Affording a House in a Highly Ranked School Zone? It’s Elementary

yellow-school-bus

What Went into this Report

Redfin took a look at homes on Multiple Listing Services (MLS), databases used by real estate brokers, that sold between May 1 and July 31, 2013 to calculate median sale price and price per square foot of homes within school zones. School zone boundaries were provided by Maponics. School data and school test scores were provided by Onboard Informatics and GreatSchools. School service boundaries are intended to be used as reference only. To verify enrollment eligibility for a property, contact the school directly. The percentile rankings are based on test scores for each of the schools in this report. School and home coverage consisted of 10,811 elementary school zones across 57 metro areas and included 407,509 home sales.

The High Cost for Schools With Top Test Scores

In the age of Tiger Moms and raising the Smartest Kids in the World, getting the best education for their kids has become a borderline obsession for American parents. Problem is; it’s not cheap. And we’re not just talking about private schools. In the United States, housing prices in the zones of highly ranked public schools are remarkably higher than those served by lower ranked schools. Although we were somewhat floored by the higher prices in many zones, the good news for parents is that there are several neighborhoods left where homes are relatively affordable in highly ranked school zones. Redfin was able to uncover these steals by analyzing home prices and test scores of elementary schools across the country.

For this study, we analyzed home prices compared to the test scores of elementary schools across the country. While we expected to see higher prices for homes in highly-ranked school zones, we didn’t expect the difference to be so large. In certain markets, the difference amounted to hundreds of thousands of dollars for similar homes in the same neighborhood.

Chart of U.S. median sale price vs school test scores

Median home sale prices vs school test score ranking. (Click for full size)

Chicken or the Egg: Are Higher Ranked Schools a Result of Better Homes?

Everyone assumes that better school districts tend to have bigger homes, higher quality homes, larger lots, or a more prime location (views, quiet streets, etc). We’ve debunked that assumption. When accounting for size, on average, people pay $50 more per square foot for homes in top-ranked school zones compared with homes served by average-ranked schools. This means that the price differences for similar homes located near each other but served by different schools can range from tens to hundreds of thousands of dollars.

Median sale price per square foot compared to school's test score rank (Click for full size)

Median sale price per square foot compared to school’s test score rank (Click for full size)

Homes just a short distance apart with nearly identical attributes are selling for drastically different prices. We’ve looked across the country at homes that have sold in the last three months and found five examples where the prices vary on identical homes by as much as $130,000.

beaverton-or-school-zones-and-homes
Location Alexandria, VA
High rated
school zone
 Waynewood (90)
Low rated
school zone
 Belle View (50)
Home
attributes
4 bed, 3 bath, 3000 sqft
Distance
b/n homes:
0.75 miles
Price
difference
$130,000
beaverton-or-school-zones-and-homes
Location Beaverton, OR
High rated
school zone
 Cooper Mountain (99)
Low rated
school zone
 Errol Hassell (50)
Home
attributes
4 bed, 2.5 bath, 2100 sqft
Distance
b/n homes:
0.5 miles
Price
difference
$43,000
san-diego-ca-school-zones-and-homes
Location San Diego, CA
High rated
school zone
 Curie (99)
Low rated
school zone
 Hawthorne (30)
Home
attributes
4 bed, 3 bath, 1800 sqft
Distance
b/n homes:
0.75 miles
Price
difference
$83,000
seattle-wa-school-zones-and-homes
Location Seattle, WA
High rated
school zone
 Wedgwood (99)
Low rated
school zone
 John Rogers (40)
Home
attributes
3 bed, 1 bath, 1500 sqft
Distance
b/n homes:
0.5 miles
Price
difference
$44,000
gilbert-az-school-zones-and-homes
Location Gilbert, AZ
High rated
school zone
 Sonoma Ranch (99)
Low rated
school zone
 Patterson (10)
Home
attributes
4 bed, 2 bath, 2000 sqft
Distance
b/n homes:
0.75 miles
Price
difference
$51,000

How Much More for a Top-ranked vs. Average-ranked School Zone?

Every metro area in this report has higher prices for homes served by top-ranked public elementary schools. Coastal California leads the way in terms of cost, with homes in the highest-ranking school zones running from $300,000 more in Los Angeles to nearly $500,000 more in San Jose. Although the dollar cost differences in Miami and Phoenix were not as great, homes in the top-ranked school zones were still more than twice the price of homes in the average-ranked school zones, going from about $150,000 to $300,000 in median home sale price.

