Better Schools, Better Long-Term Home Values?

Kids or no kids, you can "recession-proof" your home by buying one in a high-ranked school district–according to a new report from real estate Web site Trulia.com.

The advantage of a good school system isn’t exactly a new thought–it’s one of the first thing parents will ask when viewing a property. But the fact it might help a home retain more value is interesting.

We’re in what many are calling the worst housing slump in 70–or more–years. If elementary education can actually protect a property over the long-term even for homeowners who don’t have any children, well, that’s worth noting.

Curious how your community measures up? Trulia.com yesterday released a list of the 9 best burbs for school systems and property values. The high-rankers are as follows:

  • Boise–Median home price: $317,756
  • Boston–Median home price: $379,000
  • Chicago–Median home price: $334,900
  • Dallas–Median home price: $235,000
  • Los Angeles–Median home price: $559,000
  • New York–Median home price: $1,075,000
  • Philadelphia–Median home price: $199,900
  • San Francisco-Median home price: $799,500
  • Washington, D.C.–Median home price: $434,000

The company compiled information on over 2 million homes and newly launched education rankings on 125,000 schools across the country to complete the list; that’s a bunch of data.

However, it is a little surprising some high-end housing market choices made the list–like San Francisco, which I’m sure has a wonderful school system, but with a home price of almost $800,000, I feel a little strange about calling a value. (Even if homes in the area do retain their equity better than other areas of the U.S.–I’d suspect the fact that land is limited in San Francisco and the fact it’s a highly desirable place to live would also be factors in homes retaining their equity.)

What’s interesting is that the list also includes some suburban options. Take, for example, Chicago: the suburb of LaGrange, Ill. is listed as a top value, with a nearly perfect school rating.

Despite the fact the median home price listed for LaGrange–$440,000–is higher than the urban option, it’s reasonable for a Chicago suburb. I have a friend who relocated her family there from the city several years ago to make room for her first and, eventually, second child–and she found it to be one of the most affordable areas in the region, with good schools, a quaint downtown–overall, a decent deal.

In today’s market of declining equity–the median sales price in 77 of the 150 markets that the National Association of Realtors’ monitors
dropped during the last three months of 2007, compared to 2006, according to NAR–a school-fueled equity boost is a solid selling
point. (And one real estate agents and developers should be stressing
in all marketing materials and sales pitches–as well as something
appraisers and mortgage brokers should be considering.)

But you tell us: How big a buying factor do you really think a strong school district is? Where would you rank it on your list of property selling points?