Finding good schools in affordable neighborhoods

June 9th, 2015

Despite what many homebuyers think, parents can find affordable housing near great schools.

Traditionally, homebuyers know purchasing a house in a neighborhood that has top-notch schools comes with a premium, but Zillow notes there are steps current or future parents can take to find affordable homes and great educations. These strategies require a little more work, but thinking beyond typical techniques will better the chances homebuyers get the perfect home and education for their children.

The conundrum of housing and schools
Top-performing school districts aren’t a perk for only parents or soon-to-be parents. Every homebuyer wants to be near these institutions.

What’s so special about great schools that pulls in all house hunters: rising property values. Because many parents want to live near these schools, property values tend to go up in the surrounding neighborhoods. Single homebuyers, retirees and others who don’t have children living at home want this benefit as much as parents, so competition is steep, and prices go up as a result.

For some parents, this cost can be too much. Certain buyers consider a private institution in a more affordable neighborhood, but as data from the National Center for Education Statistics showed, tuition is often thousands of dollars per year, with the costs increasing as students advance. Over the years, this price adds up, offsetting the housing savings.

Finding a compromise between price and prestige
Despite these challenges, Zillow said finding affordable housing near great schools is as simple as buyers rethinking everything they know about how to house hunt with schools in mind. For instance, asking an agent to find a home by “a good school” is not the best strategy. Instead, buyers should examine what target schools offer – advanced placement classes, extracurricular activities and sports – and determine how those offerings meet the needs of their children. In some schools, parents are even able to set up visits to get a firsthand experience and ensure the institutions are worth the home prices.

Another tip is to look at the district rather than the neighborhood. Leslie Ebersole, a real estate agent with BRIXGroup at Baird&Warner, told Zillow some cities have neighborhoods that are located within the great school district of an adjacent town but have more affordable home prices.

With the latest home price index data from CoreLogic showing month-over-month and year-over-year gains in April – including and excluding distressed sales – and forecasting future rises by April 2016, parents who are searching for a home now or expect to start in the coming months can utilize Zillow’s tips to find a middle ground between home prices and education needs as house values go up.