Category Archives: Real Estate Advice

Move-up home buyers need the timing to go right for their sale and purchase

Move-up home buyers need the timing to go right for their sale and purchase

Kristin and Jon Holmes

Dayna Smith/for The Washington Post – Kristin and Jon Holmes play with Sophie, their rescue Doberman, in the back yard of their home in Alexandria, which they recently purchased to provide more space for their pets.

 By Michele Lerner
When Kristin and Jon Holmes bought their 85-year-old rowhouse in the District’s Petworth neighborhood 21 / 2 years ago, it seemed big enough for the two of them.That was before they began bringing in pets through their animal-rescue work. The lack of outdoor space for the pets to run free made it clear to them that they would need to look around for a new place.
“Finding a home with a bigger yard was a driving factor in our move,” says Kristin Holmes of their impending relocation to Alexandria. “We have a rescued Doberman and two cats, and we’re also thinking of starting a family.”The Holmeses — who weren’t expecting the heavy competition they faced in Alexandria — know they’re lucky. Prospective home buyers have had a tough year in the Washington area market, forced into bidding wars for a limited number of homes available for sale.But for move-up buyers who must sell one home before buying the next, the process of juggling simultaneous transactions can be especially frenzied and daunting. If all the pieces don’t fall into place, in a worse-case scenario, they can wind up losing their dream home and their earnest money.

“The important thing is to decide if you would rather take the chance that you have to pay two mortgages, which can happen if you buy a place before selling your home, or to move twice, which you could be forced to do if you sell first,” says Megan Buckley Fass, a real estate agent with in Northern Virginia.

Lenders are sometimes lenient when homeowners have the income and assets to qualify for two mortgages. But in many cases, they require homeowners to sell their home first or make an offer contingent on its sale. Fass says some of her clients opt to sell and move in with family or into other temporary housing to allow themselves more time to find a home to buy.

For prospective buyers who prefer not to move twice, the process can be particularly frustrating. Very few homeowners in a seller’s market are willing to accept an offer contingent on the sale of the buyers’ home when they can easily choose an offer without any contingencies. Yet realty agents have found some creative ways to pull off a move-up transaction.

Move-up buyers have more control on the other end: selling their current home.

They can make the sale of their home contingent on finding a home to buy and on a rent-back agreement that allows them to remain in the old home while they prepare to move, says Diane Schline, a real estate agent with Century 21 Redwood Realty in Arlington.“This can get you as much as four months to find a new home and to settle on it,” Schline says. “Many buyers would be willing to accept this if your home is in great condition and priced appropriately.”

In some circumstances, sellers may want to request a quick settlement so they have cash in hand for a purchase offer, says Sue Goodhart, an agent with McEnearney Associates in Alexandria. “They can then negotiate a 60-day rent-back during which time they would need to find a home, make an offer, settle on their next home and move,” she says.

Lenders limit a rent-back agreement to a maximum of 60 days, says Jessica Evans, an agent with Real Living/At Home in Washington. Any longer and the financing must be arranged as if the home is an investment property.

“It’s important to pick the most flexible buyer you can find,” says Frank Llosa, broker-owner of in Northern Virginia. “You want someone willing to close quickly and to pre-negotiate home inspection items so you won’t be spending your time fixing every light bulb. You should even negotiate an appraisal waiver to lower the risk of your home sale failing to go through. Ultimately, you want to have closed on your sale before you buy your next home.”

Although the selling part of the move-up process is easier, real estate agents do have recommendations on the buying side, too.

Ron Sitrin, an agent with Long & Foster Real Estate in Washington, says move-up buyers should look for homes that have been on the market for 20 days or more.

“While that might not seem that long in a normal market, it will feel like a long time to the seller,” he says. “As a move-up buyer who wants to make an offer contingent on the sale of your home, you need to convince the seller that your home will sell faster than they can sell their home to a non-contingent buyer.”

Sitrin also suggests that buyers who want to trade up to a home costing more than $1 million may have more success if they are selling a property valued at less than that price point.

