Real Estate Data for the Rest of Us

articles about “Schools

Where You Can Buy Homes Near “Good” Schools

In housing markets where all the schools are equally good, home sellers are less likely to highlight schools in their listing descriptions. But in markets like California where the quality of the schools can vary from being great to awful, schools can be a major selling point for prospective buyers.

Selma Hepp, Chief Economist
August 12, 2015

When searching for a home, the quality of the local schools is an important factor for families with children. According to a recent Trulia survey, 19% of Americans indicated that their dream home is located in a great school district. But among parents of children under 18, the percentage of Americans who want to live in a great school district jumps to 35%, in contrast to 12% of those without kids. Moreover, the survey also revealed that a great school district is almost twice as important to those who search online for their dream home on a weekly or monthly basis than those who only search annually.

Given the importance of schools in a family’s house hunting decisions, we decided to dig into this topic for the back-to-school season to see where schools are a major selling point. First, we looked at all the homes for sale on Trulia over the last year (June 2015 to June 2014) and analyzed how frequently the word “school” was mentioned in the for-sale listings in the 100 largest U.S. metros. Next, we looked at the frequency in which the word “school” was mentioned with a positive adjective such as: “great,” “winning,” “award winning,” “rated,” “excellent,” “good,” “best,” “top,” “ranked,” “distinguished,” or “performing.” Lastly, we looked at the relationship between mentioning “school” in the listing and the home’s price.

Where Schools Matter Most: Orange County and Silicon Valley
When we compare the frequency of school mentions across markets, we found a wide variation in the share of listings using schools as a major selling point. In metros with highest share of school mentions, as many as 3 in 10 listings talk about schools. Orange County and San Jose ranked highest, with 28% and 25% listings, respectively, mentioning a school. Among the top 10 housing markets with homes noting a school district, five are located in California, two are in Michigan, and three are distributed between Pennsylvania, Colorado and Louisiana. In these top 10 markets, schools appear in 17% to 28% of listings.


Where Schools Are A Real Estate Selling Point

# U.S. Metro % of listings mentioning the word “school”
1 Orange County, CA 27.6%
2 San Jose, CA 25.3%
3 Montgomery County-Bucks County-Chester County, PA 22.5%
4 Grand Rapids, MI 18.8%
5 Ventura County, CA 18.3%
6 WarrenTroyFarmington Hills, MI 17.3%
7 Fresno, CA 17.1%
8 Colorado Springs, CO 16.9%
9 Baton Rouge, LA 16.8%
10 Oakland, CA 16.5%
NOTE: Among the 100 largest U.S. metros

On the contrasting end of the spectrum, there are housing markets where schools are rarely used as a selling point and only about 1% to 5% of listings mention schools. Many of the markets where schools are less pronounced as a major selling point are generally located in Connecticut, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Massachusetts and Nevada.


Where Schools Are NOT A Real Estate Selling Point

# U.S. Metro % of listings mentioning the word “school”
1 Las Vegas, NV 0.7%
2 Cincinnati, OH 2.8%
3 Nashville, TN 3.4%
4 New Haven, CT 3.4%
5 Hartford, CT 4.1%
6 Pittsburgh, PA 4.4%
7 Providence, RI 4.6%
8 Columbia, SC 4.9%
9 Cape CoralFort Myers, FL 5.0%
10 Rochester, NY 5.2%
NOTE: Among the 100 largest U.S. metros

Where Homes Located Near “Good” Schools Are Notable
We dug a little deeper and looked at the housing markets that not only mention the word “school,” but emphasize it using a positive adjective. It turns out that only 1% of homes for sale are described as being near a “good” school.  More frequently though, in 10% of listings nationwide, schools are mentioned in the description, without necessarily a positive attribute.

Although the frequency of using a positive attribute is less common, some of the same markets rank on top. Among the top 10, four are again located in California: Orange County, San Jose, Ventura County and Oakland. Another four are located in Florida, including Orlando, Fort Lauderdale, Tampa and West Palm Beach. The other two are Atlanta in Georgia and Camden in New Jersey.

Where “Good” Schools Really Matter to Homebuyers

# U.S. Metro % of listings mentioning the word “school” with positive adjective
1 Orange County, CA 6.9%
2 San Jose, CA 4.4%
3 Orlando, FL 3.6%
4 Fort Lauderdale, FL 3.1%
5 Ventura County, CA 3.0%
6 Atlanta, GA 2.9%
7 Camden, NJ 2.9%
8 Tampa, FL 2.8%
9 Oakland, CA 2.7%
10 West Palm Beach, FL 2.7%

Taken together, if a listing doesn’t mention schools, does it suggest that the home is not in a good school district? Not at all.

