Factoring Schools into Your Home Buying Decision

Some homes receive higher marks than others based on one factor: the property’s location within a top-ranked school district. With summer drawing to a close and students returning to classrooms, it’s an excellent time to consider the connection between schools and housing.

How important are good schools?

The answer depends on who you ask. 

When the National Association of REALTORS® surveyed homebuyers, they found that 53 percent of buyers with children in the home under 18 years of age said the quality of the school districts is an important factor when purchasing a home. Only 10 percent of buyers with no children at home felt similarly. 

Quality of the School District

Source: NAR’s 2019 Moving with Kids Report

Some buyers’ desire to live within the boundaries of a particular school district is so strong that they’ll give up other coveted home features. In a survey by realtor.com®, buyers who placed a high priority on schools were most likely scratch these features off their list:

- Garages (19%)

- Large backyards (18%)

- Updated kitchens (17%)

- Bedrooms (17%)

- Outdoor living areas (16%)

Cost versus value

To what extent do good schools affect home values? It depends on where you’re shopping. 

On a national level, a 2012 study by the Brookings Institution examined the 100 largest metropolitan areas and found that housing costs an average of 2.4 times more near high-scoring public schools than low-scoring public schools.

However, it’s important to note that the study also found that homes around high-scoring schools tend to be larger, with 1.5 more rooms. Differences in local property taxes can also have a significant impact on housing costs.

While conventional wisdom says that good schools, good neighborhoods, and higher housing prices all go hand-in-hand, when it comes to buying a home, you might prefer investing in an up-and-coming area where property prices have more upside potential than similar homes in the top school districts.

What’s defines a good school? 

When it comes to grading schools, homeowners have different priorities. According to the realtor.com® survey, these factors received the highest marks among all buyers:

- Test scores (59%)

- Accelerated programs (53%)

- Arts and music programs (49%)

- Diversity (43%)

- Before- and after-school programs (41%)

The survey also cited notable differences between the priorities of older and younger buyers. Younger buyers (ages 18-34) were more likely to cite diversity as a feature that defines a good school (49%) compared to 37% of buyers over age 55.

Older buyers, on the other hand, placed more importance on the presence of accelerated programs (62%) compared to 50% of younger buyers. 

Doing your homework.

There are various ways to decide if a particular school or school district measures up against your priorities. Among online rating sites, Greatschools.org is a popular tool. 

Try reading reviews on other sites, asking friends, or using online community platforms like Nextdoor.com. Additionally, your buyer's rep may be able to point you to more resources for evaluating local schools. 

It’s also important to understand that decisions about school preferences are entirely up to you. The Fair Housing Act prohibits real estate professionals from sharing their opinions about schools, crime rates, and other factors that may inadvertently steer a buyer into or away from a neighborhood.

As a buyer, you have total freedom in deciding where you want to live. That also means it’s your responsibility to do your research on various neighborhood considerations. 

Once you’ve set your boundaries, your buyer’s agent will be at your side, helping you find the best home for your needs and budget.