“There are more homes under contract [to be sold] than listed for sale under $1 million, so your home is likely to sell in less than 10 days,” Sitrin says. “There are more homes listed for sale than are under contract in the over-$1 million price range. Buyers who want to trade-up need to convince sellers that they’re better off accepting their contingent offer than waiting for another buyer to come along.”

Sitrin warns, though, that sellers can choose to keep their home on the market with a “kick-out” clause if the deal is contingent on the sale of the buyers’ home. With a kick-out clause, if there is another acceptable offer, the buyer has to move ahead on purchasing the home. Otherwise, the seller can accept the other offer.

Sitrin says buyers can negotiate a seven-day or longer kick-out agreement, which means the contract cannot be voided if they sell their old home within that timeframe.

Dina Paxenos, a real estate agent with Evers & Co. Real Estate in Washington, says staying flexible as a buyer can make the transition less challenging. Paxenos, who was both the listing agent and the buyers’ agent for the Holmeses’ move from Petworth to Alexandria, says they initially wanted to buy in the Del Ray neighborhood but found that homes there were going under contract almost as soon as they came on the market.

“Dina suggested we look in Seminary Hills, an area about two miles from Del Ray, and we found a home that was in better shape than the ones we had seen before and less costly,” says Kristin Holmes. “It wasn’t an initial ‘we have to have this house’ experience. But this house checks all the boxes of what we wanted in terms of our needs, and it was under our budget so we can add a larger master suite after we settle on it.”

The Holmeses made a full-price offer with a 30-day home-sale contingency and then increased the amount by $5,000 when the seller didn’t immediately accept the offer. They also offered the seller a rent-back deal.

Paxenos says the Holmeses’ strategy helped them make the transition from one home to the next without moving twice, which they were particularly concerned about because of their dog and cats.

“Their home in Petworth already looked great, and then they cleaned it and decluttered so it didn’t even look like they lived there,” Paxenos says. “It sold on the first weekend with multiple offers.”

It’s important for move-up buyers to be extremely well prepared so they can move quickly, Goodhart says.

“To make the transition work, your home needs to be ready to sell, and you need to have done all your preliminary home searching so you know what you want, where you want to live and your price range,” Evans says. “Buyers need to look at listings every day, be ready to see a new listing as soon as possible and submit an offer as soon as they want a place. Don’t wait for the offer deadline, because some sellers will accept the first offer they get if it’s above list price.”

Melissa Macs McGovern and Steven McGovern, move-up buyers who relocated from South Arlington to North Arlington with the help of Fass, began prepping their house for sale while looking for their next place. But they found the house they wanted faster than anticipated.

“Megan found us a house that was listed on a Friday night, and we were able to see it on Saturday morning before the scheduled Sunday open house,” Steven McGovern says. “We made an offer on it that was accepted before any competing offers could be made.”

The McGoverns’ offer was not contingent on the sale of their home, but they offered an additional $10,000 to the seller to delay settlement for two months so that they could be sure their home would be sold first.

“We have two dogs and the seller has dogs, so she liked the idea that she didn’t have to keep showing her house,” Melissa McGovern says. “I moved to North Carolina with the dogs while Steven worked with Megan and some contractors to get our home sold. It was pretty stressful for all of us, but we were successful in the end.”

In every move-up buyer transaction, real estate agents recommend having a backup plan, such as identifying a temporary place to live, in case the high-wire act of coordinating settlements fails. In many cases, however, with flexibility and plenty of preparation, move-up buyers can make the seamless transition from one home to the next.

New Year, New Design Trends

New Year, New Design Trends


If you’ve been thinking about renovating your home in the New Year, you’ve likely been to Zillow Digsfor inspiration, and you may even be aware of some of the hottest design trends for 2014:

Design by Urrutia Design


Looking to add a dose of sophistication to your kitchen? A little sass to your traditional-looking space? Some flair? According to Zillow Digs Home Design Trend Report for 2014, here’s what will be popular with homeowners next year: kitchens featuring black countertopsopen shelves or glass-front cabinets (You can put your best dinnerware on display.) and darker paint tones (like black, deep brown, dark red and rich copper). See some of the most popular kitchen photos on Zillow Digs. There, you can browse hundreds of thousands of interiors and exteriors, organized by space, style, cost and color.

