One topic that came up this week in our ABR program was about answering buyer questions about schools. When deciding on a property, many home buyers tend to be influenced by the neighborhood and the local school district. Real estate professionals are often seen as the community expert and asked pressing questions about schools.
It is important to avoid inadvertently steering clients in one direction over another, but rather offer resources—objective data from school board websites, for example. Doing so fulfills your obligation and makes you as a trusted resource to clients, without making subjective, unproven or statements that differ in a client’s judgement. A great, neutral resource is school data on School Data on Mass.gov. Why the need to be careful when disucssing schools?
Schools have long been a difficult fair housing topic, says Alexia Smokler, Director of NAR’s Fair Housing Policy & Program in Washington, D.C. Questions about schools come up all the time, and even with buyers who don’t have kids since living within a specific district could affect resale. She says, “We never want to direct clients toward or away from certain school districts based on hearsay or impressions. Implicit biases about the demographics of the students in a school can affect our perception of what schools are good or bad. Test scores don’t measure the quality of the teaching in schools. They also don’t measure if the school has a program designed for your child. When you are a parent and are looking at schools, you want particular things such as special needs, sports, science or music programs. Test scores don’t give any of that.” This is why it’s important to “Have your clients get information about local schools directly from the source,” she says. In addition to directing clients to the school district for information, agents can also use NAR’s RPR® (Realtors Property Resource®) tool called Niche, which captures more information about schools than just test scores, she says. You can view school data using the general link above, or by clicking on the school or school district on a property display.