A school district can affect your choice of a new home — even if you don’t have children. School district quality is tied to home value, for multiple reasons. As you search for the ideal home for your family, consider the school district.
Why School District Matters
Whether you have children in public school or not, your school district affects your home’s value. Real estate website Trulia says, “during tougher economic times that trigger declines in home values, homes in better school districts usually hold their value more than homes in lower-quality school districts.” So you may pay more for your home, and pay higher property taxes, but the investment can pay off. Homes in better districts also tend to sell faster.
Of course, if you do have children or plan to, the school they attend significantly affects all of your lives. You naturally want your child to get a good education, but also to experience a supportive environment and solid friendships.
Factors to Weigh
U.S. News and World Report writes, “For the most part, the numbers you’re probably interested in are test scores.” They go to say, however, that test scores should not be your only consideration. Also consider the age of the schools, the condition of their facilities, graduation rates and student-to-teacher ratios. Find out what levies are in place or up or a vote that will funnel money toward future school improvements.
If the public schools in an otherwise desirable neighborhood don’t live up to your expectations, charter or magnet schools can offer an alternative. However, charter or magnet schools accept a limited number of students, sometimes using a lottery system, so you may not want to depend on luck.
Where to Start
It makes sense to start by asking questions of your realtor, but under the Fair Housing Act Realtors cannot answer certain questions. The Fair Housing Act “prohibits any real estate professional from steering prospective home buyers or renters toward or away from a community based on any of the classes under federal protection” such as race or religion. Therefore, your realtor cannot give you an opinion but can refer you to sources of facts about a district.
Visit the sites individual school districts to look for test scores and rankings. Also, check sites like GreatSchools.org or U.S. News and World Report. Ask friends and potential neighbors for input as well.
How to Decide
School district boundaries change occasionally. Always double-check with the district to make sure your potential home is actually in the district you think.
Once you have the options narrowed down, visit schools that your children could eventually attend. This applies both to public and private schools. Ask to meet the principal and take a tour. Bring your children along. You will get a sense of the atmosphere and how the staff treats people.
If you’re considering a private school, assess the commute. Try driving the route during the actual time that you would take your child to school or pick them up. Ask about entrance requirements.
Keep in mind that, for your kids, school is more than academics. Look beyond test scores and class size with their interests in mind. Does the school offer extracurricular activities or sports that your kids enjoy? Does your child already know anyone at their new school? Think about yourself as well, and how likely you are to click with other parents.
As you shop for a home, you already have a range of factors on your mind. However, most home buyers consider school district among the most important.