Soothing bedroom color

Master bedroom

Think: warm, welcoming, and inviting, as a more contemporary, casual look in the bedroom will take precedence in 2014. It’s all about harmony and ease – a look made possible with the right mix of textures and other elements. As for color – which brings the room together – 2014 colors will focus on a more neutral look. Among the top choices: gray, a multifaceted color which can go both rustic and contemporary in vibe; and blue. Subtle and soothing is the name of the game! As for the all-important closets, that boutique-like feel is currently in style, and will continue to be in 2014, complete with compartmentalized storage, shoe walls, vanity areas and other focal points.

Open bathrooms


Large showers with multiple shower heads, frameless shower enclosures, glass tiles (for a glossy, sparkling look that can make the space seem larger than it is), heated floors and towel racks, and custom storage solutions (for that uncluttered, spa-like appearance) are among the top remodeling trends you can expect to see more of in 2014, particularly as homeowners look to embellish the ‘shower experience’ rather than the tub experience. According to a Home Improvement Trend and Spending Survey, Zillow Digs users want open and light bathrooms. And without shower curtains, you can take advantage of the free wall space to showcase those aforementioned glass tiles.

vintage office furniture

Home office

With the line between work and home continuing to blur, homeowners not only want a quiet, clean space where they can productively work on their projects after hours, but they also want this space to do double duty. Giving up a guest bedroom to put in this new office? Chances are, you’ll still want the room to have guest capabilities (think: Murphy bed). Several top designers also say that vintage furniture is “in,” as are hues of gray or brown, which have a soothing, non-distracting effect.


5 Secrets of Home Staging

5 Secrets of Home Staging

Highlight your home’s strengths, downplay its weaknesses and appeal to the greatest possible pool of prospective buyers with these 5 secrets to home staging.


Bye, Bye Clutter

The most important thing you can do to prepare your home for sale is to get rid of clutter. Make a house rule that for every new item that comes in, an old one has to leave. One of the major contributors to a cluttered look is having too much furniture.



Home Lighting

One of the things that make staged homes look so warm and welcoming is great lighting. As it turns out, many of our homes are improperly lighted. To remedy the problem, increase the wattage in your lamps and fixtures. Aim for a total of 100 watts for each 50 square feet. Don’t depend on just one or two fixtures per room, either. Make sure you have three types of lighting: ambient (general or overhead), task (pendant, under-cabinet or reading) and accent (table and wall).

furniture group


Furniture Groupings

There’s a common belief that rooms will feel larger and be easier to use if all the furniture is pushed against the walls, but that isn’t the case. Instead, furnish your space by floating furniture away from walls. Reposition sofas and chairs into cozy conversational groups, and place pieces so that the traffic flow in a room is obvious. Not only will this make the space more user-friendly, but it will open up the room and make it seem larger.



Make It Bigger

To make a room appear to be bigger than it is, paint it the same color as the adjacent room. If you have a small kitchen and dining room, a seamless look will make both rooms feel like one big space. And make a sunporch look bigger and more inviting by painting it green to reflect the color of nature. Another design trick: If you want to create the illusion of more space, paint the walls the same color as your drapery. It will give you a seamless and sophisticated look.

family rm


Neutral and Appealing

Painting a living room a fresh neutral color helps tone down any dated finishes in the space. Even if you were weaned on off-white walls, take a chance and test a quart of paint in a warm, neutral hue. These days, the definition of neutral extends way beyond beige, from warm tans and honeys to soft blue-greens. As for bold wall colors, they have a way of reducing offers, so go with neutrals in large spaces.

Tips by HGTV

Tracy Tkac
Evers & Co.

