Sellers: Live Near a Great School? How to Market Your Home to Parents
Economists, Realtors® and parents all know this: family homebuyers are often willing to pay more for close access to the best schools. How much more, of course, varies on the general budget constraints of the buyer, but the latest Brooking Institute study on public schools and property values confirms that it costs a homeowner an average of $11,000 more per year to live within a high performing school district than it does a lower performing one. Equally striking, the study found that on average, homes located next to highly rated schools fetch more than $200K more than homes next to poorly rated ones.
How Can Today’s Home Sellers Cash In?
If you don’t have kids, you might not be aware of the current rating your nearest schools enjoy. Even if you knew once, if you haven’t been actively following, that former rating could have improved or deteriorated since the last time you checked. Luckily, thanks to the World Wide Web, you have easy access to an excellent reference for investigating the most current district and individual schools ratings: GreatSchools.org. This free resource rates both districts and schools on test scores, teacher-student ratio, parent and student reviews. And because it's both free and reputable, you can be fairly certain that parents are using it too-- meaning, if you see your local district rated highly, so will those family homebuyers looking for a home near a great school.
Additionally, many major magazines and media outlets rate the top schools in the nation—from elementary schools on up to colleges. A simple Web search for “America’s top high schools 2012,” for example, will yield many lists from reputable sources. Again, these are national sources, highly respected and highly read. If you have a home near one of the schools on these lists, you know you've got something special.
How Do You Make the Most of the Great School Advantage?
Certainly, your Realtor® will know if your home offers access to a desirable school, and s/he can help you play that angle up in your listing’s description. This advantage may also change the way you market your home, as well as where you advertise.
But also think in terms of curb appeal. I don't mean just how your home looks as potential parent buyers approach; I mean what's going on nearby. If you're tying to make the most of the excellent school close by, why not plan to host open houses when the nearby school is also hosting events? For example, I live near Reed College in Portland, OR. I’ve noticed an incredible upsurge in open houses on weekends when Reed is hosting an event. Everyone selling a home near Reed wants to bask in Reed’s beauty and reputation; and to be honest, the homes look that much better when I tour them with Reed in my peripheral vision, bustling with activity and culture.
The lesson is clear: If you can access the local school’s online academic and event calendar, you may be able to schedule an open house that coincides with an impressive event at that school. Parents won’t miss the connection.
Know the System
Be sure you don’t oversell the connection, however. Many of the country’s most desirable schools, even if they’re public, don’t offer free access to all. Even someone living within walking distance may be turned away from a highly sought magnet or charter school. And many cities have instituted a lottery system in their public schools—San Francisco offering one famous example. This means, again, that even if a family lives literally across the street from the school they want for their kids, they may not get what they want. Because of a complex procedure meant to ensure economic and ethnic equality in all city schools, parents (if they lose the lottery) may be forced to send kids far away from home. Be sure you don’t “guarantee” parents access to the best schools if red tape might get in their way. You might say it’s on the buyer to research the specifics of the local education system, but you don't gain anything by misleading potential buyers. Actually, any misrepresentation could cost you the deal if your family buyers find out mid-way they never got the full story.
In short, it’s back to school time, which means sellers should really consider their homes appeal to buyers with young kids, and how to make the most of that appeal. If you’re interested in this strategy, talk to an experienced local Realtor® who can help.
Anna Marie Erwert writes from both the renter and new buyer perspective, having (finally) achieved both statuses. She focuses on national real estate trends, specializing in theSan Francisco Bay AreaandPacific Northwest. Follow Anna on Twitter: @AnnaMarieErwert.