Sunday Night Stats – More bang for your buck

Relocating to Seattle: Home Prices (King County only) by School District – I’ll start with the graphs:

split-entry-eastside-graph

mppsf-sd

I spent a considerable amount of time this weekend working on home prices by school district for a woman on the East Coast who is hoping to move to Seattle with her family. 

My conversation with her touched on something that is very common, though not talked about much on real estate blogs.  The reality that husbands and wives often disagree on priorities. Consequently you end up with a “want” list that can be near impossible to fill as in: wife wants a new kitchen and new baths in the best school for the children.  Husband wants a single family home with at least four bedrooms and a yard for $350,000 or less.

It is very difficult, if near impossible, to search by school district on the internet. Narrowing it down to specific schools in a school district is even harder.

I started a series of posts by calculating the price variance of homes in six school districts. At the onset I eliminated homes over a million dollars and homes with lake or mountain views, and came up with these results as shown in the middle graph above.  In order to evaluate where prices are currently vs. in previous years, I used March, April and May stats back to 2005, as I can’t search by school district prior to late February of 2005 as is explained in the linked post.

Next, I took the same timeframes but stuck the median of the three months combined (vs. separately) for each of those years as shown in the last graph in this post and explained HERE.

The 2009 data in the second graph above peaked my curiosity regarding the consistent spread between school districts seeming to go haywire in 2009, with half the school district home prices turning up and half turning down. While that may appear to be the market being “flat”, in reality UP vs DOWN does not equal “flat” to most home buyers and sellers, as they don’t get to average the two when buying or selling a specific home. That led me to this post and the graph below, to sort out median price changes from December of 08 to present.

Remember, these are school districts vs. cities, so part of Bellevue is in BE (Bellevue School District) and part of Bellevue is in LKW (Lake Washington School District). ISS is Issaquah School District, not the “mailing address” of Issaquah.

Given the recent inconsistencies, I moved to find a like kind product that fulfilled the “4 bedroom with yard” parameters of a family with a couple of children hoping to buy “a single family home $350,000 or less” in most of the available school districts, and came up with the split-enty or bi-level home (not split level home) described in this post.  It has long been one of my favorites for “More Bang For Your Buck” and as the first graph shows, the same house can be had at different prices in various school districts.

The first graph tells you a lot.  If you want the house with lots of upgrades for around $350,000, you more likely can get that where the median price for that style is in the $350,000 or less range.  If you choose a school district where that home normally sells for much more than $350,000, you can still get that house, but you might have to sacrifice that newer kitchen or newer bathrooms as a trade off for the school you choose.

There is always a lot of controversy when discussing schools and which may be better or best. Consequently you don’t see much of that discussion anymore.  The reality is that people who are relocating from thousands of miles away, look at homes on the internet, AND they try to choose schools using the internet.

Hopefully all of the data I put together will help one Mom and Dad sitting in DC with their current decision making process.  As is my practice as a real estate blogger, I try to show you how I work for each client or potential client, and give you the benefit of seeing my thought process and the underlying data.

Last but not least…I know it isn’t Sunday :), but I try to tag all of my stat related posts here on Rain City Guide as “Sunday Night Stats” and on my blog as “Tracking the Market” so that people who like to follow those posts as a category, can do that via a one click link on both sites.

Hope everyone had a great Memorial Day Weekend!

(required disclosure) Stats are not compiled, verified or posted by NWMLS

This entry was posted in Sunday Night Stats by ARDELL. Bookmark the permalink.

About ARDELL

ARDELL is the Managing Broker of Sound Realty in Seattle/Kirkland. ARDELL was named one of the Most Influential Real Estate Bloggers in the U.S. by Inman News and 25 years experience in Real Estate up and down both Coasts, representing both buyers and sellers of homes in Seattle and on The Eastside. Follow Ardell on Google+

26 thoughts on “Sunday Night Stats – More bang for your buck

  1. For the regular readers, this post on % change from peak to present may be of interest. I didn’t link it into the post here, but it shows the % change in pricing for like kind product for King County as a whole and the specific school districts noted in this post:

    http://www.realtown.com/Ardell/blog/tracking-the-market/king-county-change-in-home-values

    The variance is from down 16% to down 28%, a significant difference from one place to another. Since the 28% down for King County on this product is lower than ANY of the School Districts noted, there must be areas in King County where the decrease is much greater than 28% from peak to present, for the King County median to come in that much lower.

  2. Note: King County Only which I added to the first sentence of this post. Some of Northshore School District is in Snohomish County and this post only includes homes sold in these School Districts that are in King County.

  3. Very impressive work. If this family doesn’t move to Seattle after seeing this thesis… they are coming from DC? I’m just outside DC and after looking over your stats maybe I should move my wife and kids out there!

