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Ever since it became apparent that some state schools were much better than others, catchment areas have driven demand for homes
Moving house. Taking on a tutor. Going to church more. The scramble for school places each September has always been a stressful affair, but now some parents are prepared to go to extraordinary lengths, like moving home, to get ahead of the game and secure a place for their child at the school of their choice.
Over the last few years the situation has become even more pressured as a result of rising birth rates and the recession putting the pressure on household budgets, meaning that fewer parents can afford to send their child to private school.
A good catch
Catchment areas are calculated simply by distance as the crow flies. The size of the area depends on how densely populated the locality is, and how many children live there. But what if you don’t like any of the schools in your catchment area?
Then you have the difficult choice between moving home in order to be considered for a school you prefer, or forking out to send your child to a private school.
Making the sums add up
The decision seems simple if you just look at the figures. Let’s say, for example, the average fee for a year at private school is £12,000 – if you were to take primary education alone, the cost would total £84,000.
So, if the move costs £10,000, including stamp duty, estate agents fees and mortgage fees, your new home would have to cost at least £74,000 more than you sold the first one for, in order for the move to make less financial sense than going private.
If you were looking at putting your child through both primary and secondary education, the difference in house prices would have to be £158,000.
However, the comparison is less clear-cut than these figures suggest, because your house is an investment that is likely to increase in value over the long-term, whereas school fees amount to ‘money down the drain’ in purely financial terms.
In some cases, house prices are even cheaper in a catchment area as it’s seen as less desirable than the surrounding area, while in others, house prices are anything up to a third higher, which will start to make moving less worthwhile financially.
If you are considering moving to a postcode in order for your child to attend a particular school, bear the following in mind:
• Catchment areas can change over time.
• Moving will increase your chances, but there is no guarantee of a place
• You’ll need to move in by the start of term if you get a place
• House prices are generally higher in the catchment areas for good schools
• Weigh up the benefits of a good local school with other considerations including crime levels, transport links and the local neighbourhood.
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