Monday, 27 July 2009

School league tables and property values

Want to give your property value a bit of a push along? Then start hoping that you are in an area where your local school does well on the soon to be available student results testing tables. And if your local is down the league ladder then hop in to help the local P&C improve facilities because there’s evidence from the United States to suggest that strong public schools attract home buyers and businesses.

The Baltimore Sun carried the story at the weekend of an unusual not-for-profit community organisation called the Greater Homewood Community Corporation whose executive director Karen Stokes uses public school test scores to market her community. “If the school improves, the neighborhood improves,” said Ms Stokes. “And your real estate values will improve. Even if you have no children in the school … what happens in your local school really does matter.”

The very thought that the results of standardised tests like those Federal Education Minister Julia Gillard is forcing state governments in Australia to introduce will be used to sell houses is sure to cause near apoplexy among the local teachers unions but they had better get used to it. Test scores are often the first thing homebuyers research if they’re relocating from out of state, said Sue Hemmerly, a real estate agent at Long & Foster in Timonium. She’s been in the business for 27 years and remembers when relocating families had to rely on scores clipped out of newspapers and mailed to them by their agents. Now prospective buyers get statistics online, often before they’ve called her. “They come in with very exact ideas of what school they want,” Hemmerly said.

Eric Schwartz, an appraiser with A&E Appraisal Services Inc., told the Sun his Glen Burnie house would be worth at least $25,000 more if it were just a few miles away in Severna Park with its high-scoring schools. He has empirical evidence to back him up: The builder put identical models in both places. “I couldn’t afford to live in the Severna Park system, so I bought where I could afford,” said Schwartz, 53. His daughter and son-in-law, who live nearby and have three young children, are already thinking about moving in a few years into “what they consider a better school district,” he said.

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