What it costs to buy a home in N.J.’s 10 best school districts

Buying a home in one of the 10 best school districts in New Jersey (as ranked by Niche) can be a pricey endeavor, with median home values in those districts each surpassing half a million. Want to secure a free public education in a top-ranked district? Here’s 10 properties on the market now to get that search started. (Star-Ledger)

When Marjon Dean started searching for a new home in the New Jersey suburbs, she first armed herself with data on the top-ranked public schools in the state.

Taking that information into account, as well as access to public transportation and commute times to New York City, Dean narrowed the list of options for her family’s move to four towns: Summit, Chatham, Millburn and Westfield.

Dean and her husband bought a property that was built in the 1920s and that needed work in the Short Hills section of Millburn in October. The price was $814,000, roughly the same amount the couple received in the sale of their similarly-sized but newer home in the Boston suburbs, Dean said.

“There’s definitely a trade-off there,” she said, but added that buying in one of the state’s best school districts is an investment that will pay off for her teenage daughter’s education and for the long-term value of her home.

Many homebuyers looking for real estate in New Jersey are, like Dean, deciding where to buy based on school rankings, a move that is driving demand and prices in the state’s high-performing school districts, real estate agents say. Those who place a premium on living within the boundaries of one of the state’s best school districts are willing to spend more money and forgo a larger house, a larger yard or up-to-the-moment amenities in order to do so, said Shannon Aronson, a real estate agent with Keller Williams Realty who covers Millburn and surrounding communities.

“For people who place a high value on that, it’s completely driving the price because they are not even looking at towns where they can get more value for their money,” said Aronson, who is also a member of the Board of Trustees for the Education Foundation of Millburn-Short Hills, a nonprofit group that raises money for the township’s public schools.

Home values in the top 10 school districts in the state as ranked by the Pittsburgh-based company Niche range from half a million to nearly $1 million, U.S. Census data shows, with Millburn topping the list at $978,000. By contrast, the median home value is $358,100 in Essex County and $319,900 statewide.



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