MHN Interview: Josh Herst, CEO of Walk Score
- Oct 04, 2011
By Jessica Fiur, News Editor
Seattle—That dream apartment you want to rent can quickly lose its sheen if it makes you have a nightmare commute. And, if you want to move to a city where owning a car is too costly, essential amenities such as access to public transportation need to be within walking distance of that apartment.
Josh Herst, CEO of www.walkscore.com, understands the importance of these considerations. In an interview with MHN, Herst describes how property managers and residents alike can utilize Walk Score, and their newly launched Apartment Search, to see how walkable a property is.
MHN: Describe Walk Score.
Herst: At the highest level, Walk Score is the leading measure of neighborhood walkability. We deliver 4 million scores a day right now across a network of over 10,000 real estate sites that use our neighborhood maps and data to help showcase the location of their properties, and a lot of our customers are in the apartment and multi-housing industry. Effectively, what we do is provide personalized neighborhood information that shows where you can walk to, what the commute will be like and how well-served the location is by public transit.
MHN: Is the score based out of 100?
Herst: Correct. The score is zero-100 reading, with scores of 90-100. We call them “walkers’ paradises.” The next category down is “highly walkable neighborhoods,” and below that is “somewhat walkable.” Below 50 are locations that are more car-dependent.
The score is primarily based on proximity to nearby amenities—grocery stores, restaurants, schools, parks, entertainment—the things that people want to be able to access regularly as part of their regular routine and errand running and such. As you may know, an increasing number of consumers are saying that access to these things is one of the most important criteria in deciding where to live, whether that’s buying a house or renting an apartment.
MHN: Do you find more people are looking to walk rather than drive?
Herst: What we’re hearing and seeing is that over three quarters of home shoppers rate being within a 30 minute commute to work as important, and two thirds rate being within walking distance of nearby amenities as being one of their top rated criteria as well, so clearly there’s really strong consumer demand. And as we like to look at it, the time spent in traffic and the expense of commuting is lost forever, and that has a real material impact on people’s quality of life, and so we are seeing more and more people wanting to find better commutes.
MHN: How could real estate property managers benefit from putting their Walk Score on their site when advertising apartments?
Herst: What we’re seeing and hearing from our customers is that Walk Score’s tools on their site help to increase engagement and the quality of the leads that come through to them. Individual real estate professionals, whether those are agents, realtors or property managers, can also use our tools to help to showcase the location of their properties, and we have a variety of tools for doing this. We have a Neighborhood Flyer, which is a highly customizable, easy-to-print flyer that’s a companion to a property flyer, which is about everything outside the four walls of the building as opposed to the unit itself that’s easy for people to set up and print out or email or share online. And we have a lot of real estate professionals that simply come online to gather the information on behalf of their clients.
MHN: Is there anything you’d like to add?
Herst: We’re really excited about our new product Apartment Search that has a commute search functionality that allows people to enter their commuting preferences, whether they prefer to drive, take public transit, walk or bike, and how long they want to commute, whether that’s 15 minutes, 20 minutes, 30 minutes, and we are dynamically showing available rentals that are available given that commute choices and parameters that you set. And we believe this is something hopefully compelling in the marketplace today.
It’s a place to go and say, “This is where I work—I want to find a better commute.”