Decisions about where to purchase a home are driven by numerous considerations such as your commute and preferred community amenities, but among parents with children under age 18, the school district is typically among the highest priorities. In fact, a recent study by Trulia found that for 19 percent of all homebuyers, their dream home would be located in a “great” school district. For parents of school-age children, that number jumped to 35 percent.*
Schools matter whether you have kids or not, because numerous studies have found that homes located in a good school district tend to sell for more money than those with less desirable schools. Homes in good school districts also tend to hold onto their value in every market cycle.
Some analysts say the schools-and-housing values phenomenon is similar to the chicken-or-the-egg question: are schools better because the homes are larger and more expensive and therefore owned by wealthier parents who have the resources to ensure their children get a high quality education? Or are the homes more expensive because the schools are so good?
According to a 2013 study by Redfin brokerage, people pay an average of $50 more per square foot for a home located in a top-ranked school district compared to an average-ranked school district. This debunks the idea that all the houses in that top-ranked district are bigger or sit on a larger lot, but it also proves something most people already know: schools matter. *
Finding the Right School For Your Kids
One thing research linking home values and schools won’t tell you is which school is the right one for your child. That can take some individualized research as well as an understanding of your child’s personality and interests.
When you’re buying a newly built home, you may be purchasing in a community with a growing population that will eventually have more schools built to accommodate additional children. The sales professionals at the development where you are looking at homes can provide you with some information about future plans or direct you to the appropriate county office so you can learn more about proposals for public schools.
If you’re working with a real estate agent, you may have discovered that agents cannot tell you which schools are “good” or “bad.” Fair Housing laws prohibit them from steering buyers to any particular neighborhood or school.
However, there are multiple resources that you can access to learn more about schools in any particular area. For example, GreatSchools.org is a highly regarded website that ranks public schools throughout the U.S. on a scale of one to ten, usually based on test scores. The site also has a community review section in which parents can provide a one to five-star rating and comment on what they like or dislike about the school. GreatSchools also has parent ratings for independent schools. Niche.com also offers school rankings for public and independent schools, similar to Great Schools. You may want to check out both sites to see how the ratings and reviews for particular schools compare.
While academic information on test scores and the number of students who go onto college are important, you may also want to know about athletics, clubs and special programs that could appeal to your child. If you have a musically inclined child, you may want to check out which schools have the best reputation for their marching band or their orchestra. If your child is particularly interested in lacrosse or tennis or track, you can check on the schools with the most robust program and the best record in those sports. Once you’ve narrowed down a particular county where you think you want to live, an Internet search about your child’s interest and the name of the county can generate articles and lists of recent awards.
Many jurisdictions also have magnet schools that offer specialized programs such as an emphasis on science or arts programming or bilingual education. The best way to find out about those programs and the guidelines for acceptance into those schools is to research each jurisdiction’s website from the list below.
You may also be interested in identifying an independent school for your child. Databases are available at:
Directory of Schools
In D.C., children are assigned to a neighborhood school and also can enter the My School lottery to apply for a place in a public charter school or an out-of-boundary traditional public school. For more information about the lottery, visit http://www.myschooldc.org/.
Public Charter Schools http://www.dcpcsb.org/
Public Schools https://dcps.dc.gov/
- Anne Arundel County
- Calvert County
- Charles County
- Frederick County
- Howard County
- Montgomery County
- Prince George’s County
- St. Mary’s County
- City of Alexandria
- Arlington County
- Falls Church City
- Fairfax City
- Fairfax County
- Loudoun County
- Prince William County
- Stafford Count
Many jurisdictions also have magnet schools that offer specialized programs such as an emphasis on science or arts programming or bilingual education. The best way to find out about those programs and the guidelines for acceptance into those schools is to research each jurisdiction’s website from the list above.
Written by Michele Lerner, this story originally appeared in the July/August 2017 issue of New Homes Guide. Reserve your free copy of New Homes Guide today for additional stories, area highlights and more.