    Funny but I always heard that agents should stay at arms-length when it comes to school test data… but you really did good research here.

  4. Doug,

    When I started in the biz agents didn’t stay at arms length about anything of relevance to our clients. I still don’t.

    Since that time agents are trained to stay at arms length about mortgage info, qualifying to buy, inspections, school info…pretty much most of the things people pay us for 🙂

  5. And precisely because Ardell does NOT stay at arms length about anything, we are certainly going to hire her when we buy our house in the Seattle area. Ardell dispelled A LOT of preconceptions I had about the area prior to contacting her and most likely, we are going to end up renting for our first year. Thanks to her we are not entering this new phase of our lives with our “eyes wide shut”:) She has certainly set the bar very high for other realtors.

  6. Interesting stuff. Pretty clear differences in median price per square foot.

    However, some school districts are distinctly regional, and have a great deal of variance in home price. Take Renton SD, f’rinstance.

    3 distinct areas, roughly corresponding to the 3 high schools that serve each area.

    Renton High=fed from Skyway, downtown Renton and a portion of Renton Highlands. Most similar to South Seattle schools, and housing stock (lots of WWII era housing), furthest west.

    Lindbergh High=fed from Benson Hill and Fairwood, most similar to Kent schools, lots of 70’sd and 80’s housing, furthest south and east.

    Hazen High= fed from E Renton, Kennydale, parts of Newcastle, most similar to Issaquah schools, primarily a mix of 70’s thru 2000 housing, furthest north and east.

    I suppose folks coming from DC, or other parts far away may not understand the differences, but when I moved here from Seattle, it was pretty easy to grasp them. We looked at homes in the Issaquah, Renton and Bellevue school districts. I was primarily concerned about the SD’s financial stability, test scores, job proximity, and of course, price, before deciding on the home we are in. We are almost perfectly equidistant from a Bellevue, Issaquah and Renton elementary school, with a Bellevue address, but we are in the Renton SD.

    It has been a very good experience, aside from having to frequently defend Renton schools to all of the folks that are ga-ga over Bellevue schools! :). Fortunately, folks that are in the Issaquah SD don’t seem as wrapped up in the school rankings.

    So, please excuse my boosterism for Renton schools….they are better than most people think!

    Guess they won’t be using THAT slogan!

  7. Interesting stuff. Pretty clear differences in median price per square foot.

    However, some school districts are distinctly regional, and have a great deal of variance in home price. Take Renton SD, f’rinstance.

    3 distinct areas, roughly corresponding to the 3 high schools that serve each area.

    Renton High=fed from Skyway, downtown Renton and a portion of Renton Highlands. Most similar to South Seattle schools, and housing stock (lots of WWII era housing), furthest west.

    Lindbergh High=fed from Benson Hill and Fairwood, most similar to Kent schools, lots of 70’sd and 80’s housing, furthest south and east.

    Hazen High= fed from E Renton, Kennydale, parts of Newcastle, most similar to Issaquah schools, primarily a mix of 70’s thru 2000 housing, furthest north and east.

    I suppose folks coming from DC, or other parts far away may not understand the differences, but when I moved here from Seattle, it was pretty easy to grasp them. We looked at homes in the Issaquah, Renton and Bellevue school districts. I was primarily concerned about the SD’s financial stability, test scores, job proximity, and of course, price, before deciding on the home we are in. We are almost perfectly equidistant from a Bellevue, Issaquah and Renton elementary school, with a Bellevue address, but we are in the Renton SD.

    It has been a very good experience, aside from having to frequently defend Renton schools to all of the folks that are ga-ga over Bellevue schools! :). Fortunately, folks that are in the Issaquah SD don’t seem as wrapped up in the school rankings.

    So, please excuse my boosterism for Renton schools….they are better than most people think!

    Guess they won’t be using THAT slogan!

  8. Roger,

    The post has nothing to do with school rankings. Just want to make that clear. Except to the extent that school rankings influence supply and demand, and supply and demand influences prices.

    I had more trouble with Issaquah SD than Renton SD as to variance of housing style. That is why it took 4 days and 7 posts until I double checked everything against the bi-level / split entry home. It is the one home that is virtually identical whether it is in Renton SD or Issaquah SD or Lake Washington SD or in New Jersey! 🙂 The first graph reflects the price of that home style only, so home style is not the factor in that graph. Nor are views of mountains or lakes, which I eliminated from the research data.

    In the 2nd and 4th graphs, Issaquah’s numbers were being dragged down by the size of a lot of the newer homes being sold. Price per square foot of a 2,700 sf home is often lower than that of a 1,700 sf home. In Renton SD I was finding more newer homes that were smaller and in Issaquah SD I was finding more newer homes that were larger. That’s why I moved the sample to similar type of home that only comes in fairly defined sizes. When I tried to include 1 story with basement, which is the most similar home to a split entry, I ran into trouble in Bellevue SD where there are some enormous and even newer homes of that type.

