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Need wiser heads for house purchasing decision.

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  • Need wiser heads for house purchasing decision.

    So planning on leaving the condo and shared walls scene. Currently just Wifey and I with our dog. Kids planned for maybe 2-3 years out.

    Lots of new builds in the community. Found a house we like inside and outside with easy access to work and our amenities. 340K, only down side is... lowly rated public school options. There is an amazing public school district 3-5 mins down the road, but houses are older and cost just about the same or more expensive with less household amenities unless you pay alot more for a new build. The thought of buying a house built in 2018 is less scary to have something break down immediately, while homes down to the next county are almost 15-20 years old.

    My thought was to buy the house we actually like and maybe move later when we have a child that is actually school age which would put us 7-8 years in the new home. I also juggled the idea of private school as well but not fond of paying 13k/yr for tuition. We would have more money possibly in the future where we could live in the better school district since equivalent houses are about 450-500k over there.

    House would be <1x our income. Very LCOL area.



  • #2
    I'd lean more towards the better school district. A 15-20 year old house isn't that old and depending on who built the new houses, the older ones may be better built. A lot would depend on actual numbers but from what you've given, I'd still take the better school district. It'll be better for your kids not to mention better resale value, possibly lower insurance premiums, possibly lower crime, etc.


    • #3
      You don't mention your income, but if the house is < 1x your income, I would just go for the better house now, because:

      You really don't want to have to move again.

      It's possible that there's a slight financial advantage to buying the cheaper house now and investing the difference, but that will probably be wiped out by the costs of selling one house and closing costs on the new house.

      It might not be so easy to sell the house in the bad school district.

      You can also do the math on the increased costs of living in the better school district vs the cost of private schools.  The math might point you in one direction or another, but consider also which schools are better, the private school or the better public school.  You may want to go with whichever is better.

      Also, 15-18 years old isn't  old for a house.   The structure will be solid, and from the experience of my friends, new houses can have disastrous problems, so an argument could be made for going with a 15 year old house as a known quantity.  The worst that will happen with a 15 year old house is that it will need some new appliances, and at some point a new roof.


      • #4
        better school district.  if not, make sure spouse on same page.  will be harder to sell, but you can afford a loss on house at < 1x income.

        make as few moves as possible.

        new houses have problems too.

        neighborhood with kids better for socialization for your future kids.




        • #5
          Better school district. With a cheap house, you can easily afford to fix stuff that breaks/remodel.


          • #6
            Don’t even mess around here. Better school district hands down. Of course I’d get into the nitty gritty of comparing the two before making a formal decision. Look at crime in the areas, standardized test scores, AP performance at the high school level. Some elementary schools can be equivalent on those marks but vary wildly when you start to bring in other schools at the middle/high school levels. The resale on better communities with better schools is better. New builds in worse areas won’t retain their value as well. As others have said, 15-20 year old homes are not bad at all. ************************, I’d love to have that option in the area I’m looking at now.


            • #7
              Couldn't agree more with those above saying the better school district.


              I was in almost this exact spot about 10 years ago.  We bought the newer build in the bad school district and got more sq foot for the money and a nicer home.  However, when we sold after 4 years even more new builds had come up and the market hit saturation and we took a $30K loss on the house...meanwhile the better school district area continued to have rising home prices.


              When it came time to buy more recently we bought the older house in the better school district.  More annoying home projects but in the long term it's nice to have good public schools and stable/increasing housing prices.


              • #8
                I would consider the older neighborhood with the better schools, with a caveat.  Perhaps it is an option to continue living in your condo for 2 or 3 more years and save a greater downpayment for the higher priced home? The additional money could also be used to make the home 'yours' via major improvement (new kitchen, revised floor plan, room addition, etc.) in this older neighborhood.  Having a home in a better school district will likely appeal to a wider group of potential home buyers later when and if you sell.  This appeal in turn helps stabilize home prices relative to homes in less desirable school districts.

                What is the difference in school/district ratings between the two areas and the drivers?  When I was growing up, based on today's standards the district I attended would have been considered not so good due to the very high growth population (new schools, new teachers) at the time.  Now it is rated one of the best districts in the area.



                • #9
                  Second the comment above on older homes being built better. From what I have seen here in Midwest, these big builders come in and build these new large developments as fast as humanly possible. The days of taking your time to do something right even if no one ever sees it, I believe, are mostly over in the big builder world. Time has improved some things though- for example, furnaces are now much more efficient and a new furnace may save you money.


                  • #10
                    Few things to consider

                    1. How long is the better school district better school district. In my 25 years at my current county I have seen good school districts decline and not so great ones improve dramatically. By the time you kid is in middle / high school there might be a lot of changes.

                    2. There are people who buy houses for things other than schools. I live in an average school area but have great access to malls, Costco and Sams and so many stores and restaurants that people will buy it, the ones who don't have kids at home but want nearby shopping.

                    3. Does your district have school choice. I live in a county where my kid can apply to any school within the area and if there are empty slots they give it out by lottery. Also the STEM, magnet gifted and IB schools are open to all based on school grades and test scores, not zoning.

                    4. I don't know about 20 years is being old but it will need more updating and have risk of breakdowns than a new one. Make sure you are handy.

                    5. Finally I find that involved parents and motivated students and teachers are more important than the ratings on Great schools website or google or whatever. Put your current convenience of driving to work a higher priority than your unborn future child who will go to high school in 17 years, when we don't know what the world would be like.


                    • #11
                      As far as amenities, the city is small one. Costco will change from a 11min commute to a 15-16min commute. I found a foreclosed home ~240k, so was contemplating purchasing that, sprucing it up as it was built in 2011 so major things like AC/heater should be in decent condition. Maybe live in it for a period of time 7-8 years and put down a nice goose egg of retirement funds and rent the house out later at the end of tunnel.

                      The schools have been top in scores in test results for 8 years according to what I was able to research on I also got word from my real estate agent that I could build the exact house I like in the bad school district in the good district for maybe 40-50k more since the land is more expensive and property taxes are slightly higher. My commute to the hospitals would change by 3-4 min compared to the original placement of the new home I was eyeing.


                      • #12
                        Where do your collegues (with kids) live??


                        • #13
                          Sounds like most with young children are leaning towards that area with the good school district, unless they are empty nesters and have no attachments. The empty nesters seem to congregate near lakes.


                          • #14
                            School districts change in how they are rated over time.  I'd buy the house you like.  You don't need the school district yet since you don't even have kids. By the time you need it, you may find it has become the better district.  Or, you may find the better district allows out of district students if they see their enrollment declining.  Also, the house you like now may not be what you decide you want later with kids.

                            P.S. As an almost empty nester, I do love my lake.


                            • #15
                              While I agree with some of what Doctor Mom is saying you have to operate with reasonable assumptions and information that you have now. You need to do a deep dive into what constitutes a “good” school district, though I suspect it’s what most people care about - how students do academically. The websites that assimilate these data can be inaccurate and often incorporate things into their ratings that are meaningless as it pertains to what you may care about. Hence the deep dive - contact the districts, get the stats on everything you care about. Much of this is on the internet. And look at trends. If the elementary schools in a “bad” school district are all on par with those in a “good” school district it becomes reasonable to assume the “bad” school disctrict is on the up and up. But you need objective information like that to make that leap of faith. Also, see if there is a downtrend at the “good” school district. I would suspect that “good” going to “bad” is more likely a result of local public policy and school redistricting rather than organic worsening. Good districts in stable districts, specifically surrounded by other good districts, tend to stay solid. As do the home prices.