Good Walk Scores have SF residents running to buy homes

Walkscore SF Gate Article featuring SF Realtor Real Estate Agent Ruth Krishnan Team

05 Jun Good Walk Scores have SF residents running to buy homes

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SF Chronicle asked me and clients of mine to weigh in on whether a neighborhood’s Walkscore was important to San Francisco buyers. Proud to be quoted in their article written by Kathleen Pender, which you can have a read below:

When Anu Sharma and her husband Vishwa Chandra were house hunting in San Francisco this spring, they would only consider neighborhoods with a Walk Score of 90 or above.

Walk Score is a company and scoring system that rates cities, neighborhoods and individual addresses on a 100-point scale based on their distance to places like grocery and retail stores, bars and restaurants, schools, parks, entertainment spots, banks and post offices.

Because of the way it’s constructed, it favors urban areas over suburban and rural ones, and its popularity has grown along with the preference for city living among many Millennials and empty-nesters.

“We have a car, but (almost) never use it,” said Sharma, who takes BART to her job with a health care startup in the East Bay. Her husband, a management consultant, travels four days a week and usually takes Uber to the airport.

Because he’s gone so much, “I need to be where something is sort of happening, not feeling like I’m stranded on an island somewhere,” Sharma said. She wants a lifestyle where she can walk the dog, meet up with a friend after work and get to know the neighbors. “If I just wanted a nice house,” she said, she’d move to the suburbs.

Sharma and Chandra, both 37, are waiting to close on a condo in Hayes Valley, where the Walk Score is 97.

6b Hayes Valley - BlueBottle2

Walk Score started just seven years ago, but its ratings have become a staple on real estate websites such as Redfin (which purchased Walk Score in 2014) and Zillow. These sites typically include each home’s Walk Score along with other neighborhood information such as school ratings. Many rental listings also cite Walk Scores.

Real estate agents often mention them in their ads and flyers. “We put them in when they score high, 80 or more,” said Julie Gardner, a Realtor with the Grubb Co. in Oakland.

Zillow searched all homes that appeared on its website in 2016 and discovered that 2.3 percent of Bay Area listings used the words “Walk Score,” “walkable” or “walkability” in their descriptions. Nationwide, only 0.5 percent of listings used them.

Not surprisingly, the terms show up most frequently in cities with high Walk Scores. They landed in 8.9 percent of listings for homes in San Francisco, 8.4 percent in Albany and 7.4 percent in Berkeley. These cities have average Walk Scores of 86, 80 and 81, respectively. The terms appeared in only 0.3 percent of listings in San Jose (average score 51).

“Walkability is a huge factor for a lot of buyers,” said Ruth Krishnan, an agent with Paragon Real Estate in San Francisco. But what’s walkable for some might not be for others. “I ask clients, ‘What is walkable to you? Walk downstairs to get coffee? A two-minute walk? Or a five- or 10-minute walk?’”

Certain amenities mean more to some buyers than others. Piedmont “doesn’t have a high walkability score, but the majority of people are moving here so their kids can walk to school,” Garner said. The Piedmont Walk Score is in the low 50s.

Noe Valley SF Neighborhood

The formula does not account for sidewalks, hills, climate or crime rates — which could be big considerations for some buyers and renters. That explains why Nob Hill, Russian Hill and Telegraph Hill — home to some of San Francisco’s steepest streets — have scores of 96 to 98. And why the Tenderloin — hardly a stroller’s paradise, especially at night — is rated 99. The Bay Area’s only neighborhood with a perfect Walk Score of 100 is Chinatown.

The city’s lowest-rated neighborhood is Treasure Island (Walk Score 36), followed by McLaren Park (38), which is nice if you like trees and views but not so great for walking to brunch.

“We are not trying to measure how pleasant an area is,” Walk Score spokeswoman Aleisha Jacobson said. The formula simply awards points based on the shortest distance to the greatest number of establishments.

Walk Score also calculates bike and transit scores. It makes money by licensing its scores to other websites; to researchers, government agencies and businesses that use it a variety of ways, and on its apartment-rental site.

Among cities nationwide, New York has the highest average Walk Score (89) followed by San Francisco (86).

In the Bay Area, 18 of the 20 most-walkable neighborhoods are in San Francisco. The other two are in Oakland — downtown and Koreatown-Northgate.

6b Hayes Valley - SquatAndGobble

Paragon agent Mary Macpherson said Walk Scores are most useful for buyers coming from outside the Bay Area, but she warns them not to take the numbers at face value. “They need to get out and walk the neighborhoods themselves, at different times of day, to know what it would truly be like before writing an offer — if they have time before an offer date, which isn’t always the case.”

According to Redfin research, homes with higher Walk Scores command higher prices. In San Francisco, a one-point difference equates to a difference of $3,943 on a $950,000 home. In Oakland, the difference amounts to $1,735 on a $523,000 home.

In Oakland and Berkeley, “It’s all about the Walk Score,” said D.J. Grubb, president of the Grubb Co. “Twenty years ago, everyone wanted to move from Alameda to Contra Costa County. Now, people want to stay in Oakland. I have a lot of people leaving the Oakland Hills and buying condos in a more urban corridor. The Millennials are trying to buy that house as well. It has two audiences, the Baby Boomers and Millennials.”

For this reason, “the flatlands are out-appreciating the hill area, without question,” Grubb said.

Cynthia Cristilli and her husband, Lance Manderville, both in their 50s, just bought a home — their first — in North Beach. “Walking was a huge factor. One reason we wanted to stay in the city is we want to be able to ditch the car and walk everywhere, even as elderly people,” she said.

To find Walk Scores, go to www.walkscore.com and type in an address.

Kathleen Pender is a San Francisco Chronicle columnist. Email: kpender@sfchronicle.com Twitter: @kathpender

San Francisco’s most walkable neighborhoods

Of the 20 Bay Area neighborhoods with the highest Walk Scores, 18 are in San Francisco. These top the list.

Neighborhood Score*
Chinatown 100
Downtown-Union Square 99
Lower Nob Hill 99
North Beach 99
Tenderloin 99
Civic Center 98
Castro 98
Japantown 98
Nob Hill 98
Polk Gulch 98

*Union Street, Mint Hill, Mission Dolores and Duboce Triangle neighborhoods also scored a 98.

Most walkable suburbs

Top 10 neighborhoods outside of San Francisco, Oakland and San Jose with the highest Walk Scores.

Neighborhood Score
Downtown Berkeley 96
Downtown San Rafael 93
Downtown San Mateo 93
Southside Berkeley 93
Downtown Burlingame 90
North Berkeley 89
Stambaugh-Heller (Redwood City) 89
Downtown Concord 89
West Washington (Albany) 88
Centennial (Redwood City) 88

Source: Redfin/Walk Score

http://www.sfchronicle.com/business/networth/article/Good-Walk-Scores-have-SF-buyers-renters-running-11192601.php

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