Home Buyers: 4 Reasons to Buy Near Good Schools, Even if You Don't Have Kids

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You don't have to buy in a strong school district, but there are advantages to doing so.

My husband and I recently found the art deco loft of our dreams, one of the most unique properties we have ever run across. We were so infatuated that we nearly made an offer. What cooled our ardor was the length of time the loft has been on the market. Given the current housing market, it made no sense that such a special home has lingered for over a year. Investigating, we learned that it's likely due to location. The most extraordinary loft on the planet is located smack-dab in the middle of an unaccredited school district. Even buyers without kids are afraid to pay cash or take out a new mortgage on a property that may be tough to sell one day.

In light of that experience, here are some reasons why buying near good schools makes financial sense.

1. Rising home values

The National Bureau of Economic Research found that for every dollar spent on public schools, area home values shot up by $20. It may cost you more to buy in a community with excellent public schools, but statistically, it's likely that the value of your home will steadily increase along with school expenditures.

2. Value retention

As long as the ratings for schools in your district remain high, your home is likely to keep its value. Before overpaying for a house in a great school district, though, remember that you have little control over school ratings. If they drop for any reason, the value of your home may also decrease. Still, homes in the best school districts have a history of retaining their value.

3. Ease of resale

Even if you never plan to sell your home, life happens, and you may find yourself in the unexpected position of putting it on the market. According to Realtor.com, 78% of buyers in their desired school district say they gave up items on their wish list to get into their home. For example, buyers who might have dreamed of an updated kitchen or large backyard were willing to give up those things to get into the right school district.

Houses in highly-rated school districts are viewed online 26% more than homes in average districts -- and they sell faster than homes in areas with lower-ranked schools. How much faster appears to depend on how active the housing market is and whether it's a buyer's or seller's market. Again, you may never plan to move, but it's nice to know you have an advantage if you ever need to sell.

4. Nearby amenities

The truth is that the best schools tend to be located in the most affluent neighborhoods, areas with a solid tax base. New stores, restaurants, and other businesses tend to move to those areas. The tax base also helps pay for things like parks, community centers, and pools. These are all things most home buyers consider when looking for a new place to live.

When great schools aren't as important

Despite the benefits discussed above, sometimes it just makes more sense to buy in an area with a lower-rated school district. My husband and I did not pass on the loft because of the school district. The news may have cooled us down a bit, but at the end of the day we decided that now is not the right time for us to buy. When we are ready, the art deco loft neighborhood will still be up for consideration. Here are a few reasons why:

  • Taxes are lower in that area of the city
  • Homeowners association fees are reasonable
  • We like the idea of being downtown, near all the action

Plus, if we do buy a property there and later decide to sell, we can point out that students in the district have access to open enrollment. That means families can choose to send their children to a public school in another district (with the unaccredited school district footing the transportation bill). There are also great magnet, charter, and private schools in the area.

When it comes to buying a home, there is no one-size-fits-all solution. Still, it's good to go into a home purchase with all the facts. Knowing how the reputation of a school district impacts value can help you figure out how much you want to offer for a home.

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