NEW ORLEANS, LA - It’s no secret that walkability, locality, and neighborhood amenities continue to command high respect and consideration from apartment searchers. But how best to communicate what an apartment community has to offer via digital marketing channels? One compelling answer is to be found in the use of maps and digital mapping services, and many multifamily marketers have already turned to Walk Score and other online mapping services to bolster their online marketing and advertising with rich media that puts their communities (you guessed it) on the map.
This year, Walk Score CEO Josh Herst will address the multifamily industry at the Apartment Internet Marketing Conference, and joins MultifamilyBiz.com this week for an exclusive look into what maps and mapping have to offer the apartment industry moving forward.
MultifamilyBiz.com: Hi Josh, thanks for joining us. I think most of the multifamily industry is familiar with Walk Score, but why don't you give us a quick download on your firm's technology and its value proposition to apartment marketers?
Josh Herst: Walk Score is all about helping people to find great places to live. Our website and mobile apps offer unique rental search options including the ability to find places to live by commute time, access to public transportation and proximity to "Gotta Have" amenities like coffee shops and car share locations. Being able to walk out your door and be at your destination—whether that's your job, school, park, grocery store or restaurant—is great for your wallet, health and quality of life. Our neighborhood maps, visualizations, commute time tools and scores, including Walk Score, Transit Score and our new Bike Score help real estate professionals communicate value to renters. We currently deliver over 9 million scores per day across a network of over 15,000 real estate sites that use Walk Score data to help showcase their properties.
MultifamilyBiz.com: Talk to us a little bit about how Walk Score works. What is a Walk Score and how does your firm select and compile the information that is used to determine the Walk Score of any individual address?
Josh Herst: 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 a quarter mile receive maximum points and no points are awarded for amenities further than one mile. We compile our data from a number of leading local data providers and are fortunate to have an active user base that helps to keep our data up to date. After all, nobody knows your neighborhood better than you do. For our Transit Score and Bike Score products we also aggregate data from hundreds of public transit agencies and directly from city governments. We are constantly refreshing our underlying data and we update individual address scores on a rolling basis roughly every quarter.
MultifamilyBiz.com: While we're on the subject of neighborhoods, how critical do neighborhood amenities continue to be for people who are looking for a new place to live, particularly apartment renters?
Josh Herst: It's a real estate cliché, but there's no question that location matters to renters. The majority of people deciding where to live rate being within a short commute to work and within an easy walk of neighborhood amenities such as grocery stores, restaurants and parks as key decision making criteria. Moreover, people are increasingly looking for places to live that are aesthetically appealing, fun, diverse, convenient, and social. All of this is even more pronounced among Millennials, one third of who will pay more for the ability to easily walk to shops, work and entertainment. In fact, I was just reading a study indicating that over 70% of Millennials rate walkability as important or vital when deciding where to live, making walkability the most important community feature for this largest generation emerging in the rental marketplace.
MultifamilyBiz.com: Have you noticed any change in preferred neighborhood characteristics of renters over time? Have they become increasingly or decreasingly concerned with certain features shown via Walk Score?
Josh Herst: Continuing on the Millennial theme, we're seeing increasing evidence that this generation is choosing to own fewer cars and drive less than previous generations. They'd rather be on their phones than behind the wheel and are opting to walk, bike, car-share and use public transportation more. It's also interesting to watch bike commuting grow in popularity in many cities and to see apartment buildings beginning to cater to this audience with secure bike storage and even bike repair shops in the apartment buildings. Of course I'd be remiss if I didn't point out that retiring Boomers are also increasingly looking for walkable places to live where they are not car dependent, can live a healthy and active lifestyle and age in place.
MultifamilyBiz.com: We see you are participating in the Mapping: The Gateway to Local panel presentation at this year's AIM conference. Why do maps and mapping remain a vital tool for multifamily real estate marketers?
Josh Herst: Yes, I'm excited to be participating in this year's AIM conference. Maps are unquestionably vital tools for multifamily real estate marketers to answer key customer questions about the location of a building and to showcase what's best about their properties. Is the property close to coffee shops, nightlife and entertainment or along a quiet residential street with ample outdoor green spaces? Is the building within easy walking distance of public transportation or a short drive from the city's downtown core? Many consumers either already know the neighborhood they're most interested in or have very specific neighborhood criteria, and map-based search is a powerful way to quickly direct prospective renters to the available units that best match their preferences.
MultifamilyBiz.com: Any teasers of future advancements in mapping or neighborhood data technology that Walk Score is particularly excited about?
Josh Herst: There are a number of exciting trends to watch including the proliferation of sensors collecting hyper-local, real time data. Mobile is also having an increasingly large impact on how people are accessing maps and local content. At its core, Walk Score is about what's beyond the four walls of a home or apartment. In the months ahead you will see us continue to integrate new data sets and to synthesize this information to help people gain greater insight into the qualities that make each block, street and neighborhood unique.
For much more on digital mapping and next generation multifamily marketing, don’t miss Mapping: The Gateway to Local, an official presentation at this year’s AIM Conference featuring Herst, 30Lines CEO Mike Whaling, and mapping and navigational expert Wesley Gillis. Click here to register for AIM 2013: The Art of Creativity.