Some residents have asked the Harwood Unified Union School District (HUUSD) Board members if they have considered what would happen to property values if a school closes, and whether the board has reached out to real estate agents or assessors? The answer might not be as simple as they think.
Doug Mosle is an agent at Doug Mosle Real Estate. He also served on the Fayston School board prior to the Act 46 merger and he was a member of the Act 46 study committee. He said he can’t really say what would happen to property values if a school shuts down, but he can say that schools are important to many of his real estate clients.
Mosle guessed that about half of the houses he sells in The Valley are to residential buyers looking to start families in the area.
As for the residential buyers, questions about the school in town are often second on the list after cost.
BUYERS CONCERNED ABOUT SCHOOLS
“Buyers are definitely concerned about the schools. I think it would be unfair for me to say that I’ve specifically had people concerned right now about the concept of schools closing because most of the buyers that are moving here don’t really have much information if anything about that,” Mosle said.
He also said that he doesn’t think it would ever be beneficial to property values to close a good school, but each town has distinct characteristics that make it a complicated analysis.
Lisa Jenison, an agent at Sugarbush Real Estate, agreed that schools are important.
“The role that schools play is huge if buyers have school-age kids. It's a very big factor in their decisions. I've had families, who, for whatever reason, only want their kids in one particular school. That's one of the benefits of school choice,” Jenison said.
“Our schools have always been a selling point, at the elementary level. Last year, with the implementation of school choice, that had an impact on people's decisions. I had buyers who were renting in one town and buying in a neighboring town. They didn't want to move their schools, so the ability for their kids to stay in their school was a selling point,” she said.
School choice was a benefit of the Act 46 merger.
“People base a lot of their decision on the quality of the school,” she added.
LOCATION OF HOMES
Location of homes matters as well when it comes to school choice and schools closing. For example, Moretown is essentially divided into three parts, the Montpelier side, the Waterbury-Duxbury side and Moretown proper, and each might be affected differently by a Moretown School closure, Mosle said.
His advice to the school board and the superintendent, though, is to not reach out to agents. He said that they should reach out to someone who can help them conduct a thorough analysis of all of the possible effects of the redesign.
“You know, when Walmart wants to open in a community they spend years researching whether the population density will even support their store,” Mosle said.
He said that he couldn’t say that if a school closes than X will happen.
SCHOOLS ARE PART OF VALUATION
Municipal assessor Spencer Potter, Waitsfield, owner of Vermont Municipal Assessor, said that schools are a part of the valuation of a home but not exclusively.
Potter also noted that the effect would only be known after the fact.
“What we do as professionals is look at how the market reacts to things. We look for sales that reflect market responses. If a new predicament comes up, we can have a sense of what it will be, but we have to wait and measure what the market does,” he said.
Potter also noted that the proximity to a good school matters, noting that between two similar houses a good school might be the deciding factor.
Karl Klein at Sugarbush Real Estate agrees: “Good schools support good home values when it comes to primary residences.”
“Schools are very important to the families we meet. To put a number on that would be different as far as value, but we know that schools matter,” he said.