Wake County homes assigned to year-round schools sell for lower prices than residences assigned to traditional-calendar schools, according to a new study by RTI International and Elon University.
The study of Wake County residential real-estate transactions found that prices paid for homes assigned to traditional-calendar schools were 1.6 percent higher than amounts for similar homes assigned to year-round schools. The authors of the analysis, which will be published in the December edition of Economics of Education Review, say the findings suggest that homeowners assigned to year-round schools pay a “statistically significant price penalty.”
The authors wanted to see if the parental opposition that occurred when Wake County converted 22 schools in 2007 to a year-round calendar produced measurable results. In year-round schools, students give up the extended summer break in favor of three-week breaks at intervals during the school year.
“Clearly there are people that are vocal and are upset when these changes have happened,” Katy Rouse, an assistant professor of economics at Elon University, said in an interview last week. “This provides information that suggests these preference are strong enough at least to have a short-term effect on home prices.”
Rouse co-authored the study with Brooks Depro, a senior economist at RTI International.
However, some real-estate agents were skeptical of the study.
“Buyers with children are keenly interested in the perceived quality of the schools to which they may be assigned,” said David Worters, a real-estate agent with Hodge & Kittrell Sotheby’s International Realty in Raleigh. “That’s a very powerful influence, but I can not say I have personally encountered a buyer who had a specific negative reaction to the idea of year-round vs. traditional.”
The study could escalate the already heated debate in Wake County over the use of year-round schools.
Supporters of the year-round schedule cite benefits such as students experiencing less burnout because of the frequent breaks, retaining material better over the summer and being able to take trips during non-peak travel times.
Opponents of year-round say the schedule may not fit their lifestyle, especially if they’re heavily involved in summer activities. Families have also complained about their children being on different schedules if they have kids attending both year-round and traditional-calendar schools.
“We endured two years of different calendars,” North Raleigh parent Lesley Nager told the school board at this month’s student assignment public hearing. “Last year, spring break didn’t even line up.”
On Tuesday, the board is expected to discuss concerns raised by parents about being assigned to a year-round middle school opening in July.
The study focuses on home sales between 2006 and 2010 when Wake saw its greatest expansion of year-round schools. The authors say the findings back the assertion that the negative sentiments expressed by parent groups translated into lower property values.
“These results suggest policymakers should take another look at the unintended consequences and tradeoffs associated with school calendar changes,” the authors say in the study.
Scott Hoyt, founder of ChangingStreets.com, a real-estate business that sells luxury homes in Wake, said the 1.6 percent difference in value represents less than $6,000 on the average home in west Cary. Hoyt’s children attended a Cary school that was converted to the year-round calendar.
“If I could have a client save 1.5 percent by sending a child to year-round, I would take it,” Hoyt said. “You could make it back on off-season travel during less stressful times.”
Conducting the study
Researchers analyzed a random sample of more than 50,000 residential real-estate transactions in Wake County between 2006 and 2010. Researchers compared the sale prices of homes assigned to traditional-calendar schools versus homes assigned to year-round schools. The study controlled for characteristics of the houses such as their size, the characteristics of neighborhoods and the characteristics of schools such as demographics and achievement levels.