Your first home is most likely the stepping stone for your next home, so you want to do it right and set yourself up financially to move up to your next home. In this 8-part series, How to Find the Perfect Home for You and Your Budget, you’ll learn how to find a home that is the right fit for your lifestyle, needs, and, most importantly, your budget. We take you through every step and show you how to avoid buyer’s remorse.
One piece of criteria you must think long and hard about is whether “good schools” should be part of your criteria for a home. For some buyers, it is; for others, it’s the first piece of criteria eliminated.
When to Throw Out “Good Schools” Criteria
When should you NOT have schools be part of your search criteria? If you are a first-time homebuyer and don’t plan to be living in your first home when your children are old enough to go to school, think twice about including it in your search criteria. For you, living in a “cool” part of town might be more critical at this point in your life, and that’s okay! Own it and enjoy every minute of that while you are in that stage of life.
That sometimes means giving up space to be closer to things like work or nightlife to stay within the budget for many of you.
Taking that a little further into the future, if that means your first home will be too small to raise the family plan to have years from now, throw the “good schools” criteria out, and get everything else you want. You have decided that you’ll move when it comes time to send kids to school … and that’s okay!
Many first-time buyers do this, and it makes their search so much easier to focus on a location without blowing the budget and not worry if they are buying into a “good” school district.
And, when it comes time for resale, you’ll find similar buyers just like you who aren’t buying for schools.
When To Keep Good Schools As A “Must Have”
If you are buying your “forever” home as a first-time buyer, then YES, you want school boundaries to be in your search criteria. That way, you aren’t forced to move out of your home because you didn’t think far enough into the future.
This decision is CRUCIAL in your search for a first home. Pause and think about it. How long do you plan on living in this next home? Do school-aged children fit into that timeframe?
If you decide you are a homebuyer, first-timer or not, who plans on living in your home when your kids are school-aged, read on. We’ll tell you exactly how to think it all through and make the right decision.
“Buying for Schools” Checklist
Agents can’t give their opinion. Many clients are surprised that agents can’t offer any views on the quality of the schools or school districts because of fair housing laws. So don’t get frustrated when you ask about schools. Even if we were allowed to comment on schools, my opinion about schools might be different than yours, so you should decide what makes a “good” school for your little ones.
Spend time researching schools and school districts. There are some excellent online resources where you can start learning about schools — www.greatschools.org and www.schooldigger.com are two such resources.
Remember that online ratings don’t always show the complete picture about a particular school or district, and you should seek out other feedback. Talk to neighbors and friends, visit schools, meet with teachers and principals, and review test scores, graduation rates, and teacher-to-student ratios.
You know what’s best for your kids and family. Remember that what you may deem as “good” may be slightly different from another family. Some families seek out smaller schools, more diverse schools, more specialized services, more community-based, or are open to public and private schools.
Spend time researching before you start house hunting. If schools are that important to you, don’t waste time house hunting without researching. Get to know how the schools work in the general area you consider. Our clients are often surprised that there are more options than they first thought. This can be a game-changer when it comes to your home-buying decision-making and where you narrow down your search.
Don’t forget to confirm school boundary lines. Always call the school administration yourself to determine the school boundaries and if your home’s location is within a particular parameter. You should verify this information since it’s not always obvious or could be listed incorrectly by the seller. It’s not unusual that the school closest to your home may not be your school. Boundary lines do change from time to time … so always double-check!
Know that boundaries can change. As communities grow and change, school districts return to the drawing board and alter school boundary lines as needed.
Remember that whatever the boundaries are now, they can and likely will change over the years. Learn more about all of the school options available. It’s not always clear-cut when looking at public school districts about what is available for students outside your boundary line. Each community can have varying options, and it’s worth your time to find out more information.
There may be “special” schools your kids might be able to apply to and attend, such as magnet schools or charter schools. There could be “special choice” school zones that you didn’t know about initiatives that could change your entire housing search.
Don’t rule out private or religious-based schools either, and take the time to find out about costs, scholarships, and other requirements.
Expect to pay a higher price tag for some school districts. Typically, a better school district means higher home prices (and possibly higher property taxes). So keep in mind the cost of moving into a neighborhood with schools with a good reputation.
You’ll have to decide if it’s worth the extra expense. If you’re facing a higher price tag, you may have to seek out other financing or adjust your criteria (i.e., living in a smaller house or on a busy road). But, on the other hand, you’ll likely have an easier time selling this more expensive home when it’s time to move.
Next week is the final article in the How to Find the Perfect Home for You and Your Budget series. If you’ve been thinking about buying a fixer-upper to get into a specific neighborhood, then “As Is” Home – Deal or No Deal is for you. Find out the pros and cons of buying a home where the seller plans to sell it just the way it is.
I'm Tehane, a local realtor helping locals buy, sell, and stay local in Honolulu Schedule a conversation, and let's talk about your current situation and where you want to be. Then, let's create a plan to get you there. Every journey begins with the first step!
BHGRE Advantage Realty
4211 Waialae Avenue, Box 9050
Honolulu, HI. 96816