The understated market driver

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For house-hunting families, the school is as important as the home.
And with school just around the corner, agents have doubtless spent the summer helping frantic families find a home in desired catchments.

“Ninety percent of families always ask about the schools in the area and their ratings before we even show them houses,” said Erica Mary Smith, broker of record and co-founder of Stomp Realty in Toronto. “We outline homes in the area and if they don’t fall in the right districts with good schools, the buyers usually aren’t interested.”

Mineola West in Mississauga is home to Kenollie Public School, and with a nine out of 10 rating it has become one of the most sought after neighbourhoods in the entire region. As such, it’s also one of the most expensive.

“If you have a really good school with a great area, people pay more to move there and it’s been driving prices up in those areas to the point that they’re too unaffordable for a lot of newer families to get into,” said Smith.

Schools are an understated driver of housing prices and their importance has spawned a slew of mobile apps and online platforms, one of which is SchoolQ, which catalogues 2,400 neighbourhoods in 130 Canadian cities. Its database is composed of roughly six million addresses.

Its co-founder and CEO says most users are, unsurprisingly, young families but also first-time buyers. He also says that mothers are typically the families’ researchers, a relentlessly time-consuming process.

“We call our audience Sarah; she’s 34 years old, works, has two kids and is married, but only has time to research this after the kids go to bed,. In order for Sarah to find out all this information, she has to go to a real estate website, then the Fraser Institute to get the score, then the school board to find out catchment information, and then do a deeper dive by going to the school’s website,” said Peter Miller.

“We take what Sarah is doing in days or weeks and give it to her in minutes, even seconds.”

For example, if Sarah is looking for a Catholic school with French emersion that has a score of at least six out of 10 and falls within a catchment where housing prices meet the family’s $1.5 million budget, Miller says SchoolQ will find it instantly.

The platform could help real estate sales agents help clients find their dream homes expeditiously.

“The challenge for Sarah,” said Miller,” is it’s taken weeks to find data on all the variables. She does this part-time and that’s the challenge most families have.”