Certainly in New Jersey, a popular topic is always the latest survey on the top-rated high schools in the country. U.S. News & World Report has the most well-known survey, Best High Schools Rankings, which rates high schools nationally and by state. In the latest survey, Chatham High School ranked 9th for New Jersey schools and Millburn High School 13th. More recently, a relatively new survey, Best K-12 Schools: 2015 Niche Rankings, made a splash because it solicited opinions from both parents and students when compiling its survey, and the results included some lesser known schools. It’s not folly.
When looking for a new home, homebuyers invariably turn to the reputation of the schools and the promise of educational excellence that accompanies a highly-rated school district. In a recent Realtor.com survey, 91% of prospective homebuyers said that school boundaries were important in their home search. Not surprisingly, the quality of schools has a direct influence on the value of the surrounding homes as well as the types of homes people buy. It is not to suggest that homebuyers do not seek family friendly neighborhoods, parks, lots of recreation or a variety of commuter options. But when it comes down to deciding what house to buy, you may think it’s location, location, location. In fact, it’s schools, schools, schools.
Here are 3 ways schools drive New Jersey homebuyers:
Trading-Off House Size
As it happens, schools are so important that families are willing to live in a smaller home if that is what it takes to live in their desired school district. In the same Realtor.com survey, one in five homebuyers said that they would give up a bedroom or garage to live in a district with a better school. One in three said they would choose a smaller home if required to live in their school district of choice.
Impact on House Prices
Statistically, houses in districts with the most sought-after schools sell for higher prices than those in lesser rated school districts. In October of last year, Redfin surveyed the results of 407,000 home sales across the country in an attempt to quantify the impact of school rankings on home values. They compared schools using characteristics compiled by organizations such as GreatSchools as well as the average test scores of students in various school districts. As you might expect, top-rated schools produce students with higher standardized test scores. The Survey found that on average across all the homes surveyed, homebuyers will pay $50 more per square foot for a home in a desired school district than a home in a lesser rated district. In some of the highest-priced neighborhoods, that price differential resulted in a several hundred thousand dollar difference in price.
Effect on Resale Values
Another advantage of a coveted school district is that its surrounding homes will tend to weather housing price fluctuations better than average; and moreover, its house values are generally underpinned over time. According to HomeFinder, an online real estate search service, good schools protect a home’s resale value because many homebuyers think of a home as their most important investment. In the hopes that the investment will retain value, homebuyers look for a quality school district knowing that it will draw a steady stream of families to the area over the coming years.
Where to Find the Best School Information
If school rankings are important to you, there are many fabulous resources available where you can get school specific information. As mentioned earlier, there are a variety of surveys with the U.S. News & World Report Best High Schools Report seen as the most prominent. There are online tools such as GreatSchools and SchoolDigger which will compare state-specific standardized test scores as early as the elementary school level. You can even find online resources that allow students and parents to rate teachers such as RateMyTeachers.com. Interestingly, it is a fact that the best teachers drive higher school district performance and rankings.
Not to be overlooked, your real estate agent is the most valuable resource of all! Chances are that (s)he lives in the local area and may even be raising a family that attends the local schools. There are so many nuances to schools in the local communities that there is no better information source than a local realtor. I recently wrote The Value of a Real Estate Team Approach and described the complexities inherent in the Montclair, NJ school district, for example. Who better than your real estate agent to explain them?
So, if you are considering a move to northern New Jersey and the quality of the school system sits on the top of your list, contact Victoria Carter at (973) 220-3050 or send me an email. I would love to help you compare the educational opportunities in our local towns and help you find the perfect home.