Quality of Local Schools Determines Housing Purchases

There’s more to equipping your children for school than just picking out school supplies and new clothes. For families who are looking to give their kids the best possible start in life, it also means investing in a new home. In The Wall Street Journal, Robbie Whelan and Stelios Chen detail the phenomenon of parents purchasing their way into better school districts to enroll their children in the best schools in the country.

Nicole Salama, who recently moved with her family to a community in San Mateo, California, explained that in part, the choice of location was dictated by the fact that their 5-year-old son was about to begin attending class. She said that she wanted to be near people who took education as seriously as her family did, and to surround her son Benjamin with people who would make it possible for him to thrive.

“We definitely moved here for the schools,” Ms. Salama, who works in sales for a healthcare company, says. “We wanted our kids to be with other children whose parents had as much involvement with education. The people here have similar backgrounds to ours … Those are the types of people you want to become friends with, and you want your friends to become friends with.”

The Salama family is hardly alone, according to data collected by a real estate firm Trulia Inc. The quality of a school district continues to weigh heavily on parental decision to purchase, as well as being a strong selling point for particular homes. Even at a time when people are more cautious about buying real estate due to the financial strictures placed on an average American family by the 2008 recession, neighborhood schools could be a more influential factor than even price.

Using data from the Commerce Department’s Decennial Census taken in 2010, Trulia compared the ratio of families with children aged 5 to 9 versus families with children aged to 0 to 4. The results showed that the most attractive communities for families with school-aged kids are traditional suburbs like Hillsborough and Saratoga (both in Northern California), Cold Spring Harbor, on New York’s Long Island, and Glencoe, Ill., north of Chicago.

What parents looked for in a community was markedly different than what singles or couples without children thought was attractive in a residence. Densely populated communities with a low number of children turned off those who wanted to find a great place for their kids. The pricey Hoboken, New Jersey, which has long attracted those employed in Manhattan but who are unable to afford housing there, has only 39 school-aged children for every 100 pre-schoolers, which means parents tend to want to get out of town as soon as their kids are ready to attend school.

“We can see it in the migration trends of what 30-39 year olds are doing. You may see a fair number of these people in this age group in the centers of cities, but there’s a substantial outflow of these people when their kids reach school age,” says Kenneth Johnson, senior demographer at the Carsey Institute at the University of New Hampshire. “Instead of going out and partying, they’ve got little kids to deal with.”

09 5, 2012
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