If you are single, if you do not plan to have children, or if you have children who are grown, you may decide to skip this section. Don't! Even if you are not personally making use of them, schools can have a serious impact on the taxes you pay. Also, when you're ready to sell the home you are buying now, many buyers are likely to be interested in the schools in your neighborhood.
“The quality of schools is important, whether or not the buyers have school children. Buyers need to always be thinking about resale, and if they buy a great house in a neighborhood with poorly rated schools, they are not going to have as many buyers to choose from when it comes time to sell. School information can be found through the Chambers of Commerce and the school district itself or on their websites.” — Sherri Strickland, real-estate agent in Texas
Of course, if you have children or plan to have children in the future, schools and the quality of education will be very important in your choice of neighborhood. They may be the deciding factor, in fact.
What are the schools like in the town you are considering? Asking the real-estate agent will no doubt elicit an answer along the lines of good, fine, or excellent. Ask for some specifics, such as the following:
How many elementary schools are there in town?
How are the grades grouped? Kindergarten through grade six in one building, grades seven to nine in junior high school, and grades ten to twelve in high school was the traditional grouping in public schools for many years. Today, many communities are using school buildings to group children more closely by age. Kindergarten to grade five, grades six to eight, and a four-year high school has become a popular pattern.
What is the average class size in elementary school?
What special programs are offered in elementary school? What about extracurricular activities?
What subjects do junior high or middle school students study? At what grade can foreign language study begin? Are there advanced math courses for bright students below the high school level?
What about computers? Are they used in the high school? At what computer-to-student ratio? Are they in the junior high and elementary schools as well? Do the students get individual laptops, and what is the fee?
How do local pupils rate on standardized tests against other area towns? Other parts of the state or the nation?
What courses are offered at the high school level? What courses are required for graduation?
What percentage of each high school class graduates?
What do seniors do after graduation? What percentage goes on to college? Which colleges? Professional training schools?
Is there an emphasis on learning to think or on learning “right” answers? Are the students treated as individuals? How much freedom is allowed in the classroom?
Another important consideration these days is crime in schools. What forms of protection are available to ensure that the school is as safe as possible?
If schools rank high on your list of considerations, by all means take the time to visit several schools in that town before you make a commitment to buy a home. Principals are usually happy to discuss their schools and programs with prospective parents, and you will surely get a tour of the school facilities. (It is not a good sign if a principal does not seem eager to talk with you.)