If you have a family or are planning on starting one, finding a home with a good school district may be top of mind. It makes sense considering you want to ensure that your children have the best chances of success when it comes to their education.
Before you start looking at homes, it’s important to consider everything you want – including a good school district – and what you’re willing to sacrifice. It’s also important to evaluate the school districts you’re considering before taking the plunge.
How Important Is a Good School District?
Just because you find it important to live somewhere with a good district doesn’t mean you need to find the best. According to a 2015 National Association of Realtors profile of home buyers and sellers, 25% of those surveyed indicated that school quality is one of the main deciding factors when purchasing a home.
What this means is that homes in what’s considered a good district can translate into higher property values and may be in more of a demand compared to homes in less than favorable areas. It could also mean that areas with the potential to have better schools in the future will also be in demand.
That’s not to say that you shouldn’t consider homes in these areas. Rather, you’ll want to be clear in terms of your budget and other priorities for your family. For example, are you willing to move to a smaller house for a better school district? Or, are you willing to live a bit farther from work so your child can attend a good school?
Something else to consider is your values when it comes to your child’s education. Think of preferences such as the types of learning, extracurricular activities or special programs you’d like your child to participate in. Other things to consider include before and after care programs, ideal student to teacher student ratio and even the quality of school lunches.
When considering all these factors, think about where your child may thrive. For example, if your child does well in a smaller environment, you’ll want to consider school districts that have a smaller teacher to student ratio. Or if you want a lot of community involvement, consider a school district with an active events calendar or a large PTA group.
Once you’re clear on what you want, then you can start to do more research.
Finding Intel Online
Doing an online search should be able to give you a lot of intel as to what you’re looking for in an ideal school district. Many school districts and schools have websites where you can look to see what they offer in terms of programs, their mission statement, languages offered and any awards or certifications schools have received. You can find these on their events calendars and school newsletters.
Take a look at the list of values and preferences you created and see how they compare. You can also consider looking at third-party and parent reviews of schools and school districts to get a wide range of feedback to help you decide. You may also want to look up local news and events to see how involved the school district is within the local community.
Some popular online resources include:
- National Center for Education Statistics
- Neighborhood Scout (you may need to pay a fee to access certain information)
- School Digger
- Project Appleseed
Chances are you know people who’re already living in the area or school district you want to move to. Now’s the time to ask to see their feedback on their school or the district in general. These people can provide other insights that you may not have considered, or you wouldn’t have otherwise found online.
When reaching out to people, consider asking them who they know to ask for their advice. If you don’t know many people, think about reaching out on social media such as Facebook groups or other types of online forums to see what the general consensus is on a school district.
An experienced local real estate agent can also be your gateway to understanding the local district. He or she will have a lot of insight into the neighborhood you’re looking for as well as which school districts are in demand and less than desirable. Ask for recommendations and use them to look at your list of preferences.
Questions you may want to ask the real estate agent when looking at homes is to see how far a school is from your future home or what the overall neighborhood is like. You want to know what your routine might be like if you live there. For example, will you be driving a lot (and by extension, other parents, creating more traffic) because of extracurricular activities? Is the area noisy because of kids running around? Will there be lots of children for your child to interact with
When asking around, make sure these are people whose opinions you trust. After all, purchasing a home is a major decision.
Knowing If a School District Is Right for You
Don’t feel silly if you end up doing a lot of research or asking a ton of questions when you’re looking for a good school district. After all, you want a better quality of life and it should be priority. Once you narrow down your choices, consider visiting the neighborhood and schools to help you decide.
By weighing all the pros and cons, you’ll be able to decide what’s best for you and your family.
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