Really, Which School is the Best?

My Neighborhood SchoolClients often ask my opinion on school districts. “Which towns have the best schools?” “Which elementary school is the best in this town?” “Which private schools in the area are the best?” They’ve hired me as the expert to represent them in their home purchase and want my opinion on a variety of topics related to that purchase. Schools are a big part of the decision for many people because they have, or will eventually have, children that go to the neighborhood schools. Schools are also a consideration for resale value. So people want to know about them.

As a real estate agent, there are a variety of subjects on which I’m not allowed to offer my opinion. Schools are one of them. Safety is another. Both state and federal law mandates these restrictions. I’m glad they do. The premise is that everyone has different needs and perceptions, so my opinion wouldn’t necessarily be the “right” choice for the client. Instead, people are encouraged to do their own research on these topics and make the “right” choice for their specific needs.

I had a conversation with a client about schools the other day that was the perfect example. It went like this…

Client: So what exactly is the best elementary school in Town X?

Amy: I honestly can’t offer my opinion on the different schools. What types of things are important to you? You can start your research based on those criteria.

Client: No, seriously, what is the best school? The women in my Mommies group say it’s School Z. What are your thoughts on School Z? Is it the best?

Amy: Well, what are they basing their opinions on? Test scores from state mandated tests? The curriculum? Class size? The fact that their children go to that school?

Client: Well, School Z apparently offers French and Latin from first grade up…

My client seems to have just expressed that French and/or Latin are an important consideration for her child’s educational needs. As a new mom, I am also starting to form opinions about the types of educational requirements I have for my own child.

But what would happen if they’re not the same as her child’s and I actually answered her “best schools” question with: “School A is the best school because they teach Spanish and Statistics from first grade up…”

Would sharing my opinion allow her to make the right choice for her needs, or would it steer her towards what’s right for my needs, simply because I’m in a position of “authority” in this housing decision she’ll be making?

The argument is that my “authority” position influences people’s decisions. So I’m not allowed to offer my opinion. And I’m perfectly fine and happy with that. I don’t ever want anyone coming back to me saying “You said School Q was the best and my child hates it…”

When clients ask me about the Best Schools, here’s what I tell them to do…

1. Start your research online. Most school districts have comprehensive websites about their different schools. Based on the towns you’re searching in, what schools are available? Do they have different methods of instruction? What subjects do they teach? What type of enrichment activities do they have? From there, create a list of schools that you’d like to research further. If test scores from State mandated mastery tests are of importance to you, you can look these up online as well.

2. Ask friends and colleagues about their children’s schools. What do they like about them? What do they see as challenges? Remember to take these opinions with a grain of salt. Most parents will think their child’s school is the “best” because, really, who is going to say they are sending their kid to a subpar school?

3. Call the schools and set up times to speak with a few administrators and teachers.

4. Visit the different schools and sit in on a class or two.

I’m glad that my clients value and ask for my opinion. Unfortunately in some circumstances I’m not allowed to offer it, and for good reason. But I’m always happy to point clients in the right direction so they can do their own research on a subject and determine what’s the right choice for their needs.