At the other end of the spectrum, Queens, NY, Raleigh, NC, and Eugene, OR offer smaller price differentials when going from an average-ranked school to a top-ranked school. For the chart below, average schools have test scores between the 40th and 60th percentiles in their state, while a top tier school is defined as the 90th percentile and above within its respective state.

school-zones-expensive-homes

Pockets of Affordability in Each Metro

So, what’s an ambitious parent to do with these rather daunting home prices? Fortunately, Redfin crunched the numbers and found numerous highly-ranked schools across the country where homes were significantly more affordable compared to homes within the boundaries of the top-ranked local schools. Click on any of the schools below to drop into Redfin and find homes currently for sale served by these more affordable school zones.

Metro Area School Median
Sale Price
Discount from
Median Sale
Price for
Top-ranked
School
Atlanta Due West Elementary School (Marietta, GA) $ 180,000 32%
Austin Sims Elementary School (Austin, TX) $ 136,000 57%
Baltimore Charlesmont Elementary School (Dundalk, MD) $ 135,000 59%
Boston Fox Hill Elementary School (Burlington, MA) $ 415,000 26%
Charlotte Highland Creek Elementary School (Charlotte, NC) $ 173,000 37%
Chicago Troy Crossroads Elementary School (Shorewood, IL) $ 151,000 45%
Denver Mortensen Elementary School (Littleton, CO) $ 155,000 58%
Houston Lomax Elementary School (La Porte, TX) $ 138,000 51%
Las Vegas Fay Galloway Elementary School (Henderson, NV) $ 145,000 29%
Long Island John Pearl Elementary School (Bohemia, NY) $ 331,000 46%
Los Angeles Dysinger Elementary School (Buena Park, CA) $ 423,000 43%
Miami Del Prado Elementary School (Boca Raton, FL) $ 190,000 42%
Philadelphia Manoa Elementary School (Havertown, PA) $ 241,000 24%
Phoenix Brinton Elementary School (Mesa, AZ) $ 147,000 57%
Portland McKay Elementary School (Beaverton, OR) $ 230,000 39%
Queens P.S. 242 – Stavsky Elementary School (Flushing, NY) $ 164,000 54%
Riverside Bear Gulch Elementary School (Rancho Cucamonga, CA) $ 235,000 38%
Sacramento Trajan Elementary School (Orangevale, CA) $ 250,000 30%
San Diego Los Penasquitos Elementary School (San Diego, CA) $ 223,000 66%
San Francisco Redding Elementary School (San Francisco, CA) $ 635,000 28%
San Jose Meyerholz Elementary School (San Jose, CA) $ 640,000 44%
Seattle Westhill Elementary School (Bothell, WA) $ 350,000 29%
Ventura Sycamore Elementary School (Simi Valley, CA) $ 431,000 38%
Washington Potomac Landing Elementary School (Fort Washington, MD) $ 300,000 46%

Data Sources

All information deemed reliable but not guaranteed.

Discussion

  • Kathy Lakowitz

    I’m a realtor and married to a teacher in the New York City public school system. This report is so illogical and leaves a lot of holes. Here are the facts: public school systems are funded by taxpayers living in the district who vote to pass or reject school budgets. You can have a wealthy school district with a large percentage of seniors who vote to reject the budget because these seniors don’t want their property taxes increased. Also you can have a low income district with a large business center and few residents. In addition to tax revenue for schools, home buyers should also question how much support does the parents add throughout the year. What about additional resources and funding for activities and classes that are outside of the state mandated curriculum. Parents should never search different schools for their children based on test scores or 3rd party websites alone. It is imperative for parents to go directly to the source and interview the principal or the administrators at the local Board of Education.

    • Tommy Unger

      Thanks for the feedback Kathy. I agree that a home search and school search is about much more than test scores. A home search can span everything from schools, to house size, to location, to architecture, new construction vs older, and much, much more. A school search poses great challenges as well. There’s no question that a visit to the prospective school and a meeting with the administrators and teachers is an ideal starting point on this front. As for our analysis we are trying to provide information for buyers and sellers that helps them look at how test scores can potentially impact home prices, sometimes to a substantial degree.

  • Art M

    Thanks for the great confirmation of a reality most Realtor’s have discovered years ago, and now we can quantify it.

  • http://devtools.korzh.com/ devtools.korzh

    Ver informative post, thanks!

  • Art

    The price differential is a meaningless statistic. You should focus instead on the premium as a % of the price of the home. With this indicator you will see that the differences are not so great from one geography to another.

  • emily

    Bottom line: test scores. How do you get test scores for private school?

  • emily

    Must read: The Smartest Kids in the World. It is not the technology in the schools. Not the building or the grounds or the extracurricular. Read the book and find out what it is.