In a word: greatly.
Now, more than ever before, school districts are having a huge effect on the price of real estate, as buyers are planting deeper roots, and thinking further ahead.
Buyers used to simply accept their feeder school as a given, but today, they often start their housing search based on the schools in certain areas…
I attended Bessborough Public School from 1984 to 1993, and at the time, I never thought anything of it.
Of course, what kind of child would think about it? I certainly wasn’t concerned with test scores, demographics, and enrollment as I would be to today.
But seeing as Bessborough is one of the top public schools in Ontario, currently ranked 67th out of 2,714, I’m looking back now, twenty years later, and thinking, “What’s the big deal?”
I asked my parents recently, “Was Leaside ‘all that’ back in the late 1970’s when you bought there?” They both answered, unequivocally, “No.” Back then, some home-buyers were looking to Richmond Hill as a cheaper alternative, never stopping to think about location or future house prices. Back then, people never would have looked at Bessborough School the way they do now.
Nobody cared in the 1980’s that you went to Bessborough! It’s only in the past five years or so that school rankings have shot up the average home-buyer’s list of criteria. This information has only recently been easy to access, and as a result, school rankings are changing the price of real estate in certain areas.
Leaside is just one example, although I’m positive Bessborough School wasn’t ranked nearly as high twenty years ago. Was it just my teachers that smoked pot on a regular basis, or is that all public school teachers, every night? Hmmm….
Some of my clients often ask me, “How come house prices are so much cheaper in Riverdale on the east side of Pape? The difference is insane!”
Well as you might infer from the topic of today’s blog, the answer has a lot to do with the various school districts in the area south of Danforth.
Let’s say you’re looking at houses on Bain Avenue, for example.
#1 to #230 Bain Avenue are feeder schools for Withrow Avenue Public School, which has long been favored as the school of choice for Riverdale. It currently ranks 278th in Ontario out of 2,714 by the Fraser Institute.
Houses between #231 and #274 Bain Avenue feed into Pape Street Public School, which, as luck would have it, also ranks 278th in Ontario! Both Withrow & Pape are ranked 8.1/10, and tie for 278th.
Once upon a time, Withrow was in far, far greater demand for families buying into the area, but Pape Avenue P.S. has made huge strides in recent years, and now the two schools are even! You really can’t go wrong with either.
So what about the rest of Bain Avenue? Well, houses east of Pape, from #282 to #345 feed into Blake Street Public School. Sooo……is Blake Street an 8.1 like the others?
It’s a 3.5.
A 3.5 out of 10.
And it ranks, 2,452nd out of 2,714 elementary schools in Ontario, making it one of the worst in the province.
So do you see a difference between a 3-bed, 2-bath, semi-detached house at #234 Bain Avenue and a 3-bed, 2-bath, semi-detached house at #334 Bain Avenue? Say, “no,” and you get the medal for social equality. Or, you’re just blind, and in denial.
Either way, I’m using this example to illustrate just how important school districts are to today’s home-buyers, and I can tell you from experience over the last few years, that this is slowly becoming the #1 criteria for buyers in their searches.
Some areas are relatively unaffected by school districts.
Take The Beaches, for example.
The three main feeder schools in the area are Kew Beach P.S., Balmy Beach P.S., and Williamson Road P.S., which rank 8.4/10 (192nd) and 8.2/10 (254th), and 8.1 (278th) respectively. You have great options with all three schools, and you don’t have a runt-of-the-litter fourth choice like Riverdale residents experience with Blake Street P.S.
If you think I’m being insensitive, or rude, I apologize.
But to pretend inequality doesn’t exist in today’s society, especially in today’s public schools, is to be completely ignorant.
If you’ve read my posts over the last few years, you know that I don’t have a lot of faith in today’s public school system. I have several public school teachers in my family, who I talk to on a regular basis, and all of whom tell stories about how the curriculum and rules have changed that help identify why smaller, private schools are popping up everywhere.
Junior Academy, Greenwood, Toronto Prep – name three, then name ten more.
The term “Private School” no longer has to conjure up images of 1,000+ enrolments like Upper Canada College and some of the other old-world, big names. The smaller schools come with similar tuition fees, but they offer parents more options, both geographically, and in terms of what the school may specialize in.
Now, if you’re sending your children to private school, then clearly the public school district you live in doesn’t matter to you. And maybe it won’t affect your home-buying decision either.
But let me discuss a little theory I’ve developed over the past little while…
Private school tuitions cost, what – $30,000 per child per year? That’s insane, right? Too expensive for many people, if not most?
Right. So what if you could get that education for free?
Sounds too good to be true?
What’s my angle here?
Well, I guess I feel that if you buy into a dynamite school district, then in some respects, you’re getting private school quality for public school cost, which is, of course, free.
Some of the kids I coached in baseball over the last decade were sent to private school for their whole lives. Imagine the cost for that family? $30,000 per year for twelve years, or $360,000. And what if you’re a family of five, with two boys and a girl?
That’s over $1,000,000 in tuition for private school.
So while I’m not suggesting that Bessborough, or Pape, or Withrow are in anywhere equal to St. Mike’s, TFS, or Bishop Strachan, I am suggesting that you can find a happy medium between enrolling your children in a school where the teachers are forced to pass everybody – even ‘lil Johnny who got 28% in grade nine, but who was passed off to the tenth grade, and a school that is going to financially cripple some families in search of higher learning.
Somebody recently asked me, “What school is ranked #1 in Ontario?”
Deer Park Public School ranks a 10.0 out of 10, and along with 15 other schools in Ontario, is ranked #1.
Brown P.S. is the feeder school to Deer Park, and ranks an 8.7/10 – 124th overall.
Yes, the price of real estate is very expensive in the Yonge & St. Clair area where these schools are situated, but if you could save $1,000,000 in private school tuition over the course of your children’s lives by sending them to top public schools, then perhaps this changes the affordability of real estate.
I know, I know – many people reading this are in no position to consider, a) $30K per year for their kid, b) houses on Balmoral or Farnham. But remember that this blog’s purpose is to explore ALL aspects of real estate, even those which may only apply to a small percentage of the city.
For those people who consider education an “investment,” you can see where I’m going with all of this.
Some of the public schools out there are basically daycare centres for teenagers, disguised as schools, and many of the graduates finish without a clue what is expected in the real world. Let’s save the watered-down university degree as a topic for another day…
Real estate buyers have dozens of different criteria in today’s market. Some put access to TTC at the top of their list, to try and minimize their daily commute. Some want to buy in areas that are close to friends and family. Some don’t care where they live, so long as they can get the biggest house possible for their money! Hey – a 50 x 150 foot lot is available in Scarborough for the same cost as a 1-bed-plus-den condo in downtown Toronto!
But in the top-10 criteria of virtually every single home-buyer’s list is school district, and some buyers are making this a diehard #1.
Some buyers are looking at school rankings, picking off schools that rank in the top-200, and saying, “We want to look in these areas.”
These people see the value in a public school system that is free, but where the quality of the education might not be that far off from what $30K/year can buy in the private sector.
Just as a first-time condo-buyer can plan to save $120/month on a TTC MetroPass if he or she can walk to work each day, a savvy home-buyer that is planting roots for the next 10-15 years can try to buy into a neighborhood where the public schools will enable them to forego private school.
If you’re curious about public school rankings, check out the Fraser Institute’s elementary school rankings HERE.
Even if you don’t see any added value of a fantastic school district when you buy your home today, you have to realize that it will come into play when you sell your home tomorrow…