Brokerages are constantly trying to provide more value to the client as they search for their next potential home. A trend we’ve noticed in Real Estate websites is to display a Walk Score with every listing.
The idea behind a walk score is to compress a vast amount of data and represent it with a single metric. Simply put, a walk score is the calculated friendliness a property has to its owner accessing everyday essentials only by walking.
A walk score is the calculated friendliness a property has to its owner accessing everyday essentials only by walking.
Every walk score system has its own algorithm used to calculate the number. Similarly, each grading system is unique (some use a per cent value, others choose arbitrary numbers and make lower or higher be better or worse). However, the general idea is the better the walk score, the higher the density of neighbourhood resources. For example, a farm property in Vaughan, Ontario would have a much lower walk score when compared with a 2 bedroom condo at Yonge And Dundas.
Walk Scores are calculated by the popular website, walkscore, available at walkscore.com
Should I care about my Walk Score?
The short answer is, no. The longer answer is, well, no. The issue with a walk score is twofold. The desire for people to compress data, combined with the wide variability in the data itself provide a deadly combination.
Theres no denying that Millennials hate cars. Recent studies have shown that, as this group matures into adulthood, car ownership is set to reach its lowest rate (per capita) in decades. With this shift, along with millennials desire to invest little into housing in the most dense areas, comes the importance of having every convenience in an arms reach.
These conditions stress the importance of having a very walk (and transit) friendly residence. Millennials are stating that they would rather sacrifice their overall living space and quality of living for convenience and community.
So, given this, a walk score seems like a pretty good idea, right? What could be the harm in showing how friendly your property is to walking?
The Problem of Compression
Society has an obsession with compressing data. Estimating that we receive 5x the amount of data on a daily basis compared to the average person in 1986, its no wonder we desire more information in smaller bites. This is why our brain craves infographics. The combination of enticing colour schemes and engaging graphics create a visual appeal. (check out the infographic on why we love infographics).
The underlying cost to compression is data loss.
To illustrate this point, I have 3 photos of my dog, Samson. As you can see, minimal compression doesn’t seem to have much affect on Samson. Sure, you lose some of the sharpness of the image, but you can still very much see it is a picture of my dog. But, as you continue to compress data, you lose valuable pieces of information. The result is being left with a misrepresented or uninterpretable image.
The same happens with the walk score. While it may account for how friendly a property is to business and everyday living, it can’t specify the type of accessibility a property possesses. Sure, there are 10 restaurants within 1km of the building, but did you know they’re ALL chinese? The nearest fire station may be next door, but the walk score didn’t warn you of the incessent sounds of a fire engine on a daily basis, or that the nearest hospital is actually 10km away.
Walk Scores show density, but filter variety.
Alternatives to the Walk Score
So, how can those looking to market their property give a better idea of what living here may be like? The simple answer is to provide more data. Instead of stating that it has an 85 walkscore, why not give a neighbourhood report?
Many tools are available to assist with this. At Catalyst, we use HoodQ.
If you’re looking for a property, why not try exploring the area? Use Google Maps, or better yet, go in person to see if its accessibility and convenience matches your unique lifestyle.
Questions? Comment below or Contact Us.