WalkScore is one of those phrases that has become ubiquitous in the home-buying landscape, changing the experience by providing a numeric analysis of an area around a home without having to be familiar with the neighborhood to begin with. Measured in terms of walkability to schools, businesses, food, and other amenities, this has become a major player in the real estate space and the valuation of a home.
Los Angeles is halfway between San Francisco and Orange County in terms of walkability, with the average WalkScore sitting around 66. (The average for Long Beach is 69, with the Downtown area having the best score at 92 points.) Each of those points represents additional value to the home, with the average for each additional point in Los Angeles weighing in at $3,948. That’s some serious equity in exchange for a single-digit improvement.
How Can I Utilize My WalkScore When Listing?
WalkScore is something that most younger buyers will be looking for when checking IDX listings like Zillow and Estately, with walkability becoming the buzzword for upcoming real estate sales. Making sure you’re prepared (as is your realtor) for the reality of this is important and can sometimes be challenging.
If your WalkScore is good when you look it up: great! You’re in a really good position to sell your home with the neighborhood backing up your home value as well as the house itself. The higher it is, the more this should be a point of emphasis. Start thinking about what’s in the neighborhood that makes it so notable, and pick out things that you love in it that are attractive to other people too. The score gets them looking closer, so give them some content to digest and see why your home is the right choice. Mention local parks, natural features, and the hot businesses that someone would want to be close to.
The other end of the spectrum is if your WalkScore is low. This is kind of a bummer since WalkScore really is used all over the place right now, but don’t get too down on your house, because there’s things that can be done to negate this some. Car dependency isn’t uncommon across the states, and isn’t the end of the world for most Californians who are as acquainted with the freeways as they are their own neighborhoods. Start thinking about what roadways help commuters and people who like to explore. While your home may not be the center of events, it might be the perfect mix of quiet suburbia with easy accessibility to work. If you have a yard or garden, create the idea a retreat from the ratrace, and encourage buyers to consider that this is their potential oasis.
Keep your ear to the ground too for community developments. While there might not be a main street drag right now, maybe you know of a nice new wine bar that’s coming into a shop up the road. Maybe there are plans to build a private school nearby. Do you have a neighborhood association that keeps active and does events around the holidays? Let the realtor know so they can market your home accordingly. These are all intangible qualities and improvements that the WalkScore doesn’t take into account either because it’s in the works or isn’t a “walkability” issue per se.
Can WalkScore be improved?
This part is hard to answer, because while your home is certainty anchored to the ground in your neighborhood, your neighborhood benefits from incoming business and investment in its overall well being. The short answer would be no, because creating serious change in the convenience of businesses and local amenities near your home to improve WalkScore is not something you’re going to be able to see in the time between deciding to sell and when your home sells.
The long answer is maybe, because while the score of your neighborhood may not be good this year, you also might hear about an upcoming community expansion with shopping and gardens, or alternatively your local school district improves its performances with good leadership and community input. Just being familiar with your local politics and commerce may help you choose to wait a year to add value, or alternatively drive you to encourage that kind of growth in the future. Not every improvement to your home has to be done in anticipation of immediate listing.
The main thing to remember when thinking about WalkScore is how to use it to your advantage. A high score may mean more money for you and a quicker sell, and a low score may mean focusing on the merits of your house and finding the buyer that’s right for you. Either way, you should be looking critically at the WalkScore, and considering who your target audience is. An experienced realtor will know how to do this, and has done it since before WalkScores were even a metric, so don’t hesitate to reach out and ask questions when choosing who to work with.