There are many reasons that buyers choose to buy a historic home. It may be for the character and ambiance of a time long past, for the sturdier construction of an earlier century, or for the prestige and prominence that comes along with owning and living in a local landmark. One reason frequently mentioned, though, is that historic homes are often parts of great neighborhoods. Many historic homes tend to be clustered around old town centers, crossroads, and city downtown districts. With smaller lots and little open space, those neighborhoods have been less susceptible to subdividing and development, and thus are more likely to remain intact. Because of their locations at population centers, they also tend to offer many amenities within walking distance. The “walkability” of these historic neighborhoods can be a major benefit that ought to be highlighted when marketing properties for sale in the area.
It’s difficult to quantify how walkable a neighborhood is, and it would require some exhaustive research to list all of the amenities within walking distance of a particular house and neighborhood. Now, there is a great website that will do all of this for you. Walkscore has been around for a just a little more than a year, but its popularity has grown tremendously in the last couple of months. It has received awards as one of Planetizens’ Top 10 2008 Websites and Inman News’ Top 7 Ideas Changing Real Estate.
Walkscore is easy to use- you just type in a street address and the site returns a score from 1-100 that rates how “walkable” the location is. Walkscore bases its scores on neighborhood density, the mix of residential and commercial properties, nearby parks and recreational areas, amenities like restaurants and stores, and the number of schools and potential workplaces within walking distance. You get much more than just the score, though. The site also returns a local map, with all of the nearest amenities indicated on it (just click on each for more information). Even if your property doesn’t have a great Walkscore, the site is valuable for the map of nearby amenities. If you have a website for a property you’re marketing and want to link to the Walkscore Map, all you need do is type in the address, hit “Go”, then link to the address that comes up in the address bar in your browser.
Not surprisingly, many of the places with the highest walkscores are in cities. Walkscore has compiled its list of the top 138 Walkers’ Paradises in the 40 largest cities in the country, with Tribeca, Little Italy, and Soho in New York City leading the list. The site points out that it has separate criteria for smaller towns, so some of those fare pretty well, too- like this neighborhood in the historic center of Middlebury, Vermont that comes in with a Walkscore of 98. Portsmouth, New Hampshire scores well, too- a 94 for 118 Pleasant Street. (That’s the address for the Strawberry Banke House being auctioned to benefit the museum. We posted about that a couple of weeks ago- the auction is February 19, so still a little time left to get your bid in !)
And, nearby amenities and historic charm aside, walkability in historic areas has another great marketing benefit-residents in older neighborhoods tend to be fitter and trimmer. A University of Utah study found that residents of older neighborhoods averaged 6-10 pounds lighter than those in newer areas. The study had its theory on why that should be – “Older neighborhoods often have a pattern of design features like narrow streets, tree-shaded sidewalks, and useful destinations like corner stores, that make walking interesting, pleasant and useful.” Check out the HealthDay article.