When we meet with prospective buyers to discuss what they are looking for in their next home, we hear ‘good schools’ from about 75% of them. Some of these buyers have children, while others are planning ahead for the future.
Navigating school options in Washington, DC and the surrounding jurisdictions can feel like a Herculean task to many buyers in DC who did not grow up in the area (and even those who did!).
Adding to the challenge is the ever-changing landscape of certain schools and school districts that are on the rise or decline, along with heated redistricting plans that can pull the rug out from under homeowners who specifically purchased a home zoned for a certain school, only to find their house rezoned for a new school.
Here is our professional advice for navigating schools in the context of home buying:
Determine Your Housing Needs
Start with a solid understanding of what your housing needs are and what you can afford. Your budget will dictate what school districts are options and which ones are out of reach.
Find a Neighborhood
With your budget and housing needs as a guide (and a great agent by your side!), identify the communities/neighborhoods that you think might be a good fit for you from a commuting and lifestyle perspective.
Identify the Options
Take those communities/neighborhoods and start to research all the school options in each. Understand which school you would be zoned to by address, or if there are charter school options. See our list of resources below.
See Schools In-Person
Don’t just rely on school ratings or statistics, which don’t always give a full picture. Instead, contact the school and set up a tour. Find parents of school age children that attend the school (a good agent will be able to connect you with their past clients who live in the community) and talk to them about their experience.
You could also attend a PTA/HSA meeting or take your kids to the playground when school lets out. Attend one of the school fundraisers (nearly all schools have fall or spring festivals or an annual parent auction/party) to see if the events are well attended and if outside members of the community actively support the school.
Identify the specific schools that you want to target, and focus your attention on properties in those boundaries specifically.
Research Redistricting Efforts
Contact the school district headquarters to find out if any redistricting efforts are being considered for the school(s) of your choice. Redistricting efforts are nearly universally a heated effort and often years of planning precede any official boundary movement.
If you are not finding the right combination of house/school/community/commute, take a step back and look at other big picture options. Are there charter schools that might be an option? Can you buy a significantly more affordable house to offset the cost of private school? Religious schools tend to run about half the cost of private schools – is that an option? Would it make more sense to rent in your preferred school district in order to save more for a purchase? Can you make any changes to your housing needs? Perhaps consider townhouses instead of detached properties or condos instead of townhouses.
Schools play a big part in finding a home and in housing values; start your school research well before you are ready to move so you have ample time to find the best fit for you and your family. Here are few helpful resources to get you started:
- Washington Post High School Challenge Index (https://www.washingtonpost.com/graphics/local/high-school-challenge-2017/)
- Washington, DC: https://dcps.dc.gov and http://www.myschooldc.org and charter schools: http://www.dcpcsb.org
- Arlington County: https://www.apsva.us
- Alexandria (City of): https://www.acps.k12.va.us
- Montgomery County: http://www.montgomeryschoolsmd.org
- Catholic Schools: http://adw.org/catholic-schools/
- Private: https://www.state.gov/m/dghr/flo/c21978.htm
Are you ready to find the right home – and school – for your family? We would love to help. Give us a call at 202.270.1081, email us at firstname.lastname@example.org, or send us a message here to get started.