Top searched zip codes on Homes.com in the months before the Back to School season reveal major school districts in the US. Is this season influencing the real estate market and what does this mean for parents looking to buy a home?
Combined with economic conditions, it’s a common perception that real estate values are closely tied to area schools and school districts. Parents want the best education for their children and rightfully so. The best education could also help bring parents the best return on their real estate investment.
Now, as many parents across the country send their children back to school, we take a look into the search habits from the months leading up, June and July, and examine the zip codes with the most searches on Homes.com, revealing the school districts behind these top searched areas to determine the impact of education on the real estate market.
The Orange School District in Orlando, FL leads with the #1 zip code and appears with the most zip codes in our list, representing 4 out of the top 10. Orange County is ranked #11 in the 100 largest school districts as defined by 2009-2010 student enrollment data from the National Center for Education Statistics[i]. There are just over 173,000 total students receiving educational services within this district and the enrollment slightly increased by 0.58% from the year before. The area’s local news station, WFTV Channel 9, recently posted an article about the steps the district is taking to improve relationships with parents. Bill Sublette, an Orange County school board member, stated that education “affects everything from our property values to our businesses, to our quality of life[ii].” It is evident this district recognizes the impact a great education system can make on the surrounding housing market and search trends certainly reflect this on Homes.com.
Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools in Charlotte, NC ranks with the second most searched zip code, representing 12.19% of the top 10 searches. This district is also within the (NCES) 100 largest school districts, ranking #19 with almost 137,000 students and a 1.41% increase from the year before. This is the state’s second largest school district and the student-teacher ratio is relatively standard at 15.31, indicating that there are about 15 students per one teacher. Recently noted in the Charlotte Observer, “North Carolina’s ‘Race to the Top’ program is replacing the standardized tests and school ratings that have been around for 15 years[iii].” According to this same article, “this is a community that cares deeply about education.” Therefore, this district is definitely adapting to change in order to better the education for its students. Perhaps the steps taken to improve the education standards are influencing the search patterns for this area.
Another Florida district, Hillsborough, in Tampa, FL, represents the fourth ranked zip code and happens to be larger than the Orange and Charlotte-Mecklenburg districts in student enrollment, ranking #9 with just over 193,000 students receiving educational services. Hillsborough has a rather ideal student-teacher ratio, with about 13.5 students per one teacher and lower than the national ratio of 15.4. A low student-teacher ratio has often been used as a selling point for choosing the best school and this district surely represents that. Recently noted in the Tampa Bay Times, is that Pam Stewart, Florida’s interim education commissioner, “thinks it’s critical for the state to continue moving toward higher academic standards[iv].” Additionally, the Tampa metropolitan area increased in home values 3.4% from the year before, according to Standard & Poor’s Case-Shiller Index[v]. With two seemingly sought after school districts and half of the top 10 searched zip codes, Florida is not only showing signs of improving the education system, but the real estate market as well.
The Katy Independent School District in Houston, TX makes the list with the fifth most searched zip code and is listed in the (NCES) top 100 largest school districts, with just over 59,000 total students and a rather large increase of 3.9% from the year before. Despite the recent issue with a shortage of bus drivers, this school district is growing fast and the Houston economy is notably improving. A news article in The Houston Chronicle recently states that “as a fast-growing school district, Katy ISD has had a hard time keeping up with drivers” and that “an improving job market has upped the pressure on the school systems[vi].” In this article, Jim Abney, director of transportation for Alvin ISD, says that the fall in the retention of drivers is a typical pattern when the economy is better. With this strong of a job market, it’s obvious that Houston and Katy ISD have become sought after areas in the US, thus, strengthening the surrounding housing market.
The Paradise Valley Unified school district in Phoenix, AZ comes in with the sixth most searched zip code and this district shows a considerable focus on education standards. A local news source, azcentral.com, recently discussed “big changes in store for Phoenix schools,” stating that “the budget ax did not fall in the Paradise Valley Unified School District this year[vii].” In fact, this district will see a 1% increase in the maintenance and operation budget for the 2012-2013 fiscal year. It seems Paradise Valley is willing to invest in education and now may be the time to invest in its real estate market. This could be a wise investment, as home values for the Phoenix metro area largely increase by 13.9% from the year before, according to the S&P/Case-Shiller Index.
The Clark County School district in Nevada completes the list, with two most searched zip codes landing in the #9 and #10 spots. Clark County is the largest in size out of this list of school districts, ranking #6 in the top 100 largest school districts and has just over 307,000 students enrolled. In addition to being the largest in size, this district has the highest student-teacher ratio at 19.85. Although it currently faces challenges compared to other school districts, Clark County may soon be seeing signs of recovery. The Las Vegas Sun recently reports that with the help of Dwight Jones, the superintendent of the Clark County School District (CCSD), the education system is making a start to overcoming many challenges. “For example, in 2011, the CCSD had 34 students recognized as National Merit semifinalists, who rank in the top 1 percent of high school juniors[viii].” This district without a doubt recognizes the need for a stronger education system and improvements should help boost the housing market in this area.
Overall, besides representing the top searched zip codes on Homes.com, all of these school districts fundamentally represent change, and a change for the better. It’s no secret the economy has had a significant impact on both the housing market and the education system in the US. Now is the time for adapting, and with it we are seeing similar steps for improvement in these industries.
[i] U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics, Common Core of Data (CCD), , “Local Education Agency Universe Survey,” 2009–10, Version 1a; 2008–09, Version 1a; 2007–08, Version 1b; 2006–07, Version 1c; and 2005–06, Version 1a.
[ii] WFTV.com, “Orange County schools look to improve relationship with parents,” August 27, 2012
[iii] The Charlotte Observer, Living Here, “What’s new in our schools? Change,” August 25, 2012
[iv] Tampa Bay Times, “Florida State Board of Education names interim education commissioner,” August 3, 2012
[v] Standard & Poors Case-Shiller Index, Second Quarter 2012
[vi] The Houston Chronicle, “Area school districts scrambling to find bus drivers,” chron.com, August 17, 2012
[vii] Azcentral.com, “Big changes in store for Phoenix schools,” August 9, 2012
[viii] The Las Vegas Sun, “A successful future for Nevada starts with education,” August 19, 2012