Getting Ready; Five Tips For Home Buyers

GetMedia-42by Tracy Tkac



1. Get Loan Pre-Approval


This step is extremely important. It will help you to know what you can afford and determine if there are any glitches in your credit that need attention before buying. Talk with a few lenders to get rate quotes and to find one that fits your working style. After you are pre-approved, make sure to pay close attention to your finances and do not make any rash decisions or large purchases, such as a car, until after the purchase of your new home.  


2. Find An Agent

An agent will lead you through the process of the paperwork, negotiation strategies, inspections and ultimately settlement by placing offers, negotiating final prices and settlement terms and closing costs to settlement.

 Find a professional agent that is knowledgeable in the area in which you are looking to buy. In most cases in the MD, VA and DC area, if a home is listed in the MRIS, the area multiple listing system, then the commission is paid entirely by the seller- not the buyer. A Buyer Broker is an agent that advocating and working exclusively for your best interests.

By finding a knowledgeable real estate agent that you trust, you are likely to save money, purchase the home of your choice and have a smooth and successful transaction.


3. Prioritize Your Needs and Wants

While location and price range will dictate a lot about the home you will be looking for, you should also think about what amenities you hope for. Start big with the non-negotiables such as the specific communities you want to live in, the number of bedrooms and bathrooms you need, what style of homes you are interested in looking at, whether or not you need a garage, etc. After the larger must-haves are established it is easier to understand what is negotiable in the long run. If you are prepared beforehand you can assure that you are looking for everything that is necessary.

4. Look Into Potential Programs

In recent years there has been an increased effort by the government to try and stimulate home purchases. One of these efforts includes tax credits and benefits for first time homebuyers. During your home buying process, be sure to look and see if any credits or benefits are available for you. Some of these programs will allow savings on the initial purchase of the home and others will save money back in the form of a tax return. Either way, the saved money can be a major bonus and it is well worth the effort to find out. Your realtor and lender will help you determine if you qualify for any programs.

5. Inspect Your Future Home, Choose Your Settlement Company ect.

Research the companies you will want to use for your inspections and settlement. Your contract to purchase your home may be contingent on certain inspections such as termite, home inspection, radon or well and septic. Looking into the cost of these inspections and choosing what company fits your expectations will put in a position to be prepared to move forward. A choice of settlement company is generally the purchasers to make. There are many factors to consider, your agent will help you navigate the way to a successful conclusion!



The Advantages to a Mortgage Preapproval

The homebuying process can be exciting, but also stressful. When there are a large number of buyers in the market for real estate, the odds of being able to purchase your desired home can be low. However, getting a mortgage preapproval prior to home shopping can dramatically increase the odds of success.

Make Mortgage Preapproval Your First Step

A mortgage preapproval should be a homebuyer’s first step when purchasing a home. A borrower can choose to meet with a lender or get an initial preapproval via the Internet. The preapproval process is similar to the actual mortgage process and will, in fact, eliminate a lot of time after a home has been chosen.

When obtaining a mortgage preapproval, the borrower will complete a mortgage application and submit the necessary documentation to the lender. The lender will pull a credit report and examine the borrower’s credit.

Based on all of this information, the lender will determine the amount of funds that the borrower qualifies for. The borrower will receive a Conditional Commitment, which states the amount of funds that the lender agrees to lend provided that the conditions are met. While a preapproval is an important first step, it is not the final mortgage approval.

Impress Homesellers With Your Mortgage Preapproval

One of the advantages of having a preapproval is that this letter can be shown to real estate agents and sellers when looking for a home. By doing so, both the agent and the seller know that the borrower can qualify for a certain amount of funds. It is proof of the borrower’s financial standing and ability to proceed with the home purchase.

Another advantage is that some of the work that is involved in obtaining a mortgage is already done. The lender has already examined the borrower’s financial situation, including credit, income and assets. During the preapproval process, the lender will also discuss the most appropriate type of mortgage program that fits the borrower’s needs, whether it is a conventional loan or a government loan.

