Schools, Schools, Schools
Finally, no home-buying research would be complete without first learning as much as possible about surrounding schools. Gordon has found that "many times a family's sole motivation for moving is to find a better school system for the children." Walt Fitzgerald, a broker with Century 21 Minuteman Realty in Chelmsford, Massachusetts, claims that specific school-related requests help narrow the search: "They're looking for what types of sports programs are available, what's offered around town. These are limiting factors if you are looking for something specific."
When it comes to education, you may have a multitude of questions, and the best way to answer most of them is by visiting local schools. Talk to principals and teachers, as well as other parents whose children attend the school. You may even want to attend a school function, such as a concert or presentation, to examine the relationships between students and staff. Class size has gained attention over the past several years, with opinions varying widely; large classes can be effective, of course, depending on the teacher's approach and training, while small classes guarantee individual attention from staff yet sometimes limit quality peer interaction. Because most schools have large class sizes, teachers are assigned classroom aides—and these assistants can make a huge difference.
You may find it helpful to learn what curriculum the school uses, and how the school ensures that each student meets the curriculum standards. Just as important is the school's code of behavior and how it is enforced; some parents believe that leaving behavior standards to each individual teacher's discretion can confuse children and cause more problems in the long run.
Many schools are eager for parent volunteers, while others offer few opportunities for active participation. If you plan to play an active role not only in your child's education but in her school environment as well, you may want to find out beforehand if the school welcomes volunteers. On the other hand, some schools require parent involvement, and if these requirements do not fit into your busy schedule, you may want to look for another school.
Finally, rely on your instincts. While you cannot find a perfect school, you can choose one that seems best for your child.
The house-buying process can be long and agonizing—but it can also be full of fun and excitement. After all, this is the place where you will raise your family and spend the best years of your life. Enjoy it!