How to Buy a Home Near the Best East Bay Schools
Of all the neighborhood amenities that can influence a home buyer’s decision, proximity to the best East Bay schools is one of the most important. Without fail, our clients with kids or kids on the way ask which neighborhoods feed into the top schools so they can focus their home searches there.
The number of bedrooms and bathrooms matter, of course, but being part of an A+ school district might trump having a big house or lots of yard.
We understand how important it is for families to find the right home and the right school, which is why we created the following how-to guide for home buyers.
Finding a Home for Sale Near the Best East Bay Schools
1. Start by defining what “best school” means to you
How do you measure a “good school”? Is it test scores? Diversity? Size? New facilities? Lots of parent involvement? Sports programs? Arts? Number of AP classes offered? You know what your kids need to thrive, and sometimes it’s not a competitive school with a high academic ranking. Maybe it’s a small arts magnet school. Or a school whose stellar football team attracts recruiters. Make a list of attributes most important to your family.
Remember that students spend the most years – the formative years – at elementary school (K-5 or K-8). With up to nine years at one school, it’s essential to love the school and community vibe. As for high schools, consider what environment best suits your student’s ability to learn and launch in four years, whether they’re on a path to college, trade school, or something else. Some high schools offer more college prep classes, and others have more robust vocational programs.
2. Research school rankings
If you’re a numbers person, check out GreatSchools.org and U.S. News & World Report.
GreatSchools.org collects data for public and private K-12 schools and assigns a score of 1-10 based on test scores, academic progress, and equity. Search by school name, city, or zip code.
U.S. News & World Report’s annual ranking of best high schools considers how many students took and passed AP exams, graduation rates, and proficiency in math, reading, and science. By the way, East Bay high schools dominated the top 10 rankings for the S.F. Bay Area region in 2022: #2 Mission San Jose High in Fremont, #3 Dougherty Valley High in San Ramon, #4 Campolindo High School in Moraga, #5 Piedmont High in Piedmont, #6 Miramonte High in Orinda, #7 KIPP King Collegiate High in San Lorenzo, #8 Oakland Charter High, and #9 Foothill High in Pleasanton.
With scores like that, it’s easy to see why so many San Francisco families migrate here. San Francisco Unified saw a 10% enrollment drop between 2000 and 2019 and continued to fall during the pandemic. Meanwhile, Dublin Unified School District tripled its students between 2000 and 2019. Brentwood Union Elementary and Liberty Union High in Oakley in the Contra Costa County suburbs each doubled their enrollment since 2000, according to a report by EdSource.
3. Check school district boundaries
School district boundaries can be confusing, even surprising, as they zigzag through neighborhoods. Before you bid on that dream home you think is served by the best East Bay schools, double-check. Type the address into the greatschools.org boundary map app.
4. Consult with a real estate agent. It can save you money.
High housing prices are driven by access to acclaimed schools in sought-after real estate markets like Pleasant Hill, Lafayette, and Alamo. But what many buyers don’t know – and a sharp local Realtor can tell you – is you can live in less expensive areas and still access these schools. For example, you can pay a lot less to live in Pacheco, where the median home price is around $720,000, and still access schools in neighboring Pleasant Hill, where the median home price is $900,000-$1 million. In Martinez, where the median sales price is around $800,000, some students can attend Pleasant Hill schools, and some go to Concord schools. Ask a local real estate agent to help you navigate the district maps.
5. Seek parent and student opinions
Look beyond the test scores and see what real people say about the best schools in the East Bay. Ask friends, friends of friends, and don’t underestimate student input. You also can learn a lot from neighborhood networks like Berkeley Parents Network or Lamorinda Families on Facebook.
6. Tour the schools
There’s nothing like seeing the campus and meeting the principal and teachers. As Covid concerns wane, many schools are offering in-person tours again. Call the main office to schedule a visit.
7. Find the house
Now that you’ve identified your ideal district and schools, you need to find a house for sale in that region. Did you know you can search MLS listings by district? That’s a great place to start. We recommend working with a knowledgeable local real estate agent to target your search. We often hear about houses coming onto the market before they are listed, which could give you a leg up on the competition.
Last bit of advice
Even if you don’t have school-age children, you should consider buying a home near sought-after schools. Homes in the East Bay’s best school districts tend to have higher resale value and sell more quickly.
Sometimes finding the right school district for you – and understanding district boundary maps – is tricky. Let our Abio Properties experts help you. Reach us at 888-400-ABIO (2246) or email@example.com.