Finding a New Home and Great Schools

It’s a question Realtors hear all the time:

“So, how are the schools?” Good schools mean good value in a community and in a home. When resale time comes, the house in a good school district is likely to sell quicker and for a higher price than the house in a troubled school district. Location location location… can change the kitchen in a house, or add on a room, but you cannot change the location or the community.

Your Realtor may not be the most objective source of information to answer that question about good schools. Realtors are bound by a code of ethics – even if they are representing a buyer in a transaction, telling the buyer that the schools are terrible can be viewed as disparaging the property, and hurting the homeowner. They may be subject to legal penalties for providing negative information about schools, or for giving an inaccurate assessment. Also, their personal views can be highly subjective.

I know a husband wife realtor team who work in one of the “best” school districts. They live in an area where people will rent rather than buy, or buy a fixer upper at a premium price, to live in the “best” school district. They love their home. The son who attends public school loves it there. But they will never tell you that the schools are the best ones around, even though they are widely regarded as being among the best in the state. The wife is an experienced real estate broker who manages a large office of a well known real estate company, and the husband sells many luxury homes every year. One of their children has learning disabilities and behavioral issues. After much involvement with the school system, they opted to place him in a private school, with a more structured environment. In their opinion, the district does many things well, especially college prep, but special needs students are not well served. They are smart enough to know that this is just their opinion. “What if I told a client that these are the best schools in the state, as many people believe, and they do not work out for the client’s child? My nightmare is that the client chose to buy a particular property because I told them the schools are wonderful – and for their family, it’s not so wonderful” the wife told me.

I have another friend who made the reverse journey. Her son was in private schools for his behavioral issues. He is now attending the public high school in this very same district – and the whole family believes that the district does an OUTSTANDING job of working with students who have learning disabilities and behavioral problems.

How do you tell what a school system is like before you move to a new community? Ask questions. Spend time in the community observing children. Visit the schools. Learn as much as you can about what is available. A Realtor can usually provide a school report, an important first step for you. School reports are very fact based and generic – they report the average class size, teacher/student ratio, presence of before and after school programs, percentage of students who graduate and go to college, and so on. These reports give you a general idea of what to expect.

If you are looking for a public school district with a great college prep program, then you might want to rethink buying that perfect home at such a great price in a district where only a small percentage of graduates go to four year colleges. If you need after school care, before school care, you should concentrate your home search around schools that provide those services.

There is no substitute for personally checking out a school system to see that it is a good fit for your child and your family. Most schools will welcome newcomers who show such great interest. Finding a great home is all the better when you find it in a great community for you and your family!