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Walking the Walk: How Walkability Raises Home Values in U.S. Cities

This analysis from CEOs for Cities reveals that homes in more walkable neighborhoods are worth more than similar homes in less-walkable neighborhoods

Summary

More than just a pleasant amenity, the walkability of cities translates directly into increases in home values. Homes located in more walkable neighborhoods—those with a mix of common daily shopping and social destinations within a short distance—command a price premium over otherwise similar homes in less walkable areas. Houses with the above-average levels of walkability command a premium of about $4,000 to $34,000 over houses with just average levels of walkability in the typical metropolitan areas studied.

This paper explores the connection between home values and walkability, as measured by the Walk Score algorithm. Walk Score measures the number of typical consumer destinations within walking distance of a house, with scores ranging from 0 (car dependent) to 100 (most walkable). By the Walk Score measure, walkability is a direct function of how many destinations are located within a short distance (generally between one-quarter mile and one mile of a home). Our measure of walkability reflects the convenience and proximity of having shopping and cultural activities close at hand, as well as the value households attach to mixed-use neighborhoods.

Using an economic technique called hedonic regression, we estimate how much market value homebuyers implicitly attach to houses with higher Walk Scores. We looked at data for more than 90,000 recent home sales in 15 different markets around the nation. Our statistical approach controlled for key characteristics of individual housing units (their size, number of bedrooms and bathrooms, age and other factors), as well as for the neighborhoods in which they were located (including the neighborhood’s income level, proximity to the urban center and relative accessibility to employment opportunities).

After controlling for all of these other factors that are known to influence housing value, our study showed a positive correlation between walkability and housing prices in 13 of the 15 housing markets we studied. In the typical market, an additional one point increase in Walk Score was associated with between a $500 and $3,000 increase in home values. In one market (Las Vegas) there was a negative correlation—housing prices decreased with higher Walk Scores, and in one market (Bakersfield) there was no statistically significant correlation between prices and walkability after controlling for other factors.

These results show that consumers and housing markets attach a positive value to living within easy walking distance of shopping, services, schools and parks. The property value premium for walkability seems to be higher in more populous urban areas and those with extensive transit, suggesting that the value gains associated with walkability are greatest when people have real alternatives to living without an automobile.

It should be stressed that our measure of walkability captures not just the benefits associated with walking but with greater accessibility generally. Even households that don’t walk to every destination have shorter trips (and more nearby choices) than households with lower Walk Scores. And because places with higher walk scores tend to have more mixed uses and better transit services, some of the value measured here may be attributable to those assets.

This research makes it clear that walkability is strongly associated with higher housing values in nearly all metropolitan areas.  The choice, convenience and variety of walkable neighborhoods are reflected in housing markets and are the product of consumer demand for these attributes. The nation’s urban leaders should pay close attention to walkability as a key measure of urban vitality and as impetus for public policy that will increase overall property values – a key source of individual wealth and of revenues for cash-strapped governments in a tough economy.