Schools--good schools in communities that are young family magnets--still matter, even as non-traditional households become more common. It's a good reminder.
As important as location is to livelihood, and as critical as time spent getting here and there has become, it's something beyond the walls of a home and its bearings in connection to job centers and workplaces that many of us need, and many more of us want. It's connection to other people.
Here's data that supports the very strong correlation between what people value as residential real estate and a local school system that distinguishes itself for quality.
ATTOM Data Solutions (the new parent company of RealtyTrac), the nation’s leading source for comprehensive housing data, released its 2016 Schools and Housing Report, which shows that homes in zip codes with at least one good elementary school have higher values and stronger home price appreciation over the long term than homes in zip codes without any good elementary schools.
Yes, and here's one of the kicker passages in the report:
Out of 1,661 zip codes with at least one good school, the average estimated home value as of July 2016 was $427,402, 77 percent higher than the average home value of $241,096 in 2,774 zip codes without any good schools.
Couple that insight with this piece of intelligence from CoreLogic chief economist Frank Nothaft:
Using public records data, CoreLogic found that the median number of years that home sellers had owned their home increased by three years between 2007 and 2013, and has increased an additional year for each year since then to 10 years [from an original benchmark of 4 years] between sales."
Good schools, then, provide homeowners in their environs at least two potential tangible benefits. One, a quality of life value that means kids of households in those locales get the win of a stronger education. The other, a financial payback that comes as part of an exit plan--the sale to a new owner. BUILDER's own sister-company Metrostudy has one of the more sophisticated and elegant data systems, OnTarget, that matches lot valuations to school systems and vice versa.
A third benefit should be mentioned. It's real but less tangible. That is the value a strong elementary school system brings to the entire community, irrespective of whether its residents have children attending the local schools or not. The civic pride, the care for infrastructure, the vigilance and the connectedness among people becomes a value it's hard to price.
New York Times staffer David Brooks gets at this value in a column he's written, "The Great Affluence Fallacy," which hits very close to home among home builders and residential community developers. Brooks writes:
Millennials are oriented around neighborhood hospitality, rather than national identity or the borderless digital world. “A neighborhood is the place where you live and sleep.” How many of your physical neighbors know your name?
Maybe we’re on the cusp of some great cracking. Instead of just paying lip service to community while living for autonomy, I get the sense a lot of people are actually about to make the break and immerse themselves in demanding local community movements.
If Brooks is right, how cool would that be? New community developers have already begun to rewire subdivisional programming and values around hybrids of what's best of urban and suburban living, and they're zeroing them into downtown, inner ring, and outer exurban areas.
One of the only things missing so far is the effect that one gets when such places go not only beyond the boards, and beyond development, but beyond the first cycle of adoption by real people living real lives.
Multifamily communities might well serve as a bellwether for how connected in real, physical, every-day-life ways Millennial adults want to be.
Meanwhile, a place with good schools remains as a powerful proxy for what many people dream when they dream the American Dream.