Conversations about schools and their effect on a home’s value are often of the “chicken or the egg” variety. Homes in the best school districts, on average, sell for higher prices than similar homes in less-popular school districts. A simple analysis might say that good schools are wholly responsible for this added value.
At the same time, on average, more affluent homeowners live in more sought-after school districts. Statistics often show that for large sample sizes, the more affluence there is in a community, the higher test scores will be in that same community. Test scores are just one measure of “good schools,” but they’re a highly quoted measure. There can be a self-reinforcing mechanism here that might overemphasize the effect of the school itself on the prices of those homes. One might even hypothesize that the high home prices make the schools better.
Do the research
There’s plenty of information available at your fingertips, so get started with an online search to determine the school district, or even the specific school, you hope to send your child. Different websites offer test scores, rankings, and demographic information, including student diversity by race and gender, the percentage of students on free lunch programs, as well as the student-teacher ratio. You can use these statistics to develop an opinion of the schools and school districts you’re considering. Homes.com gives you an array of information on schools by location. You can search by both state and type to find out everything you need to know from student body count to the neighborhoods nearby.
Depending on the site, you can narrow down your search by location, test scores, and ranking, based on a variety of criteria such as grade levels or a focus in math and science. Websites like SchoolDigger.com allow you to compare schools and read reviews and ratings from other parents as well. Here on Homes.com we have a school section where you can search private and public schools from kindergarten through twelfth grade, including elementary schools, middle schools, junior high schools and senior high schools throughout the United States.
Take other needs into account
You can also narrow your search by school type: magnet schools, charter schools, alternative schools, early childhood, special education, vocational and technical schools. Before you get caught up in a whirlwind of test scores, focus on your own child’s needs. Just because a school has slightly lower test scores than the next one doesn’t mean it won’t be a great fit socially. Each has its pros and cons, but by providing schools that are based on choice and not location, both charter schools and magnet schools offer parents and students real alternatives to traditional public schooling.
Don’t be afraid to consider alternatives
If you prefer a neighborhood that doesn’t filter schools where you want to send your kids, there are always alternatives to ensure your children get the education you think would be best for them. Depending on where you live, open enrollment could be another option. Open enrollment allows students in low-performing schools to enroll in a school outside their designated district. State policy and other stipulations, like an application process or minimum standardized or entrance exam score, could be required to enter your child into open enrollment.
Know what you can afford
It’s not surprising that many of the neighborhoods with the best schools are also some of the priciest – where demand is high, prices go up. Sometimes the neighborhood’s high home prices could completely eliminate it as an option, but if you’re set on a particular school, compromising on some home amenities can help you get there. Try to avoid sacrificing too much for a quality school district, as enough bedrooms and space for your family to be comfortable is important to maintaining a sense of home.
Clearly, though, consumer demand is large enough that we can conclude that good schools do increase home values in some measure. Half of the home-buying population is willing to pay more than their intended budget to get into the right school district, and more than half would give up other amenities. Making a decision on buying a home should definitely include an analysis of the school district, even for buyers who don’t intend to send children to those schools. Good schools provide stability for a community, and that’s good for the property values of everyone who lives nearby.
This may seem obvious, but it cannot be stressed enough – go see the schools for yourself, and visit as many as possible. You might discover what you thought was important really isn’t at all. Test scores and state rankings often cannot convey the important, yet difficult-to-quantify, vibe of a place. There’s nothing worse than buyer’s remorse, especially regarding what is often considered the biggest investment you’ll ever make. Don’t buy a home in a school district unless you are confident it’s a good fit for your child.
Keep in mind that while providing your child with a good education is important, the neighborhood you live in, and whether you can afford it, also matters. Hopefully, some of these simple and practical steps will ensure you’re able to find the right school and home for your family.