Collins: How do school ratings impact real estate?
Santa Teresa High School in the East Side Union High School District. File photo by Lorraine Gabbert.

Homebuyers conduct a considerable amount of research before they ever contact a real estate agent. One of the criteria high on a buyers’ list is the quality of neighborhood schools and how those schools rank against other districts.

Just last week, Lupe Silva of Silva Real Estate Group had a buyer who was initially searching for a larger home in Morgan Hill. However, after analyzing the school rankings for the nearby elementary school, the buyers ultimately decided on a smaller home in the Blossom Hill area.

According to the National Association of Realtors’ 2015 Profile of Home Buyers and Sellers, 25% of home buyers listed school quality and 20% listed proximity to schools as deciding factors in their home purchase. Many of the public-facing online home search portals such as Zillow, Redfin and others allow prospective home buyers easy access to school ratings.

But what do school ratings really mean—and how do they impact the affordability of a home?

Doug Goss of Keller Williams Bay Area Estates says, “There is a relationship between property values and school ratings and what home buyers are willing to pay as a premium for a home in a top-rated school district. Many times, our clients will tailor their home search to a specific school district, specific schools or schools in a particular area.”

One of the more popular rating sites that potential home buyers use is GreatSchools.org. They base their school rankings on student progress, which measures whether students at a school are making academic progress over time; college readiness, which measures how well schools prepare students for success in college; equity rating, which measures how well schools serve disadvantaged student groups; and test scores.

Although these rating sites certainly provide a convenient snapshot of a surrounding school district for a potential home, Goss cautions, “These types of school rating sites are just one data point. Consider contacting and visiting the school in the area and talking to the administrators and staff to get to know more about the schools themselves.” There are many good schools that unfortunately do not rank particularly high on some of these sites.

In fact, the Santa Clara County Association of Realtors was recently contacted by a board member of the East Side Union High School District who shared a story about a real estate agent showing a property to a client, and speaking unfavorably about the neighborhood schools based on their ratings. Ironically, that client was a principal at one of the schools.

Needless to say, the school district was intent on collaborating with the Santa Clara County Association of Realtors to help spread the word about the huge investments that have been made in East Side Union schools and the bright future that lies ahead for students.

Superintendent Glenn Vander Zee shared that, since 2002, the community has invested over $1 billion in various bond programs that have resulted in national award-winning projects and programs. The district boasts over 20 magnet and career pathways programs including computer science, engineering, multimedia and business finance programs. They have invested heavily in counselors, social workers and have even established wellness centers at all of its comprehensive high schools to support youth through their journey from high school and into college.

As a result, students who have enrolled in the district for the full four years of high school have graduation rates over 90% across all demographics.

From a personal perspective, both my children went to public schools in South San Jose. They both received a solid education and are currently attending four-year colleges. When I look at the school ratings today for those same public schools, they are not very high. Knowing what I know of those schools and the facility, I would not want one data point to deter future families from moving into the area simply based on a school rating.

The purpose of these ratings is to assist families in making informed decisions. However, the value of your child’s education is so much more than a number on the computer screen.

San José Spotlight columnist Neil Collins is CEO of the Santa Clara County Association of Realtors, a trade association representing more than 6,000 real estate professionals in Santa Clara County and surrounding areas. His column appears every fourth Thursday of the month. Contact Neil at [email protected] or follow @neilvcollins on Twitter.

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