In housing markets where the local school quality ranges from great to awful, highlighting a school district may be relevant to prospective homebuyers and schools are used a major selling point. This is especially true if a home is located near one of the more sought-after schools. When we look at the top 10 markets where schools are mentioned most frequently and with a positive attribute, we can see that they are generally located in states not recognized for good, statewide school systems, such as California and Florida. In these states, some markets do stand out with good schools. The variation may happen at both the state level and within metropolitan markets. Thus, it may be very important to emphasize the school district.

On the other hand, in markets where the local schools are all relatively consistent in quality either at the state or metro level or where schools are not necessarily an important selling point, schools are not frequently mentioned. For example, some of the Northeast states, such as Connecticut and Massachusetts, are known for good and relatively homogeneous school systems. Consequently, homebuyers in those markets may not be as concerned with good schools as they may be with some other neighborhood amenities. For example, schools are rarely mentioned is Las Vegas, which generally attracts more retirees and international buyers than parents with school-aged kids.

To illustrate this point, here’s a county-level map that reveals the percentage of schools with above-average ratings on, which grades public schools on a 1 to 10 scale (here’s how they do their ratings). As you can see, there is a lot variation in most states.


Lastly, does the proximity to good schools impact home prices? The answer to this question is not straightforward. Home prices in great school districts are generally higher, however higher prices may be a result of higher-income residents living in those districts. The connection is hard to detangle and the causality is blurred. Are schools better because of the higher tax base, or did the higher income households move to the areas because of better schools? This answer is still debated among experts.

What we found in our analysis is that mentioning the word “school” in a for-sale home’s listing description does not consistently add to the price of a home or detract from it.  Other neighborhood characteristics may be more important in explaining the variation in prices. In the very least, we can say that for the top three housing markets where schools are mentioned most, being able to highlight the home’s proximity to schools added about 7% to the listing price in Montgomery-Bucks-Chester County, PA, 10% to listing price in Orange County, and 16% in San Jose. But before you go crazy with the listing descriptions, keep in mind that median home prices in these three areas markedly differ.

So what’s the main takeaway for home sellers? In most housing markets, it pays to brag about your local school district if it really is a great, excellent, distinguished, award-winning, or highly-rated school.


Where “Back to School” Means Private School

One way or another, good schools cost money. Private school tuition can easily exceed monthly housing costs, but home prices in top-rated public school districts are 32% above the local average.

More than two-thirds of adults with children under 12 say that the neighborhood school district is among the most important considerations when choosing a home, according to a June 2013 Trulia survey. However, some parents factor schools into their housing choices differently. Nationally, 10% of school kids grades 1-12 attend private schools, and in some neighborhoods, the majority of kids go to private school.

In recognition of the back-to-school season, we analyzed where private school enrollment is high and low across the U.S. These geographic differences reveal why parents choose private or public schools for their kids.

For parents looking to move, knowing whether neighborhood kids go to private or public schools can help them decide where to live. First, a neighborhood’s level of private school enrollment signals whether you too might want to send your kids to private school if you lived there. Second, even if you plan to send your kids to public school, the share of neighborhood children in private schools affects whether most of the neighborhood kids will be at school with them.

Who Sends Their Kids to Private School
Let’s start with two essential facts about private schools, which explain a lot about who goes to private school:

  • Essential fact #1: Just 20% of private school students attend non-sectarian schools; the other 80% are in religiously-affiliated private schools, of which half are Catholic.
  • Essential fact #2: The cost of private schools is high, but varies widely. On average, tuition is almost $11,000, not counting discounts or scholarships. This ranges from $7,000 for Catholic schools and $9,000 for other religious schools to $22,000 for non-sectarian private schools. Tuition tops out at about $40,000 for the most expensive prep schools.

Given the high cost, kids from richer families are far more likely to go to private school than kids from poorer families. Only 6% of kids in households with incomes under $50,000 attend private schools, compared with 26% of kids in households with incomes of $200,000 or more.

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City Living with the Kids: Backpack vs. Stroller Neighborhoods

Nearly all big cities have fewer children aged 5-9 than those aged 0-4 because many families move to the suburbs when their kids are ready to start school. Some city neighborhoods lose many young families, but there are a handful of city neighborhoods that actually attract families with school-age kids.