    Remember too that I was doing this primarily for Tatiana who was looking for a school with a specific program vs ranking issues. Before speaking with me she was calling the school districts to inquire about that program. I wanted to make sure she wasn’t picking a school where she couldn’t find a house for her $350,000 cap amount, and basing her decision to move here on an erroneous assumption.

    The reality that people buy a home in a certain school district, and in a certain High School or even elementary school, is a reality that influences home prices. I always tell people to be aware of the imaginary lines of value that are all important in home values, whether they have children or not. It may not matter to them when they are buying, but it will come into play when they sell.

    That is why from an agency standpoint it may seem better to find an agent who exclusively represents buyers, but in reality a buyer’s agent is not as qualified if they don’t do both listing and selling. Warning a buyer before they buy, of the factors that will affect them when they try to sell, is a large part of the value added.

  9. Of more importance to me generally was the upturn in pricing in 3 out of 6, and the downturn of the other 3. There were two primary reasons for that (and these numbers in graphs 2 and 4 vs. 1, are not restricted to home style). Federal Way had the most foreclosure types in the mix, dragging the numbers down. below the March 2005 level. Screaming deals by builders was a significant factor in the areas experiencing a downturn vs. an upturn.

    Often people want to know where prices are relative to…are they at 2006 levels, 2005 levels, 2004 levels…? That is why I struck the point as early as I could in graph 2 at March of 2005.

    I am reminded of the many times I have a heard a seller say “if you moved my house to X it would be worth…”, which of course would only be relevant if one could in fact move it.

  10. In some cases the difference in home price could equal the cost of sending your children to private school. If you are planning to send the children to private or parochial school anyway, sometimes the way to pay for it is determined by home price and cost.

  11. Roger,

    In your immediate vicinity, the price differential between Renton SD and Bellevue SD is 17%. In ISS SD you get a much larger home for the same price as one in BE, about 600 sf larger.

    It’s one of the reasons I do Bellevue by Zip code for the last couple of years, excluding 98006.

  12. A very nice piece of work, Ardell; thank you. Helps make some sense of patterns we’ve seen.

    We moved from Mercer Island to Newcastle a couple of years ago, in part because the prices were obviously so much lower in Newcastle and Renton Highlands than they were in Mercer Island or Bellevue. Since our kids are now grown and out of the school system, the price difference was compelling. Even though we bought a newer home, not a split, we felt there was about a 15% difference between south Bellevue and Newcastle. Of course some of that difference will still be there when we sell, but it makes a big difference in the quality of house you can afford, as long as it fits your situation.

    Renton is rebuilding many of its schools as a lot of the area gets redeveloped – the new Hazelwood elementary school in Newcastle just north of us is a good example. So we think the combination of rebuilt schools, revitalized downtown Renton, and I-405 improvements may evaporate some of that difference – to our benefit 🙂

  13. A very nice piece of work, Ardell; thank you. Helps make some sense of patterns we’ve seen.

    We moved from Mercer Island to Newcastle a couple of years ago, in part because the prices were obviously so much lower in Newcastle and Renton Highlands than they were in Mercer Island or Bellevue. Since our kids are now grown and out of the school system, the price difference was compelling. Even though we bought a newer home, not a split, we felt there was about a 15% difference between south Bellevue and Newcastle. Of course some of that difference will still be there when we sell, but it makes a big difference in the quality of house you can afford, as long as it fits your situation.

    Renton is rebuilding many of its schools as a lot of the area gets redeveloped – the new Hazelwood elementary school in Newcastle just north of us is a good example. So we think the combination of rebuilt schools, revitalized downtown Renton, and I-405 improvements may evaporate some of that difference – to our benefit 🙂

  14. Chuck,

    If noting the individual schools were a mandatory input field, the results would get even more interesting and relevant. It is not unusual for home prices to be impacted by which of the 3 high schools, and which of the 12 elementary schools, the neighborhood feeds into.

    When Zillow is Zestimating and appraisers are pulling comps by radius, they often overlook that they are pulling in comps from a different school or school system. That will throw the result off, as you can see from the data, by a significant percentage in neighborhoods that border two school districts.

    As to improved value factors, a new school building doesn’t usually improve these variances. The only way that would happen is if the building was in such disrepair, that people would not buy a house if their children had to go to that school before the rebuild. You would do more to improve the value by volunteering to mentor or tutor children in your immediate vicinity. Finding the lowest ranked elementary school, and spearheading a volunteerism effort to assist and support the growth of those children, would be a high return project on many levels.

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