How do I find school ratings for an area I’m interested in?

Summary: There are a few ways you can find information on the schools in the area you’re interested in. Although it is difficult for your Realtor to show personal insights, you can always go tour the schools, compare the school districts, and drop in on some PTA meetings to learn more.


School’s Impact on Property

A common question home buyers have when buying a home is regarding the schools. As a real estate professional, we must be careful in giving personal insight into the nearby school districts, but this doesn’t mean that we can’t provide you with tips to help you choose the right house and school for you. There is some information that you can find using other tools and resources as well.


Schools definitely impact that property values in an area. If you have kids or are planning to have kids, looking at the school district should be a key consideration when looking to buy a home. Living in a good public school district could save you thousands of dollars that you may want to spend on private school, otherwise. If you don’t have kids, it may still be a good idea to consider the quality of neighborhood schools to help maximize the value of your investment.


You may pay more to live in a neighborhood with good schools, so you’ll want to consider how that premium compares to the cost of paying for private school or sending your children to a subpar educational institution. If you don’t have kids, the premium might not be worth it – or it might make your home easier to sell one day.


Finding the Best Schools

For your children, finding the best school will depend on their needs and where you’re moving. It can be a tough process that may include touring schools, comparing school districts, and dropping in on PTA meetings to learn more. Your kids should go to school somewhere they will enjoy, but you also want to be sure your kids receive an education that sets them up for future success. Providing your kids with a good education is important, but the neighborhood you live in and whether you can afford it also matters.


What Can You Afford?

It’s not surprising that many of the neighborhoods with the best schools are also some of the priciest – where demand is high, prices go up. Occasionally, depending on how expensive a neighborhood is, it could completely eliminate it as an option. If you’re set on a specific school, you can compromise on some other amenities to help you make it work. Buying the “least desirable home” on a block doesn’t have to be a bad thing, especially if you’re buying in a competitive neighborhood. Your home equity will increase over time in a healthy market. If you gradually update the house, by the time you’re ready to put it on the market, you can hopefully sell it for a larger profit margin than the neighbors who bought the move-in ready house two doors down.


Research the Schools

There is plenty of information available to help you get started with an online search to determine the school district or even the specific school, you hope to send your kids. Different sites offer test scores, rankings and demographic information, including student diversity by race and gender, the percentage of students on free lunch programs and the student-to-teacher ratio, to develop an opinion of the schools and school districts you’re considering. Doing this research will allow you to narrow down your options based on location, test scores, and ranking, based on a variety of criteria such as grade levels or a focus in math and science.


Other Alternative Options

There are always alternatives to ensure your children get the education you think would be best for them. Some neighborhoods have elementary schools that are ranked really high, but their middle school doesn’t receive the same rankings. Some parents will move to these neighborhoods with the plan to send their children to private school after they finish in public elementary. Open enrollment could be another option, depending on where you move. Open enrollment allows students in low-performing schools to enroll in a school outside their designated district.


State policy dictates whether districts can opt for open enrollment. While many places do offer the opportunity to place your child in a school other than the one designated for your neighborhood, be sure it’s an option before you move. An application process and a minimum standardized or entrance exam score could be required to enter your child into open enrollment.

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