Location, Location, Location

How many times have you heard that mantra as it relates to Real Estate? Many, I’m sure. And location does have a huge affect on the value of your property. But I would suggest there is another mantra that should be chanted when it comes to home values and that is SCHOOLS, SCHOOLS, SCHOOLS!

It’s Back to School time, and as some of you know, the J. Rockcliff Office is across from San Ramon Valley High School. My personal office is across Love Lane from the Senior parking lot, where I get to look at my son’s Jetta everyday (good to know he’s there), and listen to the marching band practice after school in that same parking lot. I love it!

I had the first day of my last year of San Ramon Valley Public schools last week with my 17 year old son, Robbie. It has been a long and wonderful run – almost ten years at little Alamo Elementary, seven in Middle School (Stone Valley) and a combined eight at Monte Vista and San Ramon High.

But we didn’t start out here. In 2002 we moved from The Peninsula because, while it was my husband’s home and we loved the area, I was having a very hard time getting my head around the fact that housing costs were what they were there (REALLY expensive) and the public schools were sketchy at best. I remember thinking “Hmmm, 12 years of private schools x three children, and then college – AAAGGHHHH!!!”.

When we had a chance to move to Alamo, my husband came along kicking and screaming – he used to utter “I will NEVER cross a Bridge to get to work”. But he fell in love almost immediately, knowing we had found the best kept secret in the Bay Area.

Since then the schools have changed, some changes for the better, some not so much. For one, they’ve gotten bigger. When we started at Alamo Elementary with my now 22 year old son, there was one class for each grade except Kindergarten where there was an AM and a PM class. A total of just five classrooms!

And they’ve gotten more expensive. Yes, expensive. We were always asked to make a contribution here or there to subsidize class size reduction, library services or maybe a tech fee. It always was, and still is, optional. It was minimal and most of us just paid it. But the costs have gotten bigger – a lot bigger. I had to budget about $1,000 per child per year to get them registered at their particular school.

Did I complain? Absolutely NOT!! All my friends on the Peninsula were paying $1,000 a month for their private schools. And I got to enjoy LOWER Home prices AND 12 years of great public schools! ALL GOOD!

We all know that good schools are an important part of good home values. The little house I brought to market this week (see top picks #3 – Livorna Rd.) is an old original California Bungalow, it’s the lowest priced detached home in Alamo AND it’s across the street from Alamo Elementary School.

Think that’s appealing to young families from Vallejo, Oakland or parts of Concord that are moving up? You bet! I tried to quantify that value – and you know what? I couldn’t do it. I was surprised that I was unable to find ANY hard data for our area on how good schools affect home values.

But as a full time, dedicated REALTOR® (can you say REAL-TOR – not Real-a-tor? Or as one of my favorite clients used to call me his Realaster), I can tell you that maintaining the quality of our schools is the single biggest thing within the purview of our community that we can do to keep our home values up. This is true even during this time of plummeting home values. You all know that we haven’t been affected as badly as places like Modesto, Tracy and Vallejo have.

So how do we keep our Public Schools good? If you have kids in our schools, do what you can to pay the school registration costs that affect education directly. You can pass on the school logo gear and cookie dough, but be sure to pay that class size reduction donation.

If you don’t have students in our schools, please support the occasional bond or parcel tax. There was a huge hullabaloo a couple of years ago when the San Ramon Valley School District had on the ballet a requested increase of the $90 annual parcel tax to $144. I get that our schools are supposed to be paid for with our taxes, but I never say Public Schools are free, they aren’t.

We pay for them whether we have school age children or not. Those of us who had kids attending school pretty much got it – but there were plenty of home owners who no longer, or never did, have students attending local school. Why should they pay a parcel tax?

Because that parcel tax benefits the entire community, not just the students and their parents. The quality of the schools is maintained, which influences the desirability of the neighborhoods, which ultimately helps home values. It’s not hard science, but it works.

So when you are house hunting – whether you have children in school or not, consider the local schools as it is an important contributor to the home’s current and future value. You should read this study called School Performance Can Increase Home Values and Buyer Interest released by Move.com.

As always, call or email me if you have any questions or need any help at all.

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