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Ron Howard

Loan Officer
Movement Mortgage
NMLS ID # 176141

Why school districts matter when buying a home

By: Movement Team
May 8, 2024

We help a lot of people buy homes. And one of the conversations we hear a lot between prospective homebuyers is what type of impact a school district has on the value of a home and the quality of life they can expect.

School districts play an important role in influencing prospective homebuyers' decision-making. Those most interested in living in better school districts are families with school-aged children or those planning on starting families in the future. However, buying a home in a solid school district also has benefits for homeowners without children.

Let's look at how school district reputation and quality can impact a property's value, how homebuyers can research school districts before settling on a neighborhood to live in, and the pros and cons of buying in a high-performing school district.

How do school districts affect property values?

It's very common that families with kids — or thinking of having kids — want to be in a good school district so their children have the best education possible in the safest neighborhood they can afford.

But even if you're single or part of a couple with no intention of raising a family — or an empty nester whose kids have flown the coop — living in a neighborhood within a reputable school district has undeniable advantages.

A few years back, the New York Times looked at the relationship between educational test scores and home prices in suburban neighborhoods. They uncovered that a 5% improvement in test scores raised home prices by as much as 2.5%. That's significant.

In 2013, residential real estate brokerage firm Redfin compared homes similar in style, size, and condition. The only difference was that some were near highly-ranked public schools and some weren't. According to their report, Americans, on average, "pay $50 more per square foot for homes in top-ranked school districts compared with homes served by average-ranked schools." And that was a decade ago — the price difference might be even higher by now in some regions.

What should homebuyers consider when it comes to school districts?

Buyers can sometimes become so consumed with needing to be in the best school district that they lose perspective of the other characteristics they're looking for in a home. These are things like the neighborhood, square footage, outdoor space, upgrades, commuting distance, shopping, dining options and proximity to parks and recreation. Decide what's really important to you and your family and if those things weigh more than being in a better school district.

There's also the cost. In a lesser school district, a larger home with a garage on a bigger lot could cost you less than a smaller home with no garage and less property in a better district. And taxes might be less, too*.

*Should not be construed as legal or financial advice. Please consult a tax professional/financial advisor.

As a buyer, you might also see that your competition — other homebuyers in the area — are willing to pay more to be in certain school districts. It all comes down to location, location, location. When homes sell above market value in a neighborhood, the value of nearby homes can also rise. You're more likely to see a home in a good school district retain its value longer and increase in value faster than those that aren't in a good district — even during market volatility. In a seller's market, it's not uncommon to ask for and get above-market prices simply based on the school district you live in.
 


 

What about homes that are within walking distance of a school?

If you can handle the morning and afternoon traffic from school buses — and the roar of the crowd during weekend football games — you may find that homes near schools tend to have pretty strong property values, especially compared to homes that are farther away. That said, what impacts property value most is school ranking and the general level of excellence, not proximity to physical schools.

Other potential pros & cons of living in a good school district

For families buying in a good school district, there can be many upsides:

  • Safety: Homes in better school districts typically are in safer neighborhoods, with better street lighting, well-kept sidewalks and organized neighborhood watch groups.
  • Transportation: A good school district will usually have the ability to bus students to and from school. Child supervision, proper maintenance of equipment and training of drivers are paramount.
  • Recreation: Most quality school districts will have playgrounds and sports fields open to the public after school ends and on weekends.
  • Resale: If you live in an area with a great school district, especially if it’s in proximity to good shopping and dining options, you can look forward to earning more on the future sale of your home.

There are also some potential downsides:

  • Property taxes: Some homebuyers won't want to pay the higher property taxes that often come from living in a highly desirable school district.
  • Competition: The more desirable the school district, the less likely there will be a choice of homes for sale when you're house-hunting. And it's more likely that you'll compete with other homebuyers — some with deeper pockets.

Finding a good school district to live in

Your real estate agent is the best source for the down-low on school district information. They know the community best and can guide you toward making the right decision for your particular situation. They might even have kids in the local schools and may be able to provide candid insight into school history, administration, after-school programs and other education-related questions that you might not find through online research.

 

Want to take your information gathering digital? There are many websites built to help buyers review school districts from various vantage points, like average classroom size, standardized test scores, student completion rates, sports team ranking, etc.

Here are a few:

  • GreatSchools — is a national nonprofit that provides public and private school ratings and comparison tools based on student growth, college readiness, equity and test scores.
  • Niche - connects students and families with schools and colleges. It has in-depth profiles on US-based schools and colleges and over 140 million reviews and ratings to help you find the right school district and community.
  • SchoolDigger - has, for 15+ years, helped millions of parents evaluate school performance and quality by providing vital metrics for over 120,000 US-based elementary, middle and high schools.

What if the home you love isn’t in a good school district?

So what if you find a great home that’s not in a great spot for schools? Well, whether you already have children or are planning to, there are a few options to consider.

  • Look into private schools: If you already have kids, private schools can often provide a high standard of education. It is important, however, to check the cost of private schools and make sure they’re within your budget. Private schools can be more expensive so it’s worth considering if you’d rather spend the money on a more expensive school or on a more expensive house in a better school district.
  • Look into charter schools: If you have kids but don’t want to go the private school route, charter schools can also be a great option. They offer alternative free education that is often at a higher quality.
  • Don’t have kids yet, but plan to: Even if you don’t have children yet, considering the school districts for your new home is important, especially if you already plan to have them. However, school districts could change in the future, so it’s important to keep an eye on your local education plans. For example, the home may be redistricted into a more desirable school district, or a new school may even be built in the area.

Ready to start searching?

Even if you don't have children, a great strategy is to look at homes in stronger school districts and then fine-tune your search from there.

To help you get into the home you want, it's best to be pre-approved first so you know the budget you're working within. Give one of our loan officers a call, and they'll help answer any questions about the process. Or, if you're ready to start now, you can always apply online!

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Author: Movement Team

About Movement Mortgage
Movement Mortgage exists to love and value people by leading a Movement of Change in its industry, corporate culture, and communities. Funding approximately $30 billion in residential mortgages annually, Movement is the sixth-largest retail mortgage lender in the U.S. Movement is best known for its innovative mortgage process and referable experience, which begins with Upfront Underwriting and a seven-day loan processing goal. The company employs more than 4,000 people, has more than 650 branches in the U.S. and is licensed in 50 states. After funding its balance sheet and investing in future growth, Movement's profits are paid to its primary shareholder, the nonprofit Movement Foundation. To date, Movement Foundation has received more than $360 million of Movement profit to invest in schools, affordable housing, communities, and global outreach. For more information, visit www.movement.com.

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Ron Howard
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