Sunday, January 17, 2010

Walkability Comes to MyNewPlace

MyNewPlace and Walk Score Team Up to Promote Walkable Apartments

"Location, location, location" has long been the cornerstone of the real estate industry. (The top apartment search sites – as selected by the tech-savvy readers of Lifehacker – all incorporate map-based search into their interfaces.) Now, MyNewPlace (MNP) is taking the notion of prime location to the next level by working with Walk Score to deliver more information to apartment hunters using their site. (MNP is no stranger to working with third-party sites to add interactive features to their listings.)

According to MNP, they are now the first major apartment search site to incorporate the Walk Score walkability ratings on every listing. Users will be able to sort apartment listings by their Walk Score, which should provide the prospect with a better snapshot of the surrounding neighborhood. One can presume that better informed prospects typically make for more qualified leads for apartment marketers. (More on this in a bit...)

In case you're not familiar with Walk Score, it's a website that rates a property’s walkability by analyzing the address to determine what sort of amenities are within walking distance. The higher the walk score, the more "walkable" a location should be. Walkability can be attractive to prospects looking for a neighborhood with easy access to all the conveniences of daily life – grocery stores, restaurants, schools, public transportation, etc. Here's one look at how the Walk Score ratings are integrated into MNP listings:

Why Add WalkScore?
MyNewPlace believes that the addition of Walk Score to their listings reflects renters’ emphasis on neighborhood information when choosing an apartment. One of MNP's recent surveys found that 79% of renters said that local information was an important factor in selecting what apartment to pick. With Walk Score built into MyNewPlace listings, renters are now able to get a true feel for the neighborhood and determine if it will be a good fit for their lifestyle. (What else are you doing to promote your property's neighborhood?)

Apartment marketers may think they have the best location – good neighborhood, great local attractions – but this feature will allow prospects to see that for themselves. By including walkability scores in their apartment searches, MNP believes they'll be able to deliver owners a distinctive competitive advantage.

The integration appears to be part of a two-way partnership. While Walk Score offers their own embeddable "real estate tiles," MyNewPlace is also powering an embeddable Walk Score Walkable Apartments widget – you can grab it here. MyNewPlace is also sharing data with Walk Score, showing how many apartments are available in the metro area searched by the user:

For more information, check out the announcement on the MyNewPlace blog.

My take: It's not an earth-shattering announcement, but it's encouraging to see that MyNewPlace continues to add new features to their listings. 'Renters by choice' are looking for convenience, and the Walk Score data could be an interesting way to deliver that information without the prospect leaving the site. I'm curious to know if apartment marketers with suburban properties can turn the feature off if they're concerned about their score, and I look forward to hearing from MNP down the road about how features like these influence the effectiveness of their advertisers' listings.

What do you think? Will apartment hunters use this new feature? And if they do, how big of a factor is walkability in the apartment selection process? Is there any downside to this partnership?

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