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The coming impact of ‘walkability’ on real estate

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Real estate pros have long touted the proximity of their listings to various amenities, but recently there has been increasing awareness of the intrinsic value of the “walkability” of a property – whether business or residential. I remember when a key item on the laundry list of property features was “easy access to highways”; now there is more emphasis on “bike to downtown, shops, etc.”

Studies have investigated the correlation between home values and walkability, as well as between values relevant to proximity to mass transit corridors. So far, all the research points to a direct positive relationship, something realty veterans have long known anecdotally. In my own interactions with younger homebuyers, I can say with certainty that the newer generations practically require proximity to goods and services with a bike/walk flavor.

So what will happen next? I like the work of design advocate Mark Fenton, who visited Lancaster County this week to speak about his passion for creating healthy communities. I had the opportunity to sit in on his keynote discussion about ways to re-envision the traditional car-based planning model in favor of pedestrian and bike traffic, for the purpose of promoting health and giving our kids more freedom to roam within their neighborhoods – something we remember from our youth but is sorely lacking in contemporary Central Pa.

For Mark, the walkability movement is more about families than the homes they live in. As a mayor and as a Realtor, I was impacted by his passion on the subject.

From a real estate point of view, at least, I think that as the newer generations of homebuyers and business owners continue to perceive additional value in walkability, we’ll see more and more emphasis on metrics like “walkscore” that will then directly affect property values. And the more municipalities and school districts embrace walkability as a design goal, the more we’ll see values follow good neighborhood plans. I’m looking forward to it.


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