I love to walk. I don’t need a lot of convincing to go take one. Whether it’s down the beach, across campus, on the trail, around downtown, or just through my neighborhood, I’m always up for a walk. My best days almost always start or end with a long walk together with my wife, Kathryn.

For me, walking lowers my stress levels, clears my head, and helps me think better. While I start out most walks with a nagging problem on my mind, I end most walks with a way forward and an improved attitude. Do you need clarity on a hard-to-solve issue? Are you feeling stressed or overwhelmed? Do you want a creative spark to get unstuck? Try taking a long walk.

So, what does this sales pitch for walking have to do with real estate? It’s because I can think of no better way to get to know a property or a neighborhood than to walk it. Rest assured that we will dig deep on the numbers, review comparables and market data, and pore over plats, deeds, plans, inspection reports, and other due diligence items, but walking forces you to slow down, to notice the little things, and to really take in the neighborhood.

My advice to anyone thinking of buying real estate is to walk the property and walk the neighborhood. When you buy a property, you are also buying into the neighborhood, so you should get to know it ahead of time too. Walk it at different times of day. Monday mornings are often different than Friday nights.

There are some things that you just can’t learn or won’t notice while zooming through in a car or looking at aerials. You can’t take in the sights, the sounds, the smells, and the feel of a neighborhood through your computer screen. In a car, there’s little chance that you’ll meet and talk with someone from the neighborhood. When you move through a neighborhood on your own two feet, you may chat with a neighbor or strike up a conversation with someone working out in the yard. Walking is one the best ways get to know the places and structures that make up the built environment of a neighborhood as well as the people that live, work, and spend time there.

I try to walk the property and the neighborhood anytime I take a listing, show a property, or complete an appraisal assignment. In my work, I’ve walked around downtown neighborhoods, retail corridors, industrial parks, campuses, mixed-use neighborhoods, residential subdivisions, campgrounds, churches, golf courses, resorts, trailer parks, farms, large land tracts, and everything in between. My commitment to walking the property and the neighborhood has ruined a couple pairs of shoes, left me covered in ticks a few times, and brought me face-to-face with some interesting wildlife over the years, but I can’t tell you how many times that it helped me to notice something crucial or meet someone from the neighborhood with an interesting insight to share.

Three Practical Ways to Get Started:

1. Walk your neighborhood—Do it before you buy to get a feel for the neighborhood. Do it after you buy to get to know your neighbors. Don’t walk to set time records. Allow some time to just stop and talk with people. Regular walking will help you stay in touch with what’s happening in your neighborhood.

2. Walk our local downtowns—A fun place to start would be to walk all the Main Streets and surrounding downtown areas of Lynchburg, Bedford, Amherst, Appomattox, and Altavista. Give yourself time to walk a few blocks, take in the sights, shop at a boutique or antique store, and grab a cup of coffee or bite to eat.

3. Consider walking meetings—I enjoy getting together with people for coffee or lunch as much as the next person, but walking meetings are becoming my favorite type of meeting. There’s something about forward motion that propels the conversation past the surface level and into the heart of the matter. If you want to walk together and talk real estate, just let me know when and where. I’ll meet you there with my walking shoes on.