Why is it smart to size up the schools before your first home?

Chalkboard When you buy a home, you also buy into the area schools. So, wether you have children or not, be sure to keep your home’s resale value in mind. Families will often spend thousands of dollars more for a home located in a better school district.

  • Start with statistics Typically the best place to start is with research that relies heavily on statistics like test scores, high school graduation and college attendance rates, student-teacher ratios and spending per pupil. This data can give a snapshot of the condition of a school or school district over the recent past. Ask your real estate agent, informed friends and school-finding services.
  • Visit, walk-through, ask If you have children and want to find out what the schools will be like for them, you need to visit the schools and see how well they are run, how ancient or modern are the buildings, and how well equipped they are. Pay attention to class size and teacher workload and whether enrichment courses are offered. You also need to talk to school staff to see what problems exist or are looming ahead. Budget cuts, a demographic shift in the area or local development that overwhelms schools with new students -- all can change the quality of schools.
  • Decide for yourself Even if the schools are the best in the state, you should look for what is best for your children. Some youngsters need a small, quiet school where individual efforts are rewarded, others thrive in a large, cosmopolitan atmosphere. Or your children may need personal attention to help cope with special learning styles.

Is it better to buy a new home area or a previously owned home?

Front Light Fixture Once you’ve started to look for your first home, you need to decide whether to look at homes under construction, or for resales in established neighborhoods. Here are some pros and cons for either type of home.

Newly-Constructed Homes

  • Pluses are: You choose the colors and finishes for floors, bath tiles, appliances, kitchen counters and cabinets. You can opt to upgrade and select builder options, and often can choose your lot. Everything is clean and new when you move in.
  • Minuses are: You may not see the home you are buying until the final walk-through, and may find a number of items that need to be fixed by the builder's maintenance crew. Often, new-home buyers have to deal with construction traffic, debris, mud, dust and unfinished roads.

Existing Resale Homes

  • Pluses are: You can see the home you are buying, and many personal touches like drapes and curtains will likely have been added. You can also tell what the neighborhood will be like by driving through during the day, and how rush hour will be by passing through in the evening.
  • Minuses are: The seller's tastes may not be yours, and you may need to do some redecorating to tailor the home to your color scheme. Also, the appliances may be several years old if they haven't recently been replaced for the sale.

What should we look for in choosing a quality school?

School Desk Along with test scores and statistics you should consider these good-school indicators:

  • Parent involvement Parents volunteer in the classrooms, on curriculum committees, on the PTA and at fund-raisers.
  • Teacher enthusiasm Teachers go the extra mile, depend on experience but aren't afraid to try a new approach, respond to students individually and work to meet their needs. A good teacher nurtures a love of learning in her classroom every day.
  • High standards Children are expected to work to their highest potential and are given the help they need to reach it.
  • Community support Schools have the political and financial backing of everyone, and have business "partners" who provide added money and opportunities for students.
  • Innovative administrators Schools combine the best of the old ways with newer materials and methods to help all children succeed.

When and how do you determine the differences between schools?

Lunch Time We advise parents to research area schools early in the home search process – with our assistance in getting answers to their questions.

Here are questions prospective homeowners should ask:

What’s the school budget for…

  • Student instruction, guidance and counseling
  • Vocational education
  • Teachers' salaries
  • Buildings and facilities
  • Library and media services
  • Transportation facilities
  • Sports facilities

What programs exist for…

  • Advanced placement
  • Remedial work
  • SAT/ACT/Merit exam preparation
  • Computer Science
  • Music
  • Art
  • Drama
  • Speech and debate
  • Athletics
  • Sex, drug and alcohol education

How does the school measure up in…

  • Teachers' educational level
  • Activity of parent organizations
  • The ratio of pupils per teacher
  • Graduation requirements
  • The record of college/vocational school placement
  • The rate of student suspension or dropout

We can help you get answers to questions about schools in your new area. Click on “Ask Your Own Questions” or call or e-mail us to find out more.

What are some advantages of buying a used home?

Old TV Although many first time buyers prefer to buy new homes, the vast majority actually prefer resales. According to the National Association of Realtors, 72% of homes sold are resales.

In fact resales offer some of the best values in the market today. The news gets better when you see the wonderfully diverse resale selection of appealing styles and sizes in many locations and price ranges. Plus, when you are ready to sell your “old” home, you’ve got what most buyers are looking for.