Summer is ending, and kids across the country are grabbing their backpacks and trudging off to school. In many suburban neighborhoods, the backpacks come out in full force. But in some city neighborhoods – even those where the sidewalks are full of strollers – backpack-toting kids are scarce. That’s because many urban parents move to the suburbs once their kids are ready to enroll in school.

Education is clearly top of mind when parents decide to relocate. Among adults who live with children, nearly two thirds (63%) said a neighborhood’s school district would be among the most important considerations (aside from the home’s price) when searching for a home – but few adults without kids would take school districts into account:

Consideration in home search Has Children No Children Difference
Size of home




Neighborhood Crime Rates




Neighborhood School Districts




Length of Commute to Office/Work




Home’s Proximity to Amenities




Age of Home




Area’s Likelihood of Natural Disasters




Proximity of Home to External Family




Pet Friendly Home Accommodations




Note: Trulia worked with Harris Interactive to conduct an online survey of 2,029 U.S. adults from June 24-26, 2013. Respondents were asked “Other than the price of the home, which of the following considerations, if any, would be among the most important to you, if you were searching for a home? Please check all that apply.” For the full methodology, see below. Note that numbers are rounded and may not add perfectly as a result.

More Backpacks or More Strollers in the Neighborhood?
Parents with kids want larger homes, safer neighborhoods, and better schools. Data from the 2010 Census on where families live show how these desires actually play out. To see which neighborhoods families choose to live in as their kids approach school age, we looked at the relative populations of children aged 0-4 and 5-9. Nationally, there are just about as many elementary-school-age kids (those between 5 and 9 – let’s call them “backpacks”) as there are preschoolers (kids from 0 to 4 – “strollers”). In other words, the ratio of backpacks to strollers is very close to 1 – to be precise, it’s 1.01. (Of course, older kids have backpacks too, and not every kid age 0-4 is in a stroller. But you get the point.) Spelling it out more clearly:

  • A neighborhood with a ratio below 1 (i.e., more strollers than backpacks) indicates that more families are moving out of that area than moving in as children reach school age
  • A neighborhood with a ratio above 1 (i.e. more backpacks than strollers) indicates that more families are moving into that area than moving out as children reach school age

As we showed last year, the most “attractive” school districts – those with the highest backpack-to-stroller ratio – are smaller, suburban districts, while big-city school districts have more strollers than backpacks. But even within big cities, there’s huge variation: New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, and other cities all have extreme “stroller” neighborhoods, where the preschoolers far outnumber the elementary-school-age kids, but also a few “backpack” neighborhoods, which have more elementary school-age kids than preschoolers. Even in cities like San Francisco, where a lottery often assigns kids to elementary schools outside their own neighborhood, some neighborhoods are much more attractive to families with school-age kids than others are.

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School Districts People Flock to – and Flee From

Parents “vote with their feet” by moving to better schools. We looked in every part of the country to find which districts attract parents with school-aged kids. Should you follow in their footsteps?

The back-to-school season is upon us. Across the country, millions of children are preparing to hit the books. Many of those kids will be entering school for the first time, making this season a huge transition for them and their families. But for many families, starting school isn’t the only transition. Our analysis of Census data shows that 57% of households where the oldest child is between 5 and 9 years old said they moved sometime in the previous five years. Lots of factors go into the decision of whether to move and where, and for parents, this decision is largely driven by what matters most to their families: affordability, more space and of course good schools.

To figure out which school districts are the “most attractive” – in the sense that they attract families with school-age kids — we looked at the number of elementary school kids (by which we mean kids aged 5 to 9) and the number of preschoolers (kids aged 0 to 4) living in every school district in the U.S., according to the 2010 Census. The ratio of elementary school kids to preschoolers shows whether families move to or away from a district as kids approach school age. Since the Census is a snapshot in time, we can’t track individual families to see whether and when they actually moved to a different school district, but the ratio does reveal their overall movement patterns.

Here’s why: if families never moved, then the number of 5-to-9 year-olds would be very close to the number of 0-to-4 year-olds in an area, and the ratio would be very close to 1. (Nationally, the ratio is 1.01.) Children don’t just magically vanish after age 4; nor does the stork drop 5-year-olds from the sky. Therefore, a ratio below 1 indicates that more families are moving out of an area than are moving in as children reach school age. And vice-versa, a ratio above 1 indicates that more families are moving in than moving out. The higher the ratio, the more “attractive” the school district is, because it literally attracts more families with school-age kids.

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