Find the Balance Between a Quality School System and an Affordable Home

finding the balance between a good school system and affordable houseing. Do quality schools affect house values?The big question is do school systems affect home values?  Here in the greater Boston area you will find that there are two factors that seem to go hand in hand with higher house prices.  One is the proximity to Boston and the quality of the school systems.

All across the country you will find that communities with better school systems will generally have higher median house prices than surrounding communities with lesser quality schools.

Many parents who are home buyers with school aged children need to find the balance between buying a good home in a community with a decent school system.  Finding that balance between a quality school system and an affordable home can sometimes be tough.

First I am going to show that the quality of a school system certainly affects the value of homes in that community.  The I will follow up with some observations and info that I have learned of the years, as a real estate agent, that will hopefully make it a little easier to choose a school system and a community to achieve that balance.

Top 5 Schools in The Greater Boston Area

I am using my area primarily to get statistics to prove a point, that better school systems go hand in hand with higher property values.  But you will find that to be true in any region in the country.

The data presented was gathered from the Boston Magazine 2016 School Ranking and the Massachusetts MLS.  School ranking are based on standardized testing for the high schools.

Rank  Town Median Price
1 Dover/Sherborn $1,249,123.00
2 Lexington $1245,377.00
3 Weston $1,570,941.00
4 Wayland $794,306.00
5 Newton $1,365,997.00

Schools In My Market Place

 43 Andover  $692,033.00
 56  Wilmington   $500,505.00
 59  North Andover  $580,686.00
 93  Billerica  $435,948.00
 100  Tewksbury  $435,490.00
120 Methuen $355,773.00
122 Haverhill $328,480.00
127 Lowell $279,917.00

The top schools ranked 1-5 clearly show a pattern but they are definitely closer to Boston than my market area.  Out of curiosity, I doubled checked Waltham MA which is close to Boston and it is ranked at 107 and the median home price is $586,422.00.  There is clearly a pattern that home values are definitely affected by the quality of the school system.

Take it out to my service area that is farther from Boston and again there is clearly a pattern. Still it shows us that better schools systems will carry homes with higher values as shown by the data.

finding the right school system

Do School Systems Affect Home Values?

Not only does the previous data indicate the impact a communities school systems has on the value of the housing inventory,  as agents we will often see parents sacrifice there wants in a home to place their children in the best school systems possible.  Like anything, with demand there also comes a cost.

REALTOR.com states that 91 percent of home buyers factor school districts heavily into their home buying decision.  I agree whole heartedly with that statistics.  Often the first question out of a home buyers mouth will be what school system does this address go to or how are the school systems?

Even within a community there could be a more desirable school that will drive up prices in that particular area of town.

What do I do?  I Can’t Afford a Top Ranked School System

You may be a parent with school aged children and schools may be a high priority for you.  But not everyone can afford the very best of a Dover/Sherborn, Newton or Weston school system which have median house prices upwards of a million and a quarter to a million and half dollars. To be honest many home buyers can’t spend even close to that much on a home.

But, remember there are students that go to Yale and Harvard from very low ranked schools as well.  Your student isn’t necessarily doomed because they didn’t go to a top ranked school system.

Finding the Right School System For You

As a concerned parent who is entering the home buying market, you need to balance your budget, your desire for a good school and the type and size home that you want as well as the community you like.

Lets take Methuen and Andover from above.  You can buy a house for $350k in each.  But the size, style, location and condition will be very different in the house itself.

In Andover there are only 2 listing below $350k for sale, while Methuen had over 40 ..  You can buy a nice house in Methuen for $350k.  Alternately, the two homes in Andover are challenged.  One is small and needs a lot of work the other is a very old home in a very quirky location.

#Tip for Home Buyers-  Buying in the bottom 10% of the inventory in a community will usually leave you with very undesirable house that are hard to resell.  It could be condition, location or appeal.  There is usually a quirk that can’t be fixed.

So maybe the difference between Methuen and Andover is an extreme compromise.  But there are other school systems in between where the compromise in the house is not so great and you can improve on the quality of the school system.   A community like Billerica or Tewksbury may be the balance your looking for  in this example. Yes you will give up on house a little, compared to Methuen, but you will also get a better ranked school system for your child.

Either way there are still thousands and thousands of students that have moved thru those school systems to have gone on and been highly successful.

Researching School Systems

A real estate agent representing you can really be an asset when trying to achieve that balance.

You’ll find most states require some kind of standardized testing and reviewing test scores is definitely a place to start.  With the standardized testing your will find someone the schools as well.  Standardized testing is certainly not the end all be all of what makes a school system good but it is certainly a starting point.  I find the school rankings tend to go hand in hand with the public sentiment about a school.

Also check out sites like GreatSchools.org, SchoolDigger.com, or Niche.com as well as state specific government sites.

Data you can compile yourself is standardized testing scores, student drop out rate, SAT scores and what percentage of the students move on to college.  This data will give you an indication of what emphasis a particular community will have on it’s children’s education.

