Including neighborhood information in rental ads.


Location location location. When I’m trying to rent my apartment, I’m not just trying to sell people on the space, I’m trying to sell them on the neighborhood, too. The last ad that I ran included a list of “neighborhoodhood amenities” — restaurants, coffeeshops, stores, bars, parks, etc., that were within 5-15 minutes walking distance. It helped catch the attention of people who were unfamiliar with the neighborhood, and made my apartment sound like it was right in the center of everything.

I recently found a website that lists that information for you automatically, and gives your location a “walkscore” – a rank between 0 and 100, 100 being th highest.

When you go to Walkscore.com, you simply type in your address, and it calculates the walkability score by locating nearby businesses. Here’s how they calculate the scores:

* 90 – 100 = Walkers’ Paradise: Most errands can be accomplished on foot and many people get by without owning a car.
* 70 – 90 = Very Walkable: It’s possible to get by without owning a car.
* 50 – 70 = Some Walkable Locations: Some stores and amenities are within walking distance, but many everyday trips still require a bike, public transportation, or car.
* 25 – 50 = Not Walkable: Only a few destinations are within easy walking range. For most errands, driving or public transportation is a must.
* 0 – 25 = Driving Only: Virtually no neighborhood destinations within walking range. You can walk from your house to your car!

Looks like a pretty cool little online app. My rental unit (residential city neighborhood, with nearby commercial zones, a grocery store down the street), gets a score of 77. They even offer a cute little widget that you can add to your website or online rental ad. Of course, I wouldn’t count on prospective renters being familiar with what a “Walk Score” is — I’d list the amenities that the websit generates.

The list of nearby restaurants, coffeeshops, bars, parks, libraries, stores, etc. is a great feature. The system is far from perfect, however; they admit their own limitations on the site:

We’ll be the first to admit that Walk Score is just an approximation of walkability. There are a number of factors that contribute to walkability that are not part of our algorithm:

  • Street width and block length: Narrow streets slow down traffic. Short blocks make it easier to navigate the grid.
  • Safety: How much crime is in the neighborhood? How many traffic accidents are there? Are crosswalks well marked and streets well lit?
  • Pedestrian-friendly design: Are there walking paths? Are buildings close to the sidewalk with parking in back? Are sidewalks shaded by trees?
  • Topography: Hills can make walking difficult, especially if you’re carrying groceries.
  • Public transit: Good public transit is important for walkable neighborhoods.
  • Freeways and bodies of water: Freeways can divide neighborhoods. Swimming is harder than walking.
  • Weather: In some places it’s just too hot or cold to walk regularly.

As MarlonBain said, “You should use the Web 3.0 app called going outside and investigating the world for yourself” before deciding whether a neighborhood is walkable!

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