Balancing Property Taxes and the Quality of Education

Lisa Loper of the Scott Loper Team talks about homebuyers balancing property taxes and the school district when searching for a home.

Residents of Montgomery County reap the benefits of excellent public schools.  It is the wealthiest county in Pennsylvania with the neighboring counties of Bucks, Chester, and Delaware not far behind.

As everyone knows, the school district is of paramount importance for many (if not most) homebuyers.  For some, it is the primary criteria they use to search for a home. 

When buyers are relocating to this area from across the country, they seem to already know of districts like Council Rock, Lower Merion, and Tredyffrin/Easttown – all good things they have heard.

Who is to say which school district is the best or the worst? 

Looking at sales of $400K homes ($390K - $410K) in the last three months (the busy season for real estate as families want to move after the school year ends and before the new year starts), it is interesting to look at the number of sales in several school districts as well as the average school taxes for those sales:

School District                       # of Sales                        Avg Taxes

Wissahickon                                    5                                    $3,926

Tredyffrin/Easttown                        10                                    $4,057

North Penn                                      9                                    $4,322

Council Rock                                  12                                    $4,329

Lower Merion                                   6                                    $4,393

Hatboro-Horsham                             2                                   $5,138

Central Bucks                                 16                                   $5,212

Methacton                                        1                                   $5,225

Perkiomen Valley                              3                                   $5,227

Pennridge                                        4                                    $5,544

Upper Dublin                                    7                                   $5,860

Souderton                                        3                                   $5,933

Norristown                                       0                                  $6,280*


*There were no sales in the last 3 months.  This is the average school taxes going back to sales 3-6 months ago.

As school districts face tightening budgets, it sounds easy to look to the taxpayer to pay for any budget shortfalls.

This is a tough one.  Realtors see a lot of hardship out there, people who have lost their jobs, worried about losing their jobs, struggling with their mortgages, facing foreclosure in a real estate market that no one would characterize as robust.  Higher end homes with high enough property taxes are already in quicksand. 

But, compensation is what attracts and keeps great teachers, and great teachers and state of the art facilities make great schools.  And great schools attract professional working families.  That keeps the property values high.  Right?  But someone has to pay for all this greatness.

Some districts have a “reputation” for excellence; others have a “reputation” for having high property taxes.  Before any district considers a substantial rise in school taxes, they should consider if the rise in taxes will be matched by an equal rise in reputation.

We see buyers steering away from some school districts because of high property taxes, especially when those districts are not considered "better" than the other neighboring districts with lower property taxes.

There are so many top notch school districts in the Philadelphia suburbs, why would a buyer pick one whose reputation does not match the taxes?  There has to be a balance.

Every Wednesday at noon, the Scott Loper Team of Re/Max Realty Group in Harleysville offers some sage advice to potential and current homeowners in our area.  The Scott Loper Team includes Scott Loper, Lisa Loper and Gina Wherry, Re/Max Realty Group, 439 Main Street, Harleysville, PA 19438, 215-256-1200.

Lisa Loper September 08, 2011 at 01:36 AM
Correction: A reader emailed that in fact Chester County has the highest per capita wealth according to Forbes. Montgomery County ranks #2 in the state.
Candy Allebach September 08, 2011 at 02:33 PM
Your reader was correct, Montgomery County is #2. Here is the rankings for the 5 county area: 1. Chester County, per capita income - $46,917 median household income - $93,833 2. Montgomery County per capita income - $30,898 median household income - $60,829 3. Bucks County per capita income - $27,430 median household income - $59,727 4. Delaware County per capita income - $25,040 median household income - $50,092 44. Philadelphia County per capita income - $16,509 median household income - $30,746 This information was current as of May, 2011, but I don't believe that it has changed to much in the following months, expect for incomes to go down. Thanks for the article, it was very, very informative, keep up the good work and good luck in real estate, you will need it. P.S. I live in the Methacton S.D. and they are constantly telling the public that we are the richest county in the state and the taxpayers can afford any and all tax increases. And they honestly believe this, especially school director Michael Simeone.


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