Walking the Talk with Walk Score® CEO, Josh Herst

Walk Score® has been available on REALTOR.ca since 2012 and has quickly become a popular service with home shoppers. Their mission? To make it easy for people to evaluate walkability when choosing where to live.

Each month, the blue Walk Score® box is clicked more than 150,000 times on REALTOR.ca by visitors to the site looking for more information on the neighbourhood, amenities, or transit situations associated with a particular listing.

Its popularity has left us fielding questions from consumers and REALTORS® alike. To get answers to some of the most recurring questions, we went right to the source.

Here are highlights from my interview with Walk Score CEO Josh Herst.

Why should Canadian homebuyers care about Walk Score®?

Where you live has a big impact on your quality of life. Living near the people and places you love helps you spend more time doing the things that matter most to you instead of driving from place to place.

In a study of the happiest places on Earth, National Geographic found that the top two things we hate the most on a day-to-day basis are housework and the daily commute in our cars. The study correctly highlights that moving closer to our jobs and other places we frequent is an easy way for us to get happier. Another recent study from McGill University went further, demonstrating that people who walk or bike to work are happier with their commutes than people who drive.

But the bottom line is that walkable neighbourhoods are great for your home value (one point of Walk Score® adds about $3,000 to home values in the U.S.) and your health (typically people in walkable places weigh 6-10 lbs. less)!

How about REALTORS® – can they take advantage of Walk Score®?

Absolutely. REALTORS® know that location is one of the top factors in choosing a home, and that millennials in particular are seeking walkability when deciding where to live. Millennials, the next major generation to buy homes, own fewer cars and drive less than previous generations, and as much as one third of them say they’ll pay more for the ability to easily walk to shops, work and entertainment.

Our free Neighbourhood Map widget is an easy way for REALTORS® to add Walk Score®, commute times and an interactive map of nearby places to their listings. REALTORS® interested in learning more about using Walk Score® in their marketing materials can visit www.walkscore.com/professional.

How does the algorithm work? What type of amenities/services impact scores?

A Walk Score® is a number between 0 and 100 that measures the walkability of any address. Our proprietary algorithm awards points based on the distance to amenities in each of several categories including restaurants, coffee shops, grocery stores, schools and parks. Amenities within .4 kilometres receive maximum points and no points are awarded for amenities further than about 1.5 kilometres.

Figure – Heat map depicting Walk Scores® across different Toronto neighbourhoods

Where does the data come from?

We compile our data from a number of leading local data providers such as Google Places and are fortunate to have an active user base that helps to keep our data up to date. After all, nobody knows your neighbourhood better than you do. For Transit Score® and Bike Score we also aggregate data from hundreds of public transit agencies and directly from city governments.

Any hidden gems? Any highly “walkable” neighbourhoods that we might not be aware of?

Yes! That’s part of what’s great about Walk Score®. It’s no surprise that Vancouver, Toronto and Montreal are Canada’s most walkable large cities. But some smaller cities like Victoria, with a Walk Score® of 78, and Westmount, with a Walk Score® of 79, rate highly as well. And, of the over 1,200 Canadian neighbourhoods that we’ve rated, 30 are “Walker’s Paradises” with a Walk Score® of 90 or higher. Walk Score® helps you find a neighbourhood that best fits your lifestyle.

Patrick Pichette, Vice-President, REALTOR.ca, is responsible for the development and growth of Canada’s leading real estate website, and other technology services that help REALTORS® in Canada and their businesses. As the head of the Product Management and IT Services departments, he is constantly evaluating the latest technology trends. Patrick is also the staff liaison on CREA’s Technology Committee. Prior to joining CREA, he held marketing and product management leadership positions with MD Physician Services (a subsidiary of the Canadian Medical Association) and the Canadian Tourism Commission. When not at work, Patrick can be found at a local rink or baseball diamond coaching his favourite sports.

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