That old saying about the most important thing in real estate – "Location, location, location!" – is as true today as it ever was. Over the past few decades, one aspect of that central tenet has grown significantly in importance: the quality of the school district.
With so many young adults now looking to buy homes because they're starting families, the strength of educational options remains a huge determining factor in buying a home, meaning homes in places with great schools can get pricey in a hurry. Here are a few tips to help homeowners avoid paying too much while ensuring their kids get access to the best educational opportunities:
1) Be prepared
Any time people are shopping for a home – particularly if they've never done so before – the most important thing for them to keep in mind is that they're likely to face competition, so they need to put their best foot forward, according to U.S. News and World Report. That means making sure they have enough money saved for a sizable down payment, have already obtained preapproval on a mortgage and know exactly how much they're willing to spend before entering any negotiation.
That can help grease the skids of getting a bid approved quickly and easily.
2) Look for fixer-uppers
Because nice houses with lots of amenities are likely to garner the most interest, buyers might be wise to go off the beaten path a little bit, the magazine advised. By looking for homes that might need some repairs or renovations – and would therefore likely also have lower price tags – shoppers might be able to avoid some of the competition. But they would need to do so with the knowledge that they'll also be required to put in a bit of work on their own.
3) Be flexible
Shoppers should also keep in mind that there's a trade-off here, according to Squirrelers. Finding less expensive homes in districts with great schools isn't always easy, so being willing to shop in places where schools are only pretty good, or finding less attractive homes in more promising districts, could be important.
4) Know what to look for
Finally, it should be noted that not all metrics for ranking schools are created equal, according to Boston.com. Some parents may want to look at measurements like average local test scores, while others look for the number of high-achieving kids, but experts say that's not always the best way to determine how much learning opportunities kids will have. After all, many schools today "teach to the test" and leave it at that, so looks can sometimes be deceiving.
"Average test scores, or the percentage of students who score above the state's proficiency standard, are not always a very good measure of how much students learn while in school," Sean Reardon, professor at Stanford University's Graduate School of Education, told Boston.com.
Of course, working with a local real estate agent will help inform good decisions from prospective homeowners, simply because those pros will often be able to provide honest, on-the-ground advice about what's good and bad about local school districts based specifically on information parents are looking for.
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