Special Report

10 Most Affordable Neighborhoods With the Best Schools

For many homebuyers, the top consideration when searching for a place to live is where their children will go to school. As a result, consistently stellar schools often go hand-in-hand with high home prices.

Finding a good school in an area that is inexpensive and has a strong job market is especially hard. Yet, according to a recent report from housing market data firm RealtyTrac, there are hundreds of good schools located in areas that are relatively affordable. A select number of these schools are located in housing markets where average mortgage payments cost less than 15% of the local median household income. Based on RealtyTrac’s findings, these are 10 affordable neighborhoods with the best schools.

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Many, although not all, of these schools are located in markets where the average home price is quite low. For instance, the average home price in each of the three lowest-cost markets with top schools was less than $100,000. A home in the 33712 zip code, in St. Petersburg, Florida, cost an average of just $56,163. Parents there can access Lakeview Fundamental Elementary School, where scores on statewide standardized tests are 40% above the state average.

Affordable access to good schools is still available in markets where home prices are somewhat higher, as well. Three of the schools reviewed were in zip codes where the average home price was over $150,000. In the 60503 zip code, located in Aurora, Illinois, residents paid an average of over $172,000 for a home in the 12 months through mid-October.

Of course, for these pricier homes to be affordable, household incomes must also be higher. For example, residents in Aurora could easily afford higher payments on their homes. The median household income in the 60503 zip code was estimated at nearly $110,000, well above that of the U.S. overall.

In an interview with 24/7 Wall St., Daren Blomquist, vice president at RealtyTrac, said that these areas provide a unique value proposition for home buyers, especially younger first-time homeowners. “They can find a good job and have a good school for their kids to go to and also start building their wealth by buying an [inexpensive] home.”

In fact, these areas also had fairly strong job markets. None of the schools reviewed were located in counties where the unemployment rate, as of September, exceeded the national rate of 5.9%.

Blomquist added that while the group’s research could identify what schools were in affordable neighborhoods, it was largely intangible factors that allowed these schools themselves to excel. As Blomquist noted, factors such as “parent involvement, the quality of the teachers you have, [and] the commitment of these teachers” exemplify intangible factors that are often vital for student success.

However, Blomquist did point to a few features that help make these particular areas affordable. They “tend to be more suburban areas, they may be close to urban areas but they’re outlying,” he said. Homestead Elementary, for example, is located in Aurora, Illinois, just outside of Chicago. Pine Brook and Briarwood elementary schools are also located near Rochester, New York. Blomquist also pointed out that many of these areas are located in the Midwest, where home prices are generally more favorable.

To identify the most affordable neighborhoods with the best elementary schools, 24/7 Wall St. reviewed RealtyTrac’s recent report, “20 Most Affordable Markets With Good Schools.” In the report, RealtyTrac considered U.S. zip codes with unemployment rates — as of the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ September 2014 data — lower than 6%. According to the report, test score data came from each states’ Department of Education and were based on statewide averages. The higher above the state average the school’s score is, the higher the grade. Average home values were based on sales deeds recorded over the 12 months prior to November and were calculated by RealtyTrac using Freddie Mac’s 30-year mortgage for every month. Affordability was calculated using the U.S. Census Bureau’s annual median household income data data from 2000-2012, which RealtyTrac used to project an estimated 2014 household median income.

In addition to RealtyTrac data, we reviewed poverty rates, educational attainment rates, average commuting times, and additional housing data from the U.S. Census Bureau. These data were based on five years estimates between 2008 and 2012 and are the most recent available.

These are the most affordable neighborhoods with the best schools.

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