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Buy a better home in a poorly-performing school district, or buy a smaller home in a great school district?  Should you consider private school?

Should you buy a house in a better school district –  one with “higher-performing” metrics? Or consider a nicer/larger home in a less-expensive, lower-performing district and send your child to private school? Does buying a house based on a school district make sense?

If you have a family with school-age children or are considering starting a family soon, it’s likely you are closely examining school district ratings on websites such as greatschools.net.  In a 2017 study by the National Association of Realtors, 26% of home buyers considered the quality of schools when looking to purchase a home.  The trade-off can be difficult, but a good home in a great school district brings a higher price, and also holds a better resale value than a similar home in a less-than-stellar district.

Home values inside top-rated school districts were far higher than the county median home price, according to a 2016 study by Realtor.com, which analyzed data from the residential listing database and school district ratings from GreatSchools.org.

Does it make sense to move to a better house in a neighborhood with lower-performing schools and consider a private school option? 

This can come down to family priorities and may involve the sacrifice of far less square footage or yard space.  The purchase of an equivalent home may be based on how much cash is available for a down-payment.

Here are some points to consider.

Financial Considerations of the quality of schools when looking to purchase a home

The table below shows some comparative values which make the following assumptions:

  • You have, or plan to have, two children
  • You stay in the house for 13 years (K-12)
  • Public School Tuition = $0
  • Private School Tuition = $24K per year, per child.** (Subtract $312,00 from “net loss/gain” if only one child, or add an additional $312,000 to “net loss/gain” for each additional child.)
  • Your home appreciates in value at the rate of 3% per year

As you can see, at even a 3%/year rate of appreciation, the increased cost of real estate in a better district can be more than offset by the savings from tuition at a private school.

Note: you’ll probably have to factor in some higher property tax costs, and, for a more expensive home, additional interest costs.

Some Additional Considerations

  • If your child attends a private school, it will be less likely that your child will have classmates in their direct neighborhood/area, making playdates more difficult.  Is this important to you and your child?  If so, feeling good about the local school district becomes a higher priority.
  • Spend some time visiting potential private and public schools. How willing is the school to allow you to tour, talk to teachers, talk to parents?  Does the school welcome parental involvement?  Why or why not?
  • For a list of “price premiums” in Contra Costa county districts, visit my post at Price Premium: What You Can Expect to Pay in Contra Costa’s Highest-Performing School Districts

I have the area expertise to help you establish your priorities and navigate East Bay real estate and school districts. Call me at (925) 699.0031 to discuss how I can help you find the best home for your needs.


See the difference a committed, full-service approach to real estate makea.

Cost of a better school district


** Average East Bay private school tuition pulled from privateschoolreview.com.  Tuition increases with grade level, and generally increases 5% (or more) over time.


Copyright ©2020 Tom Nevin. All rights reserved.  Helping buy real estate in Alamo, Walnut Creek, Lafayette, and the greater San Francisco East Bay Area.

Posted on May 30, 2019 at 1:39 am
Thomas Nevin | Category: All Blog Posts, Information on Buying a Home | Tagged , ,

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