This 8-week series, How to Find the Perfect Home for You and Your Budget, will show you how your next home can match your wants, needs and, most importantly, your budget. There’s no reason you can’t dream big with this next purchase, all the while working within your budget. Even though you may feel more financially secure if you plan to use funds from the sale of your current home, moving up to a new home requires some self-evaluation of what’s next, a mortgage strategy to make it affordable, and then putting it all together for a successful purchase of your “perfect” home.
One piece of criteria you must think long and hard about is whether “buying for schools” or “good schools” should be included in your list when looking for your next home. For some buyers it is important or even a priority, for others, it’s not at all.
For most buyers, “buying for schools” will usually depend on your stage of life or if you have children or plan to raise children. I always remind clients that living in a community with good schools can increase the value of your home (which is a good thing!) but that also means prices can be higher.
So it really comes down to a personal decision and you are the only one who knows if this criteria will be worth it in the long run.
Plus, some homeowners have their own opinion on how they would describe a “good school district.” That’s why you should clarify your own thoughts on education if “buying for schools” is important to you for this next home.
Remember that fair housing laws prevent any real estate agent from offering opinions on the quality of the schools or school districts. You’ll have to do some of your own research and reach out to friends, family, and colleagues for additional feedback.
The goal of this article is to help you with your research, what questions to ask, and how to go about making the best decision for you.
When Good Schools Are a “Must Have”
You definitely want school boundaries to be in your search criteria if you plan to live in your home when you’ll have school-aged children at some point.
Decide whether you’re focusing on early preschool and elementary years or into middle school and high school years. You don’t want to be forced to move out of your home because you didn’t think far enough into the future.
Maybe you’ve come to realize the public high school isn’t a good fit for your children even though you were happy with their elementary and middle schools and even the school administration itself. So moving to a location with a high school that is a better match for what your children need becomes a priority.
Take the time and really think about what you want and need when you’re compiling your criteria list. How long do you plan on living in this next home? Do you have the funds for private school if you aren’t happy with the public schools?
When to Throw Out “Good Schools” Criteria
You can remove “good schools” from your list if you don’t have school-aged children and don’t plan to have children in the future.
Or, perhaps, you’ve already raised your kids and have no issue about moving out of a “good school district” to find your next home in another location — other criteria are more important to you now.
Even though homes increase in value in better school districts and have excellent resale, it doesn’t mean you need to blow your budget or not get the type of home you want just to be in such a district because of those factors. Don’t worry about buying in such locations or within boundary lines, especially if schools aren’t and will not be a factor for you personally.
Steps When “Buying for Schools”
Here’s a must-read checklist if you know “good schools” or “buying for schools” is a priority for your next home:
Agents can’t give their opinion. Many clients are surprised that agents 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 was 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 children.
Spend time researching schools and school districts. There are some good online resources where you can start learning about schools — www.greatschools.org and www.schooldigger.com are two such resources.
Remember that online ratings don’t always show the complete picture about a particular school or school district, and you also should seek out other feedback. Talk to neighbors and friends, 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 want 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.
Spend time researching before you start house hunting. If schools are that important to you, don’t waste time house hunting without having done any research first. Really get to know how the schools work in the general area you are considering. 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 boundary lines. 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.
Know that boundaries 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 more about all of the school options available. 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 a higher price tag for some 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 smaller house or on a busy road). But, 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.
Next week is the final article in the How to Find the Perfect Home for You and Your Budget series. If you’ve been thinking about buying a fixer upper just to get into a certain neighborhood, then “As Is” Home – Deal or No Deal is for you. Find out the pros and cons of buying a home where the seller plans to sell it just the way it is.
I'm Brooke Taylor and I love helping first-time homebuyers and sellers make their real estate goals a reality.
Let me know how I can help you make your real estate dreams come true!
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Mesa, AZ 85204
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