Here are some of the advantages that make “old” homes so popular:

  • Size appeal Older homes often have more space inside and out than new homes. Inside, resale homes may have more square footage and higher ceilings; outside, resale lot sizes are typically larger.
  • Close-in convenience Many resale homes are in older neighborhoods, which are closer to downtown business districts and shopping. New communities are often a distance away from cities and commute times may be much longer.
  • Cost savings Resale homes generally are less expensive than similar new homes. One reason could be resale sellers have more bargaining room than builders who have to make a return on the high costs they recently paid for land and building materials.
  • More green space For tree lovers, resales are a big draw. Older homes typically have mature trees and plantings, unlike what's found in new neighborhoods.
  • What you see is what you get There is no guesswork with older, established neighborhoods. You can research and tour the schools, sample the shopping, and check out the neighbors. In a new home subdivision, buyers might not want to live with the noise and dirt of construction, wonder about future development, or deal with possible long bus rides to existing schools and little or no nearby shopping.
  • Lots of extras Many resale buyers cash in on "extras" the owner has already put in which can save big money. Typical money-saving extras: fenced yards, decks, pools, play sets, window treatments and appliances.

We would be happy to assist you with your home-hunting needs. Call or e-mail for more information or click on “Ask Your Own Questions.”

What advice would you give to help me decide between my two favorite properties?

Balancing Scale Buying your first home is certainly exciting – and you want to make sure you made the best choice. Here are a few tips tp help you make your tough decision easier:

  • Review your priorities Do both properties meet your stated housing needs?
  • Seek new information What else should you know about the home, the neighborhood, local schools, transportation, and community facilities?
  • Get out the crystal ball How long do you expect to stay in your first home, and how will each property fit your expected needs and lifestyle over that time period?
  • Compare the added features for each home Are there benefits that outweigh any shortfalls on your priority list?
  • Keep resale in mind If you intend to move in five or 10 years, which home will probably be easier to resell?
  • Analyze the costs of both homes How does the price of each compare, and how do the long-term costs such as heat, local taxes and fees, transportation and other day-to-day living expenses stack up?

Is there more you would like to know about that final home-buying decision? Simply click on “Ask Your Own Questions” or contact us for answers specific to your situation.

What clues should I look for in checking out a neighborhood?

1st, 2nd & 3rd Place Ribbons As you hunt for your first home, you will probably look at several homes in your price range. Often, in that case, other community elements can help you decide which property is best for you. For example, compare:

  • Neighborhoods How clean are the streets? How's the property upkeep in general? Are there streetlights? Sidewalks? What's the noise level? Is there industry nearby - or train or airplane traffic? Do you notice any unpleasant odors from some unseen source?
  • Conveniences Is public transportation within walking distance? Are thoroughfares or expressways accessible? Are there opportunities to attend sports events, cultural affairs, adult education? Are there parks, trails, places to swim, boat, skate, and play golf or tennis nearby?
  • Distances How far to work from each property? How far to shopping, schools, hospital, places of worship, and entertainment. How far to a fire station? How far from friends and relatives?

What do real estate agents mean when they say the three most important factors in selecting a home are “location, location, location”?

Door Knocker You’re excited about buying your first home, but before you seal the deal, carefully check the location to be sure this is the home you want to buy.

  • Consider destinations Where will family members go most often from this new location? How easy is it to reach schools, churches, grocery stores, medical care, public transportation, shopping malls, and neighborhood services?
  • Be sure rooms have a view What is the view from the home and yard? Is the yard right for your anticipated activities? What uses are possible for nearby undeveloped land? Are there any new roads planned?
  • Check traffic around the clock Is rush hour traffic a problem? What will be the impact of special events like local high school games or church picnics?
  • Test the driveway How easy is it to get into and out of the driveway?
  • Be service conscious What utilities serve this property? Are the rates competitive? Do you want an all-electric home, or do you want gas or oil heat? Where will your mail delivered? Where are the easements?
  • Dig below the surface Is the soil stable? Is part of the property on a flood plain -- if so, what is the history of floods on the property?
  • Visit the neighbors How will you fit in with the neighbors? Do people seem to be friendly? Are homes well-maintained?
  • Read the fine print Does the community have special by-laws or architectural controls over changes to the homes in the area?

    Make a list of the positive and negative aspects of each property as you tour it. Assign priorities to important elements of the home's location.

Do you have home questions about a specific location? We can help. Call or e-mail us now, or click on “Ask Your Own Questions.”

Beyond the house itself, what should I look for in the property?

Floor Plans Once you’ve found the right home, take a good look at the land it’s built on before you buy. Check for:

  • Easements Whose are they and where are they located? Will you be able to build a garage, shed, fence or make other improvements while avoiding the easement areas?
  • Flood plain Is part of the lot marked for flooding areas? How often and for how long is the area under water? Has the property ever been flooded or threatened by high water?
  • Boundaries Where are the true lot lines? Is the fence properly placed within the lot? Will there be room to build a deck or addition to the home later on?
  • Utility cables Where are they located? Will it be possible to add phone lines or upgrade electrical capacity later?
  • Hydrants How close is the nearest fire hydrant? This, and the proximity of the fire station, are often important when purchasing homeowner's insurance.

You may have to do a little research to answer some of these questions, and may want to make any contract contingent upon your being satisfied with the results.