This is significant because not all sellers will accept a buyer who is using a government loan. Knowing the details of what type of loan is appropriate for the borrower, the agent can then show them homes that will fit their preapproval both for cost and type of funding.

How Mortgage Preapproval is Determined

The preapproval is determined by putting the information given to the lender through automated underwriting. In most cases, the preliminary loan file goes through a preprocessing before the preapproval is given to the borrower. Since there is an actual examination of the borrower’s documentation, the borrower will also receive a list of additional information that may be needed. The borrower can then submit this information while shopping for a home.

Once a home is found and the sales contract is signed, processing the loan is faster since most of the work for the credit file has been done. The final process involves verifications, ordering and receiving the appraisal, ordering title documents, obtaining insurance, etc. The final underwriting is the last step before the loan file is sent for closing.

The preapproval process is an important part of a home purchase. Since there is a lot of information involved in obtaining a mortgage, it eliminates many last minute problems that can arise. Obtaining a mortgage preapproval helps the home purchase process go smoothly.

Furnish your Home for Less

Starting out with a blank slate can be both a blessing and a curse. The blessing comes if you have enough money to furnish your home with whatever you want from wherever you choose. Furnishing a home on a shoestring, though, takes creativity, an eye for a good value, and possibly some elbow grease.

While some discount stores, such as IKEA, sell inexpensive new furnishings, careful shoppers can find better quality for less money with used furnishings. Here are a few ideas for getting what you need at dramatically discounted prices.


Whether you are furnishing one room or a whole house, it’s important to have an idea of how you want the room to look before you go shopping. Once you have the design in mind, it’s easier to shop for the components.

Model homes in new home communities are great places to get decorating ideas. These homes are carefully decorated to appeal to a broad range of homebuyers’ emotions. Color schemes, accessories, and furniture choice and placement all play to the shopper’s emotions.

Interior design and decorating websites may also be good sources of inspiration. Check out Better Homes and GardensHGTVReal Simple and Southern Living for budget project ideas to get your household furnished for less.

Used is Good

One of the hardest things to learn is how to look beyond the obvious wear and tear to the actual “bones” of used furniture.  Look beyond the fact that the upholstery is ratty or the legs are scuffed – look at style.

If you like the lines of the coffee table, buy it. Scratches and dings are easy to fix. Hate the ugly green upholstery on the otherwise perfect Chesterfield-style sofa? Buy it. Have it recovered in a yummy fabric of your choice.

Once you’ve mastered the technique of not judging furniture by its cover, it’s time to go shopping.

Garage and Estate Sales

Yes, there are differences between garage sales and estate sales. The latter is the disposition of goods of a person’s estate. The garage sale, on the other hand, is the sale of a person’s extra belongings or things they no longer need. Both sales offer used items, but estate sales typically have a better variety, and the items are usually in better condition.

Expect to pay more for estate sale items than garage sale items, and prices are typically not negotiable. In both cases you’ll need to supply your own moving labor and transportation, so factor that cost into the cost of the items you want to purchase.

You can find garage and estate sales advertised on Craigslist, in newspaper classified ads, and by following directional signs in neighborhoods.

Consignment Stores

Furniture prices tend to be a bit higher in consignment stores than if you were to purchase the items directly from the owner’s home, but you can occasionally find some bargains.

Thrift Stores

Salvation Army, Goodwill, Deseret Industries (in the western U.S.) and hospital auxiliary thrift stores are sources of deeply discounted used household items. Finding something decent is a bit challenging, but once in a while you’ll find just the piece you’ve been searching for, so don’t disregard these sources.

Online Shopping

Craigslist is the best online site for inexpensive home furnishings – mainly because it’s local. The first place to navigate once you arrive on your local Craigslist page is the “For Sale” section, where you’ll find a link named “Free.” Everybody loves free, right? Within this category you’ll see ads that are headlined: “Curb Alert.” These ads contain free items that the owners place at their curb, available on a first-come, first-served basis.

