Something you should carefully consider in looking for a home is whether schools should be part of your criteria for a home. For some buyers it is, for others, it’s the first item that can be eliminated.
When Schools Shouldn’t Be a Factor
When should you NOT have schools be part of your search criteria? If you are a first-time home buyer and don’t plan to be living in your first home when your children are old enough to go to school, think twice about including it in your search criteria. The same goes for if you’re an empty nester whose kids have graduated from high school.
Taking that a little further into the future, if that means your first home is going to be too small to raise the family you plan to have years from now, don’t worry about schools. Focus instead on everything else you want. You may have decided that you’ll move when it comes time to send kids to school … and that’s okay!
Many first-time buyers do this and it makes their search so much easier. They can focus on a location without blowing the budget and not worry if they are buying into a highly-rated school district. My husband and I bought our first home with the thought we’d move before we had a child in school. As the area around us grew, the school ratings improved, and we actually ended up staying.
And, when it comes time for resale, you’ll find similar buyers just like you who aren’t buying for schools.
When to Keep Good Schools as a “Must Have”
If you are going to be buying your forever home, then YES, you definitely want to consider school districts in your search. That way you aren’t forced to move out of your home because you didn’t think far enough into the future.
This decision is CRUCIAL in your search for your forever home. Pause and really think about it. How long do you plan on living in this next home? Do school-aged children fit into that time frame?
If you decide you are a homebuyer who plans on living in your home when your kids are school aged, read on. I’ll tell you exactly how to think it all through and make the right decision.
“Buying for Schools” Checklist
The most common criteria my clients say is a must is that the property needs to be zoned to “good” schools.
I Can’t Tell You What I Think of the Schools
Most of my clients are surprised that I can’t offer any opinions on the quality of the schools or school districts because of fair housing laws. So don’t get frustrated when you ask about schools. Even if I were allowed to comment on schools, my opinion about schools may be different than yours, so it’s best for you to decide what makes a “good” school for your little ones. What I will tell you is the school ratings, which are readily available online.
Spend Time Researching Schools and School Districts
Remember that online ratings don’t always show the complete picture about a particular school or school district, and you should also seek out other feedback. Talk to neighbors and friends, as questions in local Facebook groups, visit schools and meet with teachers and/or principals, and review test scores, graduation rates, and teacher-to-student ratios.
Keep in mind that what you may deem as “good” may be slightly different from another family. Some families seek out smaller schools, more diverse schools, ones with more special services, more-community based, or are open to both public and/or private schools. You know what’s best for your kids and family.
Do Your Research Before You Start Looking at Homes
If schools are important to you, don’t waste time house hunting without having done any research. Really get to know how the schools work in the general area you are considering. My clients are often surprised that there are more options than they first thought. This can really be a game changer when it comes to your home-buying decision making and where you narrow down your search.
Don’t Forget to Confirm School Zone Boundaries
Always call the school administration yourself to find out what are the school boundaries and if your home’s location is within a certain parameter. You should verify this information since it’s not always obvious or could be listed incorrectly by the seller. It’s not unusual that the school closest to your home may not be your school. Boundary lines do change from time to time … so always double check! Many schools have bus routes on their website, which is a good indicator of where the school zone boundaries lie.
School Zoning Can Change
Keep in mind that whatever the boundaries are now, they can and likely will change over the years. As communities grow and change, school districts go back to the drawing board and alter school boundary lines as needed.
Learn About All School Options
It’s not always clear-cut when looking at public school districts about what is available for students outside your boundary line. Each district can have varying options and it’s worth your time to find out more information.
There may be “special” schools your kids might be able to apply to and attend, such as magnet schools or charter schools. There could be “special choice” school zones that you didn’t know about initially that could change your entire housing search.
Don’t rule out private or religious-based schools either and take the time to find out about costs, scholarships, and other requirements.
Expect to Pay More for Homes in Highly-Rated School Districts
Typically, a better school district means higher home prices (and possibly higher property taxes). So keep in mind the cost to move into a neighborhood with schools that have a good reputation.
If you’re facing a higher price tag, then you may have to seek out other financing or adjust your criteria (i.e., living in a smaller house or on a busy road). On the other hand, you’ll likely have an easier time selling this more expensive home when it’s time to move. You’ll have to decide if it’s worth the extra expense.
Need help narrowing down school districts or finding more detailed information on districts and schools? Email me, and I’ll do my best to help.
I'm Leila Hays, and I love helping homeowners looking to move up to their forever home while selling their current home with as little stress as possible. And maybe a little fun, too. I'm here to make your real estate dreams come true!
9303 New Trails Dr. Ste. 165
The Woodlands, TX 77381
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