Hey Smarty Pants, Do Schools Matter? [ Phase I, Due Diligence]

--- by Osman Parvez

Do schools matter? You bet they do. 

House Einstein's mission is to help you make a smarter real estate decision. This post is part of a series on due diligence in real estate, with some specifics relative to the Boulder real estate market. Phase I due diligence occurs before you write the offer. Phase II occurs when you're under contract. You'll find the rest of the series, as its published, available HERE.

Across the board, most public schools in Boulder County do well academically but some outperform the rest. The reasons for this are a combination of excellent teaching, leadership in the school, and who lives in the neighborhoods assigned to those schools. 

When I was growing up, bringing home anything less than an A on my report card was seen by my immigrant parents as a big failure. Academic performance mattered more than anything else, a deeply ingrained belief that goes back generations in my family. It was only when I was much older that I understood that not everyone grows up with parents who have that obsession. 

The top performing elementary schools in Boulder are in the shadow of federal science labs (NOAA, NIST, NCAR) and a short bike ride from the University of Colorado. Table Mesa is packed with academics and has been for generations. My theory is that a large part of why Bear Creek and Mesa are such high performers is because of the well educated parents who live in those neighborhoods. 

This causes a self sustaining, virtuous feedback loop. Prices are higher in places with good schools, which means better educated and more affluent home buyers. Affluent home buyers are more likely to invest in their homes, remodel them inside and out, and when it comes time to sell - the prices are higher still.  Even if you buy a mid 70's relic that has never been touched, it will still likely go along for the appreciation ride. 

Whether you have children or not, you should look up school performance for the house that you're thinking about buying. This is basic, phase I due diligence. The schools assigned to a house are shown on every listing. Your real estate broker should also know a thing or two about the local schools, assuming you chose a good one. They are a resource for you. Ask them.  

If you're shopping in Boulder, our school district is called Boulder Valley RE 2. At the time of this writing, you can easily look up District and School Performance Frameworks and Unified Improvement Plans on the Colorado School View website. You can also learn about the district and school demographics. It's all available by clicking HERE.  

Note: The link I've provided above may change over time and I'm not going back through old content to update links. If the link is broken, ask Dr. Google. There are also many other websites that present data on school performance.  

Below are performance results for a couple of Boulder elementary schools. You can see how Mesa and Creekside Elementary compare with each other. 

Here's what the scores don't show. Creekside is a magnet school for second language learner and these students are sent to Creekside even if they live in the the neighborhood assigned to Mesa. 

What's a magnet school? Magnet schools offer special instruction and programs not available elsewhere, designed to attract a more diverse student body from throughout a school district. This has the potential to result in lower school scores. 

There are other programs for autistic children or those with other special needs. Mesa Elementary, for example, used to have a social and emotional needs program. That program is now in Meadowlark, which caused a change in the scoring. 

[Shout out to Anne M. for helping me understand the bigger picture on schools]

Remember, it's important to do basic due diligence when purchasing real estate. Even if you don't have children of your own, school performance is closely linked to long-term appreciation rates for a neighborhood. 

School performance scores are only the basic level of due diligence. If you really want to know what’s happening at a school, you have to dig deeper. Talk to neighborhood parents, teachers, and administration. It will give you a deeper understanding of the local schools and help you make a smarter, more informed, real estate decision.

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The ideas and strategies described in this blog are the opinion of the writer and subject to business, economic, and competitive uncertainties.   We strongly recommend conducting rigorous due diligence and obtaining professional advice before buying or selling real estate. 


Please Note

This document contains forward-looking statements. You are strongly cautioned that investment results are subject to business, economic and other uncertainties. There are no guarantees associated with any forecast and the opinions stated here are subject to change at any time. Always consult your financial advisor before making an investment decision.