Agents risk ‘offending the homebuyer’ by suggesting another school district

NAR data shows buyers who want to be near top-rated schools unwilling to compromise

WASHINGTON — Homebuyers who want to live in a certain school district are generally so unwilling to compromise on the matter that agents who suggest homes outside that district risk “offending the homebuyer,” according to Lawrence Yun, the National Association of Realtors’ chief economist.

“As a Realtor you should not bother to say, ‘Well, there’s a larger home in another district,’ ” Yun said, when moderating a panel on commute costs at NAR’s midyear conference. “By saying that, you may actually be offending the homebuyer.”

Students image via Shutterstock.
Students image via Shutterstock.

Yun based his recommendation on NAR’s recent finding that only 2 percent of buyers make compromises on distance from schools, and 3 percent on quality of schools. Reports from agents around the country also seem to back up Yun’s recommendation.

Agents say that consumers’ preoccupation with online school data has made it increasingly difficult to get buyers to consider listings served by schools that don’t boast top school ratings or scores.

The proliferation of online school data and school-based search tools are helping fuel the phenomenon, according to some agents, technologists and researchers. Many property search sites now let buyers search for homes not only by school district, but within individual school attendance boundaries.

School officials say it’s often difficult to get a true handle on the quality of education provided by individual schools by simply looking at test scores or simplified rankings, and some real estate agents agree. The San Francisco Chronicle has documented at least one instance where a homebuyer who was relying on test scores fired his agent for suggesting that he wasn’t giving some schools a fair shake.

By stoking consumers’ focus on schools, the data is also driving up price premiums for neighborhoods served by top-rated schools. Other data including the locations of sex offenders and crime rates are also beginning to influence demand, causing headaches for some agents and communities, and eroding the spirit of fair housing laws.


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