In the past, the quality of a school was determined by test scores. But while scores are easy to measure, they don’t tell the full story. If you’re interested in buying into a great school district, you need to know what to look for beyond academic performance—and understand a few tips that can help you stay on budget when hunting for the right house.
What makes a school great?
Consider the full experience your family will have with the school and the surrounding community. Some schools with high test scores, for example, might have little diversity, which could prevent your kids from developing the important skills of navigating diversity of experience and thought.
Other factors that could boost the quality of your children’s education include:
- Extracurricular programs
- Technology used in classrooms
- Opportunities to practice creativity within the curriculum
- Ongoing development of teachers
- Vision of leadership
- Engagement of parents
- Disciplinary techniques
How to tell what a community's schools are really like
There’s only so much online research you can do—and only so much a school will tell you directly. The quality of the school’s teachers (beyond how well their students do on standardized tests) makes a huge impact. So does having supportive and involved parents and a community that cares about the school’s students.
To figure out if a school district checks all the right boxes, try getting to know the community before moving, and ask local parents about their perspectives and opinions. You could also request a tour of a school’s campus, and ask for an actual parent to join or lead the tour. This could give you an opportunity to chat with a real parent about his or her experience with the school.
Homebuying tips for parents looking for great schools
Buying into a neighborhood with great schools can be costly. Many schools receive their funding from property taxes of local homeowners, meaning well-funded schools are often located in more expensive areas. That being said, you can make use of a couple of practical homebuying tips when searching in a community with desirable schools:
Be patient: It’s not always easy, but if you know where you want to be and can wait for the right home to come on the market, you’ll have a better chance of staying within budget when buying into a great district.
Write a letter to the seller: Consider writing a sincere letter to the seller that explains why you want to get your kids into the local school. It may help your offer stand out even if it’s not the best on the table.
A personal connection can sometimes make all the difference in your search for the perfect home near great schools.
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