Consumer focus: Should you find the Walk Score before you go look at a house?

by MPA19 Nov 2014
By Jeremy Benson

There’s a term that real estate agents like to include in their listings and ads for homes, and it is “walk score.”  You may even here agents using it in conversation when speaking to other real estate colleagues.  You can probably find the walk score for any property easily enough, by asking your agent or looking at the listing for the property, but the question is, do you really need it?  
 
What Is a Walk Score?
 
Before you decide if you should include the walk score in your house-searching criteria, you should have a firm grasp of what a walk score is.  In simple terms, the walk score refers to a measurement of how “walkable” the neighbourhood happens to be
 
This means, how easy or difficult is it for residents to accomplish daily tasks and errands on foot if they happen to live at that address.  Generally, homes in the inner-city or downtown would have a much better walk score than homes in the suburbs. 
 
Various factors go into figuring out the walk score for a specific address, some of which include:
  • Enough population to keep the businesses going
  • Decent public transportation
  • Walking access to malls, restaurants, stores, parks, schools and entertainment
 
What’s Good and What’s Bad?
 
You can determine if the walk score is good or bad by looking at the corresponding number or score.  When you look it up, you’ll see a number between zero and 100.  The less walkable areas have lower scores and more walkable areas have higher scores. 
 
If you see a score that has a number between 50 and 69, it’s generally good for walking to do some errands.  If you see a score that’s between 70 and 100 it means the area is very walkable and you can perform almost every errand without a car and without issue. 
 
What Matters to You
 
The real determining factor when it comes to checking the walk score or not is what you find important about a property or neighbourhood.  If you want the type of lifestyle where you can walk a lot and take public transit for most things, then it’s probably a good thing to find, and you should look for a high number. 
 
If the walking element doesn’t matter to you either way, then you don’t need to bother, but if you prefer a rural lifestyle then perhaps looking for a lower score is a good idea. 
 
The Educational Aspect

Is the walk score something you should seriously consider, before making your next home purchachase mortage?

If nothing else, you’ll get a bit of an education when you look up the walk score of a certain area.  It certainly won’t hurt you to have that knowledge and you never know if it might help.  You’ll be able to figure out more about the neighbourhood than you would have otherwise. 
 
A lot depends on your personality, too. If you’re the type that likes to go into a situation armed with the most information possible, then go ahead and find the walk score.  If you’re ok finding out these things as you go, then don’t bother. 

Jeremy Benson has been writing about finance, mortgage and Canadian law for seven years. Blogging is among his greatest passions. Follow him on Twitter@jeremybenson19.

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