The Walkability Factor

GoodPlace Walkability Score

Ask Malaysians about what they is important when it comes to investing in properties, and they will usually answer with one or more of the below –

  • Location
  • Location
  • Wait, did I say location?

Due to the nature of my work, I do get inundated with emails every day from my readers (I run a fairly popular blog on Malaysia property), and the most frequently asked question has got to be this: “Khai Yin, where is the latest property hot spot?”

My answer is as good as anyone else’s, but I do see a growing trend of integrated (or “mixed use”) developments in the Klang Valley, and if I’m willing to bet my daughters’ college funds on property investment then I will be investing in those. (Addendum: more on area prospecting can be found in this guide).

Note: An abridged version of this article was published in June 2014’s issue of the Property Insight magazine.

Now let’s face it – with the worsening of traffic jam situation in urban Klang Valley, commuting to work is fast becoming untenable. Most of us would prefer to live near convenience and the people that we love.

Kuala Lumpur skyline

Is KL becoming un-livable due to its horrendous traffic conditions?

We have seen a couple of fairly recent launches where “everything under one roof” is a strong selling point (the recently relaunched Main Place in USJ, Kiara East on Jalan Ipoh), and we can expect these projects to do well. And we shall see more integrated developments in the pipeline (with even more such projects in the city announced recently – such as 8 Conlay), and this trend is a consequence of how un-livable the Klang Valley has become.

Especially for condominiums in the urban areas, walkability is fast becoming a crucial factor for many investors when it comes to choosing the right property to invest in. In fact, our internal measurements have shown that there is a fairly strong correlation between a property’s walkability score and its capital yield which means that we can use walkability as a fairly accurate future price predictor. More on this later.

What Is Walkability?

To put it simply, walkability is a measure of how friendly an area is to walking. In the context of a specific property, its walkability is measured by how accessible important amenities such as schools, transportation points, retail outlets, restaurants and police stations are given its location.

Walkability can be influenced by the following factors:-

  • Distance from the property to the amenity
  • Availability (and quality) of footpaths
  • Traffic conditions
  • Air conditions
  • Ample street signs and directions
  • Average pedestrian density

How Walkability Is Measured

There is no one standard way to measure walkability.

In the United Kingdom, there are “walking audits” where auditors would assess a pedestrian route qualitatively and quantitatively, utilizing a geographic information system (GIS) package to track results. These walking audits can be rather elaborate, and involves the scoring of street facilities such as links, crossings, waiting areas (bus stops, taxi stands) and open spaces (parks and fields). Each of these facilities is then scored on a seven point scale.

What is interesting with these scores from walking audits is that they are found to correlate well with the increase in residential house prices. This is often cited as proof that there are clear financial benefits from better street and walkway designs, and this is the reality that the property developers in Malaysia are waking up to.

Companies like Walk Score uses computer algorithms to calculate an index based on distances to important amenities. Apart from walkability, Walk Score also computes “Transit Score” and “Bike Score”. It’s a very innovative company.

GoodPlace.my’s approach is similar to Walk Score’s. We derive the GoodPlace Walkability Scores (GWS) based on walking distances to three clusters of facilities:-

  1. Basic amenities (Clinics, schools, police stations)
  2. Secondary amenities (Restaurants, drinking spots, retail outlets, laundrettes, entertainment spots)
  3. Transportation points (Taxi stands, LRT & commuter train stations)

Apart from the walking distance, the “ease of walk” (meaning, the existence of pathways and walking lanes) is also a strong factor. Datasets for these two variables are collected by connecting to the freely available Google Maps API.

The GWS scores range from 0 (worst) to 100 (best). As there are new amenities and walking pathways being built all the time, the scores won’t stay constant.

We do what we call the “Crawl And Compute (CAC)” process once about every six months and repopulate our index with new scores. Of course, the accuracy of our data depends on Google Maps, which is obtained via crowdsourcing. For the latest scores on selected properties in the Klang Valley, please contact me.

Some Sample Walkability Analysis

The charts below show a sample of GoodPlace Walkability Scores for condominiums in Mont Kiara and the Kuala Lumpur City Centre (KLCC).

KLCC Walkability Scores

Mont Kiara Walkability Scores

It should be of no surprise to anyone that the condominiums that score well on the walkability chart are part of mixed use developments, or are situated on top of a shopping mall.

