We've spent a lot of time researching the key amenities and features tenants look for in rental properties, and there is one feature that keeps reappearing: walkability. In fact, in a January 2023 LTR survey we polled 1,752 U.S. adults who currently live in a single-family long-term rental home. Of those tenants, 43 percent said proximity to restaurants, shopping, and entertainment is a necessity. Renters want to be able to walk to nearby amenities, such as bars, grocery stores, movie theaters, and more.
So how do you determine property walkability when looking at a new rental property? Walk Score is a fantastic, free tool to help you check out the walkability of unfamiliar neighborhoods before you purchase your next investment property or gain more insight on the walkability of your current properties. The website also has fantastic guides to neighborhoods and walkable places investors can use to hone in on a neighborhood for investing.
How Walk Score Works
Available for any address, city, neighborhood, or zip code in the United States, Walk Score generates a walk score, a bike score, and a transit score. The website analyzes hundreds of data points on a given address including walking routes and nearby amenities in order to assign scores. Let's take a closer look at each of these scores.
Walk score measures the walkability of a given neighborhood or address on a scale of 0-100. A score of 90 or above is viewed as a “Walker's Paradise,” meaning cars are not needed at all for daily errands. On the other hand, a score with fewer points than 24 is viewed as a “Car-Dependent” area, which means all errands require a vehicle. Walk scores also take into consideration the population density and intersection density as well as whether or not an area is pedestrian friendly.
As an example, we entered our hometown of Austin, Texas and compared it to New York City, New York. Austin is mostly a car town, while New York is known for its walkability. Austin has a walk score of 42. It is considered the 30th most walkable city in the United States, yet it is very car dependent. On the contrary, New York has a high walk score of 88.
Like walk score, bike score is on a scale of 0-100. Bike scores of 0-49 are un-bikeable and scores of 90-100 allowing for all errands to be accomplished on a bike. Austin, for example, has a bike score of 54 compared to New York's bike score of 69.
Also on a scale of 0-100, the transit score looks at public transportation available in a given neighborhood. Austin has a transit score of 35, compared to NYC which has a transit score of 89.
Using Walk Score to Find New Neighborhoods for Investments
If you want to buy a walkable investment property and not sure where to look, Walk Score has done the research for you. By analyzing over ten million locations and computing more than two billion walking routes in 2,500 U.S. cities, Walk Score has gathered extremely reliable data on the most walkable areas in the country.
Keep in mind the more specific a location you can input the more helpful. In our earlier example we used Austin with a low walk score, yet Austin is a very large city. There are some Austin neighborhoods where almost all errands are in walking distance.
Other Amenities and Factors to Consider
Walk Score is a really interesting data point that should definitely be considered when searching for a new investment property. However, there are other amenities to consider.
As we said earlier, our 2023 LTR factor revealed that 43% of renters find walkability a priority. Some other factors and amenities that were highly important to renters include: safety, proximity to work, noise rating, great schools, and proximity to parks and green spaces. If you find a potential rental property with a high walk score, close to great coffee shops and restaurants, yet in a bad school zone, it will not be as popular.
Clearly walk score is important but it is not the determining factor on a property. When individuals find apartments, they look at the complete picture, and so should investors.
This post was originally published in May 2018 and has been updated in May 2023 for freshness and accuracy.
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