Back to School

Writing as i sit outside the principal's office waiting for my son's prep interview

Writing as i sit outside the principal's office waiting for my son's prep interview (2nd child off to school!) I was suitably inspired to tackle the sometimes VERY important issue of school catchments when it comes to buying property.


Outside of private schools (which for the most part are run by Catholic Education in our neck of the woods and have their own entry criteria), school enrolment is dictated by catchment area first and foremost, in large part because the demand for spaces often outstrips the number of desks actually available. Suburb populations tend to grow a lot quicker than the schools that service them. 


While we would like to think that all public schools are created equal, the reality is that as schools develop particular reputations for excellence, special services or even simply convenience (close to work etc.), they become more sought after by parents keen to have their child join the fold. Absent a particular gift in academics, sport or music however, it's your address rather than anything else that separates a yes from a no. 


This selective catchment can therefore have an impact on demand within suburbs (or even streets) as parents start to weigh not just the general amenity and attributes of a home, but also where their children will be entitled to attend. This isn't just a personal choice either - with private schools anywhere from thousands to tens of thousands a year depending on school and number of children it can become a financial decision very quickly.


Here in Cairns, the same house but different catchments might be tens of thousands of dollars difference to the right buyer. In Sydney or Melbourne, where who you know and where you went can colour more of your future, that could be hundreds of thousands. 


So what can you do about it as a parent, looking to plan ahead? Well, luckily there are tools (even within property portals) where you can swiftly identify school catchments for a particular property, knowing instantly which home nets which uniform. This can be very particular though, with cases where number 12 on a street might make the cut, but number 20 doesn’t. As always, its a matter of doing your homework up front. 


As a seller, this extra info can make a difference to your end result, but it also depends on the property. 4 or 5 bedroom home in Cairns North or Edge Hill - good chance this is going to be important. Studio apartment? Probably not quite the same impact.