I was thinking about the touchy subject of school districts and real estate this week — just paid my real estate property tax (which is another subject altogether).
Why do I say it’s a touchy subject? Because it’s a “damned if you do, damned if you don’t” thing for real estate professionals working the trenches these days.
On the one hand, there are clear prohibitions for real estate pros when it comes to school districts (or many demographically driven topics). Fair housing regulation on several levels places potentially severe penalties for even the perception of “steering” consumers to or from a neighborhood.
There’s not a lot of gray area, and that gray area is more like “guilty until proven innocent.” Any smart agent will avoid engaging in subjective discussions of the relative merits of schools, districts and the like.
On the other hand, school district info and community info like crime and public perceptions thereof are some of the top priorities for homebuyers when evaluating neighborhoods and homes to consider purchasing – and rightfully so. It can be difficult in the extreme to work with buyers without the questions like “Is this a good school/neighborhood/street?” coming up.
Savvy real estate pros develop an ability to be helpful to buyers on these subjects by offering good resources to them: websites such as greatschools.org and police department and community websites, plus relevant print publications from municipalities and districts that include such public information.
Above all, beware agents who flippantly makes comments about schools and neighborhoods – odds are, they are working from hearsay themselves.
We in the real estate community have a duty to get our clients good info while remaining professionally impartial. In the end, the customer gets to make the call.