% growth over the past 3 years.

As a company founded on the belief that walkable neighborhoods with access to public transit, shorter commutes, and proximity to the people and places you love are the key to a happier, healthier and more sustainable lifestyle, we’re thrilled and honored to see Walk Score so broadly adopted by the real estate industry.

Learn how to add Walk Score to your site and mobile apps today!

Number of websites using Walk Score

Number of websites using Walk Score

Walkability and Low Income Housing Tax Credits

The Michigan State Housing Development Authority is using Walk Score to encourage real estate developers to create affordable housing in walkable neighborhoods.

Specifically, developments with a high Walk Score are awarded points that help projects qualify for low income housing tax credits.

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Walk Score in low income housing tax credit application.

How Do Low Income Housing Tax Credits Work?

The IRS runs a low income housing tax credit program called LIHTC (pronounced lie-tech) that provides a certain number of housing tax credits each year to states based on population. Real estate developers who meet the state criteria (known as a qualified allocation plan), compete for the tax credits.

Here’s where it gets interesting: Developers who are awarded the credits sell them at discounted rates to investors (e.g. a bank). The investors can apply these tax credits to any part of their federal tax bill.

Selling the tax credits allows the developer to reduce the debt required to finance their project. Since the property needs less income to operate, the developer can provide affordable rent for tenants. LIHTC is heralded as one of the most effective housing programs created by the federal government.

Why Use Walk Score for Low Income Housing Tax Credits? 

Walkability is a key element in the tax credit application and MSHDA decided to use Walk Score because the agency liked the methodology, it’s easy to use, and it shows how walkable each site is. Up to 10 points may be awarded for walkability, which is a significant component of the overall score.

The Value of Place Making and Walkability

“It is no secret that Michigan is known as the comeback state and one of the reasons, an important one at that, is its focus on placemaking,” said Andy Martin, Manager of the LIHTC program at MSHDA. “We believe that by revitalizing communities and rebuilding neighborhoods, we can strengthen the entire state.”

“We have learned that young knowledge workers have a strong preference for urban walkability and neighborhood amenities are just as important to them as housing amenities,” said Jim Tischler, director of Community Development at MSHDA. “We believe placemaking and walkability are key factors in Michigan’s transformation. They want to be in places with both jobs and things to do, and we want to oblige them by giving them the walkable neighborhoods they so desperately want.”

Travel Times With Rush Hour Traffic

Today we’re making it easy to add drive times with free flow and rush hour traffic estimates to your website and mobile apps.  Travel times are available for driving, walking, biking, and public transit.

Traffic Congestion

Walk Score was the first website to offer real estate search by commute time.  Since then, adding traffic congestion has been a top feature request.

We’ve developed a new methodology for estimating traffic congestion based on traffic data for over 100 metro areas.  When you click the Rush Hour button on our Travel Time Widget, you’ll see travel times based on peak rush hour congestion. Congestion is computed on a road-by-road basis to reflect where traffic is likely to occur.

Free-flow vs. Rush Hour

Our traffic data is based on an analysis of congestion times from leading traffic providers such as the Federal Highway Administration, Texas A&M Transportation Institute, GoogleINRIX, and TomTom.

How do you define rush hour?  The most useful definition we’ve found is the time it takes to arrive at your destination with a certain level of confidence.  For example, you might have an 80% probability of arriving on time if you allow 25 minutes of drive time or a 90% probability of arriving on time if you allow 35 minutes. This is how leading traffic reports account for the difference between bad traffic and exceptionally bad traffic. Our rush hour drive times are based on an estimated 90% probability of arriving on-time.

Add Travel Time to Your Site

With just a few lines of code you can add the Travel Time Widget pictured below to any Google map. The Travel Time Widget allows home shoppers to explore their commute and visualize travel times in their neighborhood.

Contact us to get an API key for your site.

map-widget

Coming Soon: The 20,000+ sites using the Walk Score Neighborhood Map will also soon have access to rush hour commute time estimates:

Rush Hour Drive Time

Using Walk Score With Responsive Design and Mobile Apps

We’ve  made our Travel Time API, Neighborhood Map, and Walk Score Badges easy to use on responsively designed pages and in mobile apps.

For example, check out Imprev’s implementation of our Travel Time API on their responsive single property website.  Click the Map button in the header to view.

Here are some helpful tips on using Walk Score with responsive design.

responsive-small

 

 

 

Know the Neighborhood

Adding to our recent release of 10,000 new city and neighborhood pages, we’re excited to announce two new pieces of local insight: Social Neighborhood Tags and Crime Reports.

Social Neighborhood Tags

For over 3,000 neighborhoods in almost 200 cities we’ve analyzed millions of tweets to let you know what people are talking about and what makes a place unique.

For example, people in Bellevue, Washington are talking about delicious Din Tai Fung dumplings:

Social Neighborhood Tags

Social Neighborhood Tags for Bellevue, WA

People in the North End of Boston are talking about the Bruins (and oysters)!

Social Neighborhood Tags for the North End, Boston

Social Neighborhood Tags for the North End, Boston

Crime Reports and Maps

Today we’re also launching Crime Reports in Seattle, San Francisco, and Chicago with more cities on the way soon.

