Impact of Traffic Apps on Real Estate

One of my favorite apps for getting my clients from house to house is Waze. Waze is “the world’s largest community-based traffic and navigation app.” What this means is that Waze uses data from other Waze users to route you around traffic jams. Many times this means a detour down a side street that saves you being stuck through multiple stop light cycles. This adds up to a lot of time if you’re trying to get from Ballard to Sand Point.

Like all transactions, there are winners and losers. The Waze users are the winners, saving time driving down under-utilized streets, but the residents of those once quiet streets are turning out to be the losers.

I live close to one of those streets and have been shocked at the volume and speed of traffic flowing through our once quiet neighborhood. I fear for my own safety when I’m walking or biking across that street and have told my kids they’re not allowed on that street when they’re out playing.

I had an old radar gun sitting in the basement that I brought out to measure the speed of traffic and was surprised to learn most of it was under the Seattle residential speed limit of 25 miles per hour, because when you’re standing so close to those cars it sure feels a lot faster.

This week Seattle city officials announced they’re going to drop the speed limit on residential streets from 25 miles per hour to 20. While I’d love to be able to get around town faster, the safety from the speed reduction should be worth it.

But does this traffic impact real estate? YES! 

We dug into the data of home sales for the last 10 years (2006-2016) and found that there is a direct correlation between how often homes sell on a given street and the volume of traffic. For our analysis we constrained the problem to 48th to 59th streets bounded by Phinney and 3rd avenues. This map shows the subject area:


We then used the NWMLS sale data to figure out how many of these homes were sold over the last 10 years and we found that 49th Street, the one with the radar example above had the most sales over the last 10 years, closely followed by 48th and 50th. These are all sneaky routes from Phinney Avenue to Market Street.

For homes on a corner of a north-south street, we manually coded them to the east-west street. For example, 5130 1st Ave NW was coded to 52nd as it’s on the corner of 1st Ave NW and 52nd Street. Homes on north-south streets that are not on the corner were not included in this analysis. We also manually coded the homes on 57th to 56th because 57th turns into 56th.

What we found was that not surprisingly streets that don’t go through have lower turnover; however, one surprising exception is 52nd which goes through in a roundabout way. 52nd has some of the lowest turnover in our subject area.


For home buyers, this it’s important to pay close attention to traffic patterns on even a quiet looking residential street. You may find yourself irritated with the traffic and selling sooner than you expected. For home sellers, you’re likely going to see your home selling for less than a similar home just a block away because of the extra traffic.

Many people will cite that correlation is not causation. We offer this results with the disclaimer that this is a non-scientific study in a small sample area. We hope to get a bigger dataset to see if our theory holds true in other parts of town.

I continue to use Waze to get around town, but when it suggests taking a residential street I pause to assess whether saving time is worth the detour. If I decide to take it, I drive like I live there and go well below the speed limit. I hope you will too.

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