Everyone wants to know what school district is the best. Of course, this baits the question, “What does ‘Best’ mean?” Some folks look at test scores, some look for diversity, others look for excellence in the sciences, and yet others look for excellence in the arts. “Best” is a fully subjective word that can apply to any and all schools in some way. It all depends on what the resident is looking for in a school.
I wanted to look at what school districts have homes that are selling the best, and so I looked not at price drops, but at the ratio of homes listed to homes sold. Seemed simple enough. And the results were not quite what I expected. I have buyers who ask for specific school districts all the time, and that request is based typically on a desire to stay in a district or it is driven by school test scores, or proximity to work, the interstate, or some recreation in which the family regularly partakes.
I’ll talk about the City first, as I found the results really interesting. (Click on the below graphs to expand.)
What I have done is created a graph of all sales in the city by elementary school district. Having only 6 schools makes this very easy to visually see what is happening here. The second pie chart shows all the active listings in the city as of today. By comparing these two charts, we can see if there are districts that contribute to more sales than they should based on the number of properties listed, or vice-versa. The first thing to note is the green section, which relates to Clark. This includes all of Belmont. While 25% of the current listings in the city are in Clark, only 19% of the sales are from this area. It follows logic to say that perhaps Belmont had its run-up during the Bubble, and is now retreating more than other areas of the city.
The flip side of that coin are Greenbrier and Jackson-Via which had 4% and 14% of the city listings respectively and yet have contributed 8% and 20% of the sales in the city thus far this year. Both of these areas are relatively affordable, with Jackson-Via’s median being only 1.5% above the median for the city. Greenbrier is priced higher (18% above the median), but still 8.5% below the pricy Venable district. Given that 71% of the houses sold this year in the city were sold for less than $325,000, this demographic seems right on target for the year.
The county was equally interesting. However, with 16 elementary schools, the graphs get a little harder to read. There is however, one clear winner district this year, and one or two districts that have struggled.
On the high side, Cale Elementary is showing a lopsided number of sales compared to its listings. Again, with a median sales price below $300,000, this puts it squarely in the target for 2009 buyers. Additionally, as we have pointed out over the last year or so, homes in the urban ring have fared better than far out in the county. Cale is located on the city border to the South, and is convenient to The University as well as downtown. Neighborhoods such as Lake Reynovia and Mill Creek have managed price declines with some resistance and it appears that location, location, location may simply be playing out here.
The downside districts in Albemarle include Stone Robinson, which is home to Glenmore and the parts of the Keswick area. With the third highest median price in the county, these high end properties just aren’t having a banner year. Homes between $600,000 and a million dollars represent only 14% of the homes sold this year. Stone Robinson had 16% of the active listings. They just can’t keep up with the market. The demand is simply not there for the larger, new homes in 2009.
In the wine world, we talk a lot about wines with a good QPR or Quality to Price Ratio. In 2009, we are seeing a similar flight in sales. Lower priced homes that offer convenient locations are ruling the roost. If energy prices soar again (which they certainly look like they could) this directive could become even more pronounced.
As always, I welcome comments and thoughts as well as requests for future studies. These are always interesting looking into.