Directly beneath the “Free” section is a link to the furniture section. Here you can find everything from new furniture to gently used designer pieces and ratty junk. Craigslist gives you the opportunity to search by owner or by dealer and to use keywords, which saves you from having to scroll through hundreds of ads for headboards when you’re looking for a dining room table.

You may also want to peruse the “Household” and “Antique” sections, also located under “For Sale.”

Another website where you can search for furniture is eBay. You can find some bargains here, but keep in mind that shipping charges may just destroy any savings you realize on the items themselves. One way around this is to click the down arrow next to “Sort.” At the bottom of the list you’ll find “Nearest First.” Click on that link to re-sort items according to geographic location.

Etsy is an interesting website for perusing handmade items, such as artwork, containers, planters and pillows suitable for accessorizing.

Finally, join the freecycling group in your area at Membership is free, and so are all the items posted.

Shopping frugally allows you to make big, dramatic changes to your home decor without breaking the bank.

5 Tips For The Best Home Showings

Advantages to a Mortgage Preapproval
5 Tips For The Best Home Showings









5 Tips For The Best Home Showings

by Tracy Tkac

Home routines tend to come to a standstill while your home is on the market. The need to keep the house clean  – and not scare potential homebuyers away – means that kids can’t throw their back packs on the dining room table, the sink must be free of dirty dishes and everyone must hang their towel and put away their clothes.

Keeping the house clean is a good first step toward presenting the home in the best light. But it isn’t the only step, start with 5 Tips For The Best Home Showings below.

1. Odors

Have you ever walked into a home and been immediately assaulted by nasty odors? Cigarettes, grease, cooking odors, diapers and pets all leave their mark on the way a home smells. While it’s almost impossible to rid the home of cigarette smoke without painting, there are ways to get rid of other odors.

  • Have the carpets professionally cleaned and deodorized.
  • Launder or dry-clean all curtains and drapes.
  • Consider having your upholstered furniture professionally cleaned.
  • Clean the grease from the range hood.
  • Keep the dog bathed and groomed to keep doggy smells at bay.
  • Place dishes of potpourri or scented candles in random areas throughout the home.

2. Sounds

We become habituated to certain things, including sounds.  Turn the T’V. off. Make certain that pesky faucet is repaired and not dripping and the toilet  is not running. Your lovely teenager should not share his/her music while your home is being shown.

  • Play some music, softly, while the home is being shown.
  • Play a sound-effects CD softly in the background.

3. Sights

Light and bright are the operative words when considering the ideal way to present your home to buyers.

  • Change all the light bulbs in the home to higher wattage bulbs. Leave the lights on for showings, including closet lights.
  • Paint the walls a neutral color- not stark white but an off white . If you can’t paint, clean the walls.
  • Remove heavy drapes and replace them with lightweight fabric that allows natural light into the home.

Don’t neglect the outside of the house. Before a showing, make sure  your front door is clean or freshly painted and that the planting beds look clean and attractive and that the lawn is mowed.

4. Set the Scene

If you’ve ever toured model homes, you are familiar with the concept of staging – the art of carefully crafting interiors that appeal to homebuyers. If you’re on a tight budget and can’t afford a professional designer, make some simple changes that appeal to buyers.

Create vignettes throughout the home. Set the dining room table with attractive dinnerware or create a cozy nook in the bedroom with a small table and chairs. Group items in threes, use different heights, and keep it simple.

Fresh flowers add so much to a home, from masking odors to adding pops of color and texture. A gorgeous bouquet on the dining room table can take the place of a fussy centerpiece. Night stands are ideal places to set small vases of flowers.

Bathrooms are important, so pay close attention to how you stage yours. Get rid of the countertop clutter and add fluffy towels and a new shower curtain.

5. Security

Since sellers should make themselves scarce when the home is being shown, it’s important to take security measures. Lock up or remove valuables, weapons, prescription drugs and money.

Don’t leave personal items – especially paperwork with your financial information -lying around in plain sight. remove most personal photos.