Crime is complex.  Other real estate sites have crime maps that look like population maps.  They simply show you that more crimes are reported where there are more people. This can be misleading since it doesn’t tell you anything about your odds of being a victim of a crime — and this can makes cities, especially downtowns, look less safe than they really are.

Today we’re launching the first crime statistics that let you accurately compare crime at the neighborhood level.  Our crime data comes directly from police departments that release geotagged reports for every crime in a city.

In order to provide apples-to-apples comparisons between neighborhoods, we normalize our crime statistics by how many people live and work in the neighborhood and weight crimes according to severity.  This allows you to assess your individual crime risk.  For example, a downtown may have a lot of reported crime, but if it has a large number of residents and workers, your individual risk may still be low.

Crime Reports for Fremont, Seattle

Crime Reports for Fremont, Seattle

Helping Agents Sell Homes With Midwest Real Estate Data

Years of experience, innovative products, and the regional power of nearly 40,000 real estate professionals combine to make Chicagoland multiple listing service Midwest Real Estate Data (MRED) a force in real estate.

And, as an early adopter of Walk Score data and real estate marketing tools, MRED is helping lead the way toward providing agents and home-shoppers with greater insight into the location of a property, commute times and transportation options.

“Walk Score has fast become the standard for measuring walkability, and the opportunity to provide Walk Score and its other benefits within our MLS system was too good to pass up. We couldn’t be more pleased at the reception Walk Score has received from our brokers, agents and appraisers,” Russ Bergeron, MRED CEO, told Chicago Agent Magazine after launching Walk Score in early 2012.

“We are always on the lookout for information that can be added to our property database to make it even more valuable to our customers and Walk Score is clearly this type of enhancement,” Russ added in a recent interview.

Walk Score on MRED

Walk Score on MRED

MRED’s connectMLS (the top-rated MLS system per the latest WAV Group MLS Technology Survey) includes the Walk Score of every listing (almost 100,000 of them!) and offers agents the ability to search for properties by Walk Score and to sort property search results by Walk Score.

“Not only have we added and made searchable a data field that contains the Walk Score, we also include links to the Walk Score site so our users can take full advantage of all the capabilities of Walk Score – including commute times, public transit information, and nearby points of interest,” Russ continued.

MRED’s Share My Listings widget, which makes it easy for listing agents to post homes for sale to a myriad of social media sites, also incorporates Walk Score. Whenever receiving listing updates from their agents, consumers have a link to the complete set of Walk Score information.

“Having Walk Score incorporated into the listings I send to my clients makes the home search process easier for the buyers,” said Andrea Geller, Broker Associate from Coldwell Banker Residential in Chicago. “They no longer have to go off to a variety of sites to get information about neighborhood amenities surrounding the property. Potential buyers who view listings from MRED’s Share My Listings widget get the same benefit. Walk Score helps me sell my listings faster.

 

Learn more about adding Walk Score data to your site and MLS.

Quantifying The Value of Walkability and Public Transit

Here at Walk Score we see the headlines that the housing market is recovering, interest rates are low and construction is on the rise, but still there is uncertainty in the macro dynamics of the real-estate market post 2007 real estate bubble.

In recent months leading academics, consulting firms and real estate associations have touted the financial benefits of buying and living in walkable cities. While the Walk Score team prepares for Inman’s Real Estate Connect conference this week, we wanted to share some recent research quantifying the financial value of walkability, access to public transit and shorter commutes.

The American Public Transportation Association, in partnership with the National Association of Realtors, recently published a study titled The New Real Estate Mantra that identified “a premium associated with walkability in the form of an increase in office, residential and retail rents, retail revenues, and for-sale residential values. The recession increased the premium for retail and office space in walkable urban neighborhoods; pre-recession (defined as 2000-07) there was 
a 23 percent premium per square foot valuation, during the recession (2008-10) it jumped to 44 percent.”

Percent change in average residential sales prices relative to the region. Close to public transit v. Not close to public transit (2006-11).

Percent change in average residential sales prices close to public transit vs. not close to public transit (2006-11). Source: American Public Transportation Association.

Using Walk Score data, the consulting firm Price Waterhouse Cooper and the Urban Land Institute published Emerging Trends in Real Estate 2013. This study shows that, while there are higher values in tier one walkable cities like San Francisco and New York, top “secondary locations… offering walkability and strong transit systems continue to outshine other cites” in terms of investment value when compared to areas with lower Walk Score ratings.

PWC and the Urban Land Institute summarize it simply: “Whatever way you look at it, tenants want to walk or be near public transit. Markets that offer both options will succeed.”

Along similar lines, in a study conducted on behalf of Fannie Mae, Dr. Gary Pivo of the University of Arizona shows that “for every 5% increase in the percent of workers in a tract who walk to work, the risk of [loan] default decreases by 15%.” Pivo goes on in his most recent report analyzing variables impacting loan defaults to show that “for every 10‐minute increase in the mean commute time for residents in a census tract, the risk of default increases by 45%.”

Read more about the financial value of neighborhood walkability and see how others are using Walk Score data for economic analysis.