By Jeffrey Fagan
The desire to be settled into a new home in time for the start of a new school year is one of the primary driving forces behind the annual real estate buying and selling cycle. In Orlando, for example, where school began in mid-August, our transaction numbers traditionally peak in July.
Those who wish to time their move in conjunction with a school calendar should start the home-search process early, especially where low inventory and high buyer competition make securing a desirable property a challenge. Taking into consideration the typical four to six weeks it takes to close, it's not unreasonable to begin looking at available homes a good four months out.
Advance preparation is key when house-hunting in an area that's popular because of its schools (or because of any reason, really). It's important to be ready to make an offer quickly on a home, so you'll want to have your list of wants and needs worked out. And, it's critical to have your financing ducks in a row. Get pre-approved for a mortgage and go through a blank purchase offer with your REALTOR® so you'll be aware of the many decisions you'll be facing.
Schools and Home Values
Schools are, of course, an influence on surrounding home prices. A good school district can increase buyer demand within its boundaries, which in turn increases home values. Homes located in high-scoring school districts attract more buyers, including parents who want their children to go to good schools and others who understand that a good school district helps protect a home's resale value.
On the flip side, a struggling school district can experience less buyer demand, which restrains home values. In addition, a low-scoring public school can decrease the availability of amenities in the area and increase the proportion of renters to homeowners.
Home prices are generally not as impacted by nearby private schools, since attendance to private schools is not dependent on home location. That same theory can sometimes apply to public schools: Even if two elementary schools feed into the same high school, the more desirable elementary school could easily command higher home prices within its attendance boundary.
Prospective homebuyers should explore school districts' websites and visit schools personally to meet with administrators when house-hunting with education in mind. They should also be aware of educational options offered by the district that are not dependent on property location, such as magnet programs and charter schools. For example, many lower-performing high schools in Florida house International Baccalaureate programs and many lower-performing elementary schools receive additional financing and special support; the homes surrounding these schools may be priced lower than those in better districts nearby, yet still offer good educational opportunities.
Buyers can benefit by engaging a local REALTOR® for assistance. In addition to offering traditional services (facilitating showings, negotiating contracts, recommending lenders, following inspections, etc.), REALTORS® can serve as the expert "source of the source" when it comes to educating buyers about districts and schools. District and individual school websites are valuable resources, as are state departments of education. Even private publications and online entities uncovered by a simple Google search gather data and post reviews, and many offer rankings.