Realize, rankings are not the end all be all.  The Boston Ranking Magazine Rankings are done on standardized test scores alone.  You will find other rankings that use different criteria with results that can vary greatly.  Dover/Sherborn ranks #1 on BostonMagazine.com where SchoolDigger.com ranks it #6.

Remember, data can be leveraged as well.  A common data point that schools will “leverage” is teachers per child.  Some schools will report just that while others will include librarians, gym teachers, aides, etc…

Don’t really solely on rankings or completely on data points.  Look at it holistically.

A School Visit Can Tell A Lot

Remember not one size fits all.  Children are different and may thrive in different environments.  A school visit can reveal a lot.

Don’t be afraid to ask for a tour of a school that you are considering for your child.  Are the classrooms set up for learning are the teachers and students engaged? Are their extracurricular activities for the students? Is it a safe environment?

Ask the questions of the administrators that are important to you.  Now is the perfect time to get the answers or the information you want.

It boils down to can your child do well in this school environment.

Talk to other Parents

Seek out parents who’s children currently go to or recently went to the schools you are considering.  Often through your network of family and friends someone will know someone who will be more than willing to share their experiences with you about a school system.  Look for an overall general consensus and don’t make any decisions sbecause of one or two disgruntled parents.

First hand experience from other concerned parents can reveal a lot about a school.

Parent Involvement

Become involved it your child’s education.   Know what the assignments are and take the time to understand the information.  Follow along so you can check your child’s homework and help out when needed.  If you show an interest and instill good study and school habits in your child it can go a long way in your child’s education.

Talk to your child’s teacher and find out where their strength and weaknesses are so you can help them improve where they need to.

Parental involvement can lead to a student’s better overall enjoyment of school and academic success.  Too many parents just want to leave education to the school system and don’t have a clue of what is going on. Create that academic partnership between the school and yourself for your child’s success.

Don’t leave your child’s education soley up to the school.  Honestly, this is one way you can take a mediocre school system and turn it into a great educational experience for your student.

School Alternatives

Many communities can provide other school choices that you may want to check into.  If you want to go that route check out Montessori Schools, Charter Schools, Private Schools on Grant, School Choice Programs, Parochial Schools etc…

In my area, there is one vocational school that covers a few towns that does very well and in some cases can provide a better education than one of the supporting high schools.  Take the time to discover what other options that may available to you for a reasonable cost or that is provided by your community.

Maybe you can buy a home that fits your budget in a lesser school system and have other options for schools to send your child.

Social Impact

A school system that provides a great education is great.  But be careful at what expense may be to your child.  Something I have personally experienced by working with teens and have talked to many educators about is social impact.  Some parents will take it to an extreme and sacrifice everything just to to get a child into a particular school.

Children and teens want to feel normal they don’t usually want to stand out.  If you sacrifice too much and buy the cheapest home in a community just for the school system your child, they may not socially fit in.

Will your child be able to feel normal in their social circles and be able to participate in some of the other activities their classmates are participating in?  Will you be that family that lives in that part of town?

Don’t under estimate the repercussions of social status and the added stress that it can put on children.  Feeling that they fit in can help them thrive.

Final Thoughts On Finding a Balance

You can only afford what you can afford for a home.  Make the most of it for your child.  Find a good school for your child that they can thrive in.  It is alright if it is not ranked in the top 5 of your state.  Like I stated earlier their are children that go to the ivy leagues coming from the worst ranked school systems.

Your involvement can certainly have a huge impact on your child’s education from doing some research on schools, to following along and helping with their studies.

In both the top 5 and my service area chart there are what I call the sleeper schools systems…. like Wayland which is far more affordable than its counterparts.  Or,  Wilmington, who ranks up their but their median house price doesn’t fit in line with some of the others (undervalued).  Often, they are usually up and coming school systems.  A couple newly built schools, a few good years of scores and some good press and these sleeper towns are drawing in families that value education before the house prices catch up.

Do your homework on the schools and definitely do a school visit.

Lastly, let your your child feel safe, happy and socially adjusted in their school.  Growing up is hard enough, don’t give them the added stress of not fitting in because they can’t participate in activities their classmates can or feel that they are not on the same socially economic scale as their peers.   Any stress introduced will have an impact.

As an agent that helps many home buyers who want good schools, I will often provide a chart as shown above of median house price vs school rankings of my clients target towns.  This will help them concentrate their research and give them a rough idea of what lies ahead in their home search.

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If you are starting your home search let me help!!  Lets chat about your upcoming home purchase.  Call me at 978-360-0422.

This article, Find the Balance Between a Quality School System and an Affordable Home? is written by Kevin Vitali of EXIT Group One Real Estate. Need help buying or selling a home? Give me a call at 978-360-0422 or email me at kevin@kevinvitali.com

Real Estate Services in the following areas: Northeast Massachusetts, Merrimack Valley, North Shore and Metrowest. Including the following communities and the surrounding area- Amesbury, Andover, Billerica, Burlington, Chelmsford, Dracut, Groveland, Haverhill, Lowell, Melrose, Merrimac, Methuen, Middleton, North Andover, North Reading, Reading, Stoneham, Tewksbury, Tyngsborough, Wakefield, Wilmington, Westford