If you don’t yet have children, you may not be aware just how influential school catchment zones can be on property prices. But ask any house-hunting young family and they’ll tell you, a house in the zone for a top-ranked public school can command tens (or even hundreds) of thousands of dollars more than a similar house just outside the catchment boundary.
The ever-increasing population, combined with the growing trend for developers to knock down older homes and build multiple dwellings in their place, has seen added pressure placed on schools already bursting at capacity, and left many parents fearing a tightening of zones will mean their child misses out on a spot at their ideal school.
How school catchments work…
Here’s a quick rundown for the uninitiated: a school catchment is basically a boundary, within which most of the school’s students must reside. It helps to ensure all students have an equal opportunity to access public education, and makes the enrollment process smoother for schools.
While it can be possible to gain entry into a popular school if you live outside the zone, through a gifted and talented program for example, the surest guarantee of getting your child in to the school of your choice is to live within the catchment.
With private schools in Melbourne setting parents back around $30,000 per year for high school, many parents feel the money is better spent buying a property which falls within the boundary for one of Melbourne’s top public schools – some of which consistently achieve better student outcomes than their private and Catholic counterparts.
Proof of residence is required at enrolment, and sometimes throughout the child’s time at the school, meaning even young couples yet to start a family often take school zones into consideration when looking at homes.
So, what’s a good school catchment worth?
According to the Real Estate Institute of Victoria, it’s worth quite a lot!
For example, homes within the zone for South Yarra Primary School had a median house price of $2 million last year, compared to those one kilometre outside the zone, which were selling for just $1.435 million. That’s right, a whopping $565,000 cheaper!
The phenomenon isn’t unique to the inner-ring suburbs, either. In Bentleigh East, homes in the Valkstone Primary zone sold for an average of $289,000 more than homes zoned for other local schools, while in Altona a guaranteed spot at Altona Primary could at $120,000 to the value of a property.
When it comes to high schools, competition is just as fierce. Properties zoned for McKinnon Secondary College, sought-after for its excellent music program, had a median price of $1,637,500, while those in the same suburb outside the zone sold for a median of $1.39 million.
Parents: expect to pay an extra $169,000 for a home inside the Camberwell High zone, and an extra $142,500 if you’d like your kids to attend Balwyn High. Even down in Frankston, 55 kilometres from the CBD, school zones are having a dramatic impact on house prices, with homes in the zone for Frankston High selling for a median of $720,000 – that’s $100,000 more than those just outside the zone.
Perhaps the scariest thing for the parents of tomorrow is that the figures above reflect 2017 prices – so even if you’re not yet pregnant, you might want to get in quick before you’re completely priced out of the best school zones!