By Karina Rook
What should you consider when shopping around for a new home in the Valley? There are several factors, but when you have school-age kids there is only one that really matters – schools. Unless you’re wealthy enough to afford private schools here, you’ll want to pick a location in a specific school district.
Step 1. Go to greatschools.org and search for schools in the areas you’re considering.
Step 2. Consider any school with a 7/10 rating or above, paying particular attention to recent parent reviews. The numeric score is a reflection of academic results only, which is often influenced by parent involvement in a child’s education rather than just how good the school is at teaching.
Step 3. Ask the local hairdresser, real estate agent, or shopkeeper what they’ve heard about the school. Or drive past and take a look yourself if you’re shy. You’ll soon get a feel for how teachers interact with students, and how happy the kids look.
The school districts span several suburbs and cover kindergarten through to grade 8. There are separate school districts for high school. Primary school is called elementary school and stops at year 5, and then kids do middle school from years 6 to 8. Each school district has strict boundaries which are not easily detected on a map, as one side of a street can be in a different district from the opposite side of the same street. When you have a street address of a possible new home, you need to phone the school district to confirm it is within the district boundary.
Aside from schools, the commute time to and from work is a big factor, followed by affordability and size of the home. If you’re renting, some homes come with a gardener, or garbage collection costs covered, so this needs to be considered in the rental cost. All water, gas and electricity bills are usually paid by tenants.
Finally, safety of the area should be checked using a crime statistics website, like city-data.com. In California, addresses of local sex offenders are publicly available at http://www.meganslaw.ca.gov/. Most places in the Bay Area are safe, friendly and green. The biggest surprise for us was how the climate varies so much within a few miles up and down the Peninsula, so be sure to check out the climate reports if you’re not fond of cold or foggy weather.