Are you under the impression that “good schools” in the neighbourhood should be one of your home search criteria?
You may be right – although to me “good schools” or “the right school” is subjective and individual, and frankly there are good schools in just about every part of Ottawa, but I digress.
So let’s talk specifically about when decisions based on school district are unnecessary:
If you are a first-time home buyer and don’t plan to be living in your first home when your children are old enough to go to school, you OBVIOUSLY do not need to include it in your search criteria. You will likely weigh lifestyle factors and convenience far higher at this point in time. You may even be looking at compromising space (for that future family) for a hip urban lifestyle.
Did someone in your life tell you that school districts were important for resale value? While they may have a point that certain school districts do seem to command a premium price, there are lots and lots of childless or empty-nest buyers who won’t care at all about schools when the time comes for you to sell.
SO WHEN IS A “GOOD SCHOOL DISTRICT” IMPORTANT?
If you are going to be buying your forever home in Ottawa as a first-time buyer, then YES, you definitely want school boundaries to be in your search criteria.
The school boundary decision is CRUCIAL to your search for a home. Last month I helped a family move back into their preferred Ottawa Carleton District School Board school district. They had moved out as the kids got older, thinking that more space was the priority. Well, three years later they realized that schools, friends and community were far more important to them. They tried every option for cross-boundary admission, but learned that those boundaries are firm. They had to move only four blocks, but it required a whole lot of energy and expense.
Here are some points from my decision-making checklist:
First off, I can’t tell you whether or not a school is good. My opinion about one Ottawa school may be different than yours and my priorities may be different than yours. It’s up to you to decide on what makes a school “good” in your mind.
- Spend time researching schools and school districts. The Fraser Institute publishes annual school rankings. Take these with a grain of salt and read the corresponding criteria with which they rank the schools.
- Remember that online ratings don’t always show the complete picture about a particular school or school district, and you should seek out other feedback too. Talk to neighbors and friends, visit schools and meet with teachers and/or principals.
- Keep in mind that what you may deem as “good” may be slightly different from another family. Some families seek out smaller schools, more diverse schools, ones with more specialized services, more community based, or are open to both public and/or private schools. You know what’s best for your kids and family.
- Spend time researching before you start house hunting. If schools are that important to you, don’t waste time house hunting without having done any research. Really get to know how the schools work in the general area you are considering. Clients are often surprised that there are more options than they first thought.
- Don’t forget to confirm school boundary lines. Always call the school administration yourself to find out what are the school boundaries and if your home’s location is within a certain parameter. You should verify this information since it’s not always obvious or could be listed incorrectly by the seller. It’s not unusual that the school closest to your home may not be your school. Boundary lines do change from time to time … so always double check!
- Know that boundaries can change. Keep in mind that whatever the boundaries are now, they can and likely will change over the years. As communities grow and change, school districts go back to the drawing board and alter school boundary lines as needed.
- Learn more about all of the school options available. School boards are not always clear and transparent about what might be available to students from outside the boundaries. Each district will have its own interpretation of the criteria and it’s worth the time investment to become as informed as possible.
- Expect to pay a higher price tag for some school districts. Typically, a better school district means higher home prices (and possibly higher property taxes). So keep in mind the cost to move into a neighborhood with schools that have a good reputation.
I am happy to help with your home search in any way I can – finding you a home in a particular school district is part of that. Understanding some of the nuances of each school is another one.
Fun fact: Did you know my very first career, albeit brief, was as a high school teacher?
Send me an email at Liisa@LiisaVexler.com and let’s talk!
I'm Liisa and I love helping people moving to Ottawa make their home purchase and transition smooth and seamless. I also love helping sellers get the most for their Ottawa home. Let me know how I can help you make your real estate dreams come true.
613-898-1184 (call or text)