The importance of walkability

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While the financial responsibilities that come with buying a home are important to consider, there's more to purchasing property than just home loans and mortgage rates. One aspect of homeownership that has become more discussed recently is the importance of walkability when choosing a home to buy.

What is walkability?
Walkability concerns how conducive a particular area is to pedestrian movement. This includes factors such as the availability of footpaths and sidewalks, amount of traffic, building accessibility, safety and other components.

Why is walkability important?
As health and the environment continue to become more important to individuals, walkability will likely only grow in popularity. Walking is the most environmentally-friendly mode of travel available today, as it cuts down on vehicle pollution. Additionally, the health benefits of walking are self-evident, as regular exercise is an important part of human health. In fact, a study from America's Columbia University has shown a correlation between walkability and a lowering of individuals' body mass index (BMI). 

"We have conducted a series of analyses investigating whether 'neighborhood walkability' is associated with lower body mass index, greater levels of physical activity and more pedestrian activity among residents of New York City," reads the report from the university's Built Environment and Health Research Group. "Our initial studies … of neighborhood walkability described in the urban planning literature – population density, land use mix and access to public transit – were associated with lower BMI among adults and higher levels of physical activity in children."

Additionally, walkability can be a financial boon for homeowners. Being able to walk or easily use public transportation eliminates the need for a vehicle, as well as all the costs associated with vehicle ownership.

How do you determine walkability?
The most obvious way to determine whether a home is located in an area with good walkability is to visit it and walk around. Are there plenty of footpaths and sidewalks? Are walking areas well-lit at night? Is there heavy or light traffic? How safe is it to walk around? Are important retail and emergency services located nearby? These are all questions that homeowners should be able to answer before closing on a home purchase.

Another option is looking up an area's walkability online. According to The Huffington Post Canada, websites like WalkScore.com can provide homeuuyers with details regarding a neighborhood's walkability.

"Walkability tends to be based on two things," Matt Lerner, co-founder of WalkScore.com, told the news source. "Whether most of the development happened before everyone owned a car, and whether the area has natural barriers like water that inhibit sprawl to make cities more dense and walkable."

According to the same article, the most walkable city in Canada is Vancouver, coming in with a walk score of 78. Vancouver was followed by Victoria, Toronto, Halifax, Montreal, Burnaby, Mississauga, Longueuil and Yellowknife. Richmond, British Columbia, rounded out the top 10.

Figure out your needs
Whether walkability is a determining factor for individual homebuyers or not, it's important for Canadians to determine their future needs when purchasing a property. A home is an investment, so it only makes sense to make sure it suits a buyer's requirements down the line. This includes the number of rooms, proximity to work and school, the type of neighborhood it's located in and many other factors.

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