Whatever you can do to make your home appear move-in ready will appeal to buyers. Tour some new home communities for more ideas and inspiration so that your home shows like a model.

By Tracy Tkac

Tracy Tkac

Evers & Co. Real Estate

cell    301-437-8722

office 202-364-1700

Licensed in Maryland, Virginia and the District of Columbia. Your referrals are warmly welcomed and appreciated!


Choosing School Districts and Schools

The neighborhoods you consider while house hunting may be determined, in part, by school districts and educational choices. If you’ll be sending your children to public school, ratings and other assessment tools can help you judge the merit of the schools near you. If you’re considering a private school, you may have to sort through programs with a wide range of philosophical backgrounds. Read on to learn about school ratings, types of schools and other factors to consider.

Finding Information About School Districts

School ratings and test score data can be found through your State Department of Education website. According to Project Appleseed, the National Campaign for Public School Improvement, “The [federal] No Child Left Behind legislation requires an annual school report card for all schools. School report cards describe characteristics of the school, including the number of children, various test scores, ratios of teachers to students, ethnic ratios, poverty levels, and more. Report cards can usually be obtained by contacting the department of education in the state or the school district office where the school is located.”

If you’re considering several regions at once, you can get State Education Data Profiles by accessing the National Center for Education Statistics website. To compare school districts in another way, visit to conduct a school search. GreatSchools, which is based in San Francisco, offers free information for parents all over the nation.

What to Consider when Choosing a School

When you look for information about a school district, you have a lot to consider. Not only should you look at test scores and class sizes, but you should also consider the particular needs of your child. Project Appleseed suggests that you should assess schools with these things in mind:

  • Your child’s personality and learning style
  • Your family’s values, budget, and needs
  • School philosophy and style of instruction
  • School facilities and personnel
  • School policies and schedules
  • The school’s reputation in the community
  • Core curriculum and additional courses
  • The school’s approach to safety
  • Family and community involvement

If your dream house turns up in a school district with poor school ratings, don’t give up hope. It may be possible to get a geographic exception to send your child to a different school. While this may rule out traveling by school bus, it could be a good compromise if you need to be close to work or have other reasons for choosing a home in a less-than-ideal school district.


How far will your child have to walk to reach school bus stops? This can be a serious concern in areas with cold winters or in rural areas, where bus stops may be far apart. According to the American School Bus Council, school buses are safer than cars and provide vital transportation to 26 million students every day. With 480,000 buses operating in the U.S. at any given time, there’s a good chance your student will be riding one to school.

When assessing transportation options for your child, ask these questions:

  • Where is the nearest school bus stop?
  • How long will my child’s commute last each day?
  • When will my child be picked up and dropped off? (You’ll want to escort younger children to and from the stop for safety.)
  • Will bus routes change in inclement weather?

School Violence and Bullying

It’s unfortunate, but parents need to consider more than academic ratings before putting an offer on a house. School violence can be difficult to judge. Online school rating websites can be helpful, as can phoning and asking for information on school violence from local school districts. Don’t be afraid to ask tough questions; where your child goes to school can have a long-lasting effect on his life.

The National School Safety Center strives to advocate for “safe, secure, and peaceful schools worldwide as a catalyst for the prevention of school crime and violence.” Their website offers school safety statistics and resources.

It’s Only Your Child’s Future!

Not to scare you, but the choices you make today will shape your child’s future. All children deserve to learn in a safe, comfortable environment. You know your child best, and as you look for a house in a good school district, you’ll need to keep his or her particular needs in mind. If you know your child will thrive in a big, bustling classroom or a quiet space for a small group, for instance, you can use that knowledge to go beyond the statistics. Talk to staff, see if you can tour some classrooms, and take the time to find a great school before you buy a home.

If you need help finding a school district or school near you, you can visit the U.S. Department of Education’s website to search their comprehensive database. You can use their search tools to find public schools, private schools, and school districts all over the country. Their database includes facts like enrollment numbers, student demographics, teacher/student ratios, and school contact information.