Also, for many of the condominiums inside the KLCC enclave, commercial areas, shopping malls (Suria KLCC, Avenue K, Ampang Point), and public transportation points are reachable by foot. Thus, the KLCC condominiums often score high on the walkability chart.

Mont Kiara, on the other hand is a mixed bag of sorts. Some centrally located condominiums and apartments (such as the “original” cluster of Sunrise-built condominiums which line up Jalan Kiara 1) have superior accessibility to schools (Mont Kiara International School), offices (Wisma Mont Kiara, Plaza Mont Kiara), a police station (next to the i-Zen condominiums) and retail outlets (One Mont Kiara and Solaris Mont Kiara).

Menara Duta, Dutamas

Mid-of-the-range apartments like Menara Duta benefits from the rebranding of its area to “North Kiara”

There are also “far flung” condominiums up north on Jalan Dutamas Raya (which are still being marketed as being part of the Mont Kiara enclave) which score below their central Mont Kiara counterparts due to its relatively poorer walkability factor. The same goes for the Kiaramas condominiums in the western side of Mont Kiara, although schools (like the Garden International School), a police station, One Mont Kiara and Plaza Mont Kiara are still somewhat reachable by foot (for the motivated walker!).

For a more detailed analysis on Mont Kiara, download our premium Buyer Guide. Click here.

We have also noticed that residential-only enclaves seem to score in the lower side of the spectrum. Case in point: USJ Heights score in the [40-50] bracket where the nearest commercial area is USJ Taipan which is 5km away – it’s not very walkable!

Correlation Between Walkability And Price Increase

First of all, here’s a disclaimer. As we accumulate data from various publicly available sources, our analysis is only as good as the sources that we use. We cannot verify the accuracy of our data sources which is out of our control.

Our measurements department has done a rough correlation analysis between a property’s Walkability Score and the price appreciation for the past one year. Below is a chart showing how selected clusters of properties in KLCC and Mont Kiara performed in terms of capital yield and walkability:-

Walkability Price Correlator

There seems to be a strong correlation between walkability scores and capital yield

The results within this limited dataset are directionally conclusive, and may give us a capability to predict the degree of future price increases (when combined with other variables such as external macroeconomic factors, future development of infrastructure, and supply-demand economics).

Interestingly, the Commission for Architecture and Built Environment (CABE) has independently established the correlation between the increase in walkability scores and residential housing prices in the United Kingdom in a landmark study done in 2007 (“Paved In Gold: The Real Value Of Good Street Design”, published by CABE). We will share more findings in our ongoing study on yield vs walkability in future articles here on GoodPlace.my.

The Walkability Advantage

Property developers seem to be more mindful about the walkability factor now, and this is reflected in the trend of planned townships and integrated developments.

Indeed, there is relatively a stronger emphasis now on the design of an environment which encourages cluster-like living and increased social interaction while reducing carbon footprint. Superior liveability often results in the economic benefits which then trickle up to overall property price increases as demand for the properties in the area increase.

Here’s a fun anecdote: Dan Buettner, a fellow at the National Geographic Society who researched about the happiest place on earth, said that “there’s two things that we all hate doing. The first thing is housework. The second thing is the daily commute in our cars. So, to be happier, move closer to your work place!”

What’s In It For You

If you haven’t done so already, start considering walkability as a factor when you are considering the purchase a particular piece of property. I do share walkability scores here at GoodPlace.my from time to time, and get in touch with me if you’d like a walkability score of the property that you are considering. Leave me a message below, or use our DealMatcher service.

Even if you do not have access to the Walkability Scores, you can do a qualitative evaluation yourself by visiting the property and looking out for the nearby amenities, existing (and planned) pathways, etc. Keep a scorecard so that you can compare between the properties that you are considering, and with enough comparisons, you’ll be able to separate out the winners and the duds as far as walkability is concerned.

About Khai Yin

When I am not writing for GoodPlace.my and helping my readers find properties though the DealMatcher service, I spend time doting on my three kids: Wenyi, Qinyi and Eian. My personal stuff, some published essays and contact details can be found at khaiyin.com

Comments

  1. Raymond Ong says:

    Recently I noticed that there is a project at the heart of Cyberjaya called Third Avenue. It would be interested to know what is the walkability scores if compare to Solaris Publika at Jalan Duta and others?

