How to buy near good schools
Everyone wants the best for their children and providing them with a decent education will be high on your list of priorities. However, it’s not a simple task.
Competition for places at the top schools is intense and would-be pupils must live in the catchment area to stand any chance of being accepted.
This means demand for properties will be high - and you will pay a premium for the privilege as homes near good schools cost more than in surrounding areas.
In fact, buyers need to spend 8% more to buy near the best primaries and 7% extra by top secondaries, according to a Department for Education report.
A recent study conducted by Confused.com revealed the average house price in England where schools have Ofsted rating 1 is £331,605, costing almost £40,000 more than areas with Ofsted rating 2.
So, how should you tackle this problem?
One: Establish the usual rules
Generally speaking, the closer you live to your preferred school, the better your chances of getting a place – but this is not guaranteed as the situation differs between areas.
For example, children with a sibling already at the school may take priority, as well as those with exceptional social needs for whom attendance elsewhere may be inappropriate.
Religious schools are likely to have a different focus and want evidence that the child is being brought up in a certain faith.
Speak to the local council for general advice on making your choice and find out how the admissions process works in different schools.
Sometimes, if there are more children than places the situation will be decided by who lives closest using a straight-line measurement.
The earlier you find out this information, the better your chances of putting everything in place to make the admissions procedure as painless as possible.
Two: Research the schools
Your next task is to select your preferred schools. Thankfully, this task is much easier today due to the amount of information available online.
For example, the schools’ websites must include its admission criteria, as well as links to Ofsted reports and various performance data.
Read this information and check out the school league tables that include exam results. This should give you an overview of how each one has been performing.
For more anecdotal evidence, join community groups on Facebook. Virtually every town in the world has residents that will be willing to share their experiences.
Does a particular school have problems with bullying? What are people’s experiences of the teachers? Are there any issues that haven’t been made public?
Ideally, have two or three schools that you can list in order of preference on your application form.
Three: Investigate the local property market
It goes without saying that you’ll need to visit the area to get a feel for the properties and where, in particular, you’d like to live.
You can see how much properties have sold for via Land Registry figures on the official Government website.
Simply type in the road names or postcodes to get a full breakdown of prices achieved and the transaction dates.
Websites such as Findahood provide information such crime statistics, the average ages of residents, and even their religious views!
Local estate agents will also be a great source of information. Speak to them as early as you can so they know what properties might be of interest.
Scour property portals such as Rightmove and even consider approaching people directly to see if they are interested in selling.
Four: Buying a property
The length of time it takes to buy a property can vary enormously so you need to factor this into your timescales.
If it’s straightforward, there’s no chain and nothing unpleasant shows up in the surveys, then you could complete within six weeks, although up to 12 is usual.
However, if there are complications you could easily be looking at six months. This could de-rail your attempts to be in ahead of the deadline for applying to schools.
It’s important not to let your desperation to have a postal address in the desired catchment area make you blind to potential problems.
All the usual house buying rules must apply. Will the property meet your needs? Are their undisclosed reasons for it being on the market?
When you’re viewing properties, remember that estate agents work for the sellers. They will be very experienced and polished, so aim questions at the actual owners if possible.
Read more: Moving home guides
Five: Consider renting
Of course, you don’t necessarily have to buy in the area – especially if you are only intending on staying there for the duration of your child’s education.
As well as the flexibility, you won’t have to raise thousands of pounds for a deposit – or pay the numerous fees associated with house purchases.
Renting is also worth considering even if your longer-term intention is to become a homeowner as it buys you time to look around and find the right house for your needs.
Read more: Should i rent or buy?
Six: Loopholes used by parents
As demand for high achieving schools is intense, desperate parents have reportedly gone to extreme lengths to secure their child a place.
For example, some rent a small flat in the desired catchment area – even though their main residence is further away.
Others put down addresses of friends or even, in some extraordinary cases, people they don’t even know in order to fool schools that are oversubscribed.
Some local authorities have even employed investigators to catch out rogue parents – and when they do their offspring’s place in the school will be withdrawn.
Seven: Have an alternative plan
There is always the chance you won’t succeed in getting your child into the ideal school, so you need to consider your options in that scenario.
The fact is that getting on in life is more than just attending the right school, according to property analyst Kate Faulkner of Designs on Property.
“It’s worth thinking about buying in a cheaper area, saving the money and worry of mortgage costs, and paying for extra tutoring/out of school activities,” she said.