  2. How bout kiara 163? Is it worth paying for the walkability? The SoVo doesn’t come with any furnishing, carpark & maintenance fee is hefty.

  3. The top property for walkability according to your system is Pavilion at 99 followed by One KL and Marc Residence with 96 and then K Residence and Le Nouvel with 95. IMO the methodology seems seriously flawed. You state proximity to amenities, LRT, taxi etc etc are all important and I even assume parks are all relevant to the score. On that basis how does Pavilion score 99? It is quite a walk to the monorail and there is no nearby park at all. One Kl and Marc where I lived is opposite KLCC and close to the park and taxis etc so in my view better than Pavilion but the best property for walkability has to be K Residence BY A MILE and it scores a lousy 95! K Residence is untouchable in a country that has so much rain. That condo has nearly a secret side exit to KLCC LRT that connects you to the train in under 30 seconds. You can swipe your train pass yep within 30 seconds of leaving the condo door!!!It is the only block with an underground link to KLCC so you never need an umbrella which is definitely not true of Onekl or Marc which scored higher. The free KL Purple bus leaves opposite the condo for free transport all around KL and all the executive blue taxis and budget taxis are opposite too. BUT for sure this block is the only block in KLCC where you can go from the condo to KLIA by train or taxi etc without an umbrella. The LRT to Kl Sentral is under you and you then can connect to the KLIA Express. The mind boggles as to how convenient that condo is. Now that K Avenue is up and running and working well all the shops and restaurants and even nursery are available or you can go by air conditioned underground link to KLCC or even walk all the way to Pailion without going outside!!!. How does Pavilion, One Kl or Marc beat K Residence. Furthermore how does Le Nouvel have the same score of 95 as K Residence when you will get drenched when you try to get on the train or even walk across the road to KLCC. Le Nouvel will also be great but I don’t think it deserves the same score. When the wife is all dressed up and wants to get somewhere DRY and COOL then K Residence is UNTOUCHABLE ! I think the walkability index needs some further thought as to how it is calculated because K Residence is way out ahead.

    • @Craig – I wouldn’t give too much importance on the difference of the few percentage points (4?) between the two properties, and should certainly not be the basis of choosing one over the other. A score of 95 is not “lousy” by any means, and especially when compared with a score of 99, for example, the statistical significance may not be that, well, significant.

      http://www.measuringu.com/blog/statistically-significant.php

      Don’t use the Walkability Score (or any other algorithmically generated metric) to substitute for good judgment!

  4. Briefly in response to your comments a mere 4 points on the walkability index in a competitive market place does matter. I appreciate one could put this down to statistical error but frankly minor differences matter hugely in today’s competitive environment and the developer’s always try to point out why their development is worth so much more.The new KLCC condos, actually all KLCC condos try to differentiate themselves due to some kind of subtle difference. For example The Mews I believe will offer a shuttle bus to residents to KLCC . For me this just shows that they are not really at KLCC at all but on the outskirts! Still nonetheless they are trying to differentiate themselves by offering this service so that residents will not be all sweaty and exhausted by the time they get to The PTT. Branded properties try to offer up reasons why we should pay them double or triple the typical condo price even though any of the extra services we want we will generally have to pay separately for. My point here is simple. All properties these days are trying to charge a LOT more per square foot and in return are IMHO just offering the buyer some very very minor extra service or facility which essentially is the same as an extra point or so on the walkability index. Four Seasons or 8 Conlay may let the condo residents make use of the maid services offered by the hotel portion for an EXTRA fee each time but that offer to buyers comes with the developer tagging on an extra few hundred/thousand MYR per square foot in the offer price.
    So a few points here and there to me on the walkability index is really a big deal as in an ideal analysis those small differences should correlate into much higher property values in the same way that recent KLCC launches try to say that they are worth SOOOO MUCH more than the condo next door because of some IMHO nearly invariably meaningless difference. If offering up the ability to use a maid service or a shuttle bus etc can translate into such a large PSF asking price difference then a few points on the walkability index should matter. For sure 20 seconds to get onto the KLCC LRT from your condo door,like K Residence offers, is a genuine difference worth points and $$$$!

    • @Craig, points well taken, but for clusters of condominiums which are located relatively close together (i.e. KLCC) I’d look beyond walkability and place more weightage on supply / demand and/or other saturation factors which would have higher correlation with prices compared to +/-4% points in walkability scores.

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