Marlize van Romburgh
Digital Producer- San Francisco Business Times
Bargain-hunting for a neighborhood with that magic combination of good elementary schools and affordable homes? In the Bay Area, that’s not an easy prospect, but there are some schools that present a better deal than others.
Using data supplied by real estate information service RealtyTrac, the San Francisco Business Times looked at top-ranking elementary schools in the Bay Area’s more affordable neighborhoods — those where the average monthly mortgage payment costs less than half of what a median family earns in a month.
[Scroll down for a table of the Bay Area's top 20 good schools in affordable neighborhoods.]
Here’s a look at the top five Bay Area schools in affordable neighborhoods:
- Tom Matsumoto Elementary School, San Jose. The median household income for the neighborhood around the school is $119,993 and the average house payment there is $4,745 — about 47.5 percent of a typical family’s earnings. The school’s 2013 test scores were 59 percent higher than the state average.
- Forest Park Elementary, Fremont. The school’s 2013 test scores were 57 percent higher than the average of its peers around the state. Households in the neighborhood earn a median income of $114,172. The average monthly mortgage of $4,217 clocks in at about 44.3 percent of the typical household’s earnings.
- Jensen Ranch Elementary, Castro Valley. Scoring 56 percent higher than schools around the state, Jensen Ranch is also the most affordable ZIP code in the Bay Area, with the average mortgage payment — $4,437— costing 37.4 percent of the median household income.
- Gilroy Prep, Gilroy. The school also scored 56 percent higher than its California peers, and while the average home price — $554,033 — is significantly lower than those in the Bay Area’s major metros, the median household income is, too. Families in surrounding Gilroy earn a median of $85,123 and would have to spend 49.4 percent of their income on a house payment.
- Hidden Hills Elementary, San Ramon. The median family here makes $119,648 and would typically have to spend 46.8 percent of that on a house payment. Hidden Hills scored 55 percent higher than other elementary schools around the state in 2013.
RealtyTrac, which looked at data for 25,000 elementary schools in more than 7,500 ZIP codes around the country, noted that the Bay Area tends to have good elementary schools — for those who can afford it. San Francisco ranked second in the nation as a city with good elementary schools but unaffordable homes. Oakland came in at No. 5 on the unaffordable-but-good ranking, followed by San Jose at No. 6.
The top-ranking elementary schools in the Bay Area, regardless of affordability, are William Faria Elementary in Cupertino and John Yehall Chin Elementary in San Francisco’s ritzy Telegraph Hill neighborhood. Both scored 64 percent higher than the statewide average, but buying a home nearby is likely to cost you north of $1 million.
It’s worth noting that “affordable” is a relative term, skewed in the Bay Area by skyrocketing real estate prices. In crunching the national numbers, RealtyTrac looked for schools in neighborhoods where the average mortgage payment is one-third or less than the median income in that neighborhood. But the Bay Area is simply too pricey to use that criteria. Even in the most affordable neighborhood in the Bay Area — ZIP code 94552 in Castro Valley — the payment on the average $700,934 home is still 37 percent of the median household income.
RealtyTrac found that around the country, the cities with the highest amount of affordable zip codes with good schools are: Orlando, Fla.; Raleigh, N.C.; and Phoenix, Ariz. In general, the states with the most affordable zip codes with good schools are New York, North Carolina, Florida, Illinois and Michigan.
The best elementary school bargain in the country? It may just be Trenton Elementary School in Trenton, Illinois. The school scores 39 percent better than its peers around the state, and nearby homes average $97,480, with the typical mortgage clocking in at just 9.1 percent of median household income.
Sources and methodology ( via RealtyTrac):
- School test scores are for 2013 and are derived from data from each states’ Department of Education. The state average is a score of “1″; the higher above the state average the school is, the higher its test scores. For example, a school with a score of 1.5 ranks 50 percent higher than the state average.
- Home prices reflect average prices for single-family homes and condos sold between November 2013 and October 2014 in each ZIP code.
- Annual median household income data came from the U.S. Census Bureau. Annual median household income for 2013 to 2014 was estimated based upon 2000-2012 numbers on a county basis and then adjusted for current market conditions. The increase/decrease in median household income by ZIP code is assumed to be the same as the projected increase/decrease in the respective county where the school is in.
- In calculating average house payments, fixed 30-year mortgage rates were obtained from Freddie Mac for every month. It was assumed that the average borrower would make a 10 percent down payment (on a property that sold for the October 2014 TTM Average Home Price. The mortgage term would be 30 years, and insurance combined with property tax would be 1.39% of the value of the home. PMI would be required at 1% of the total loan amount).
- September 2014 unemployment rate is reported at the county level and is released by the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
Bay Area’s 20 good schools in affordable neighborhoods [Click on column headers to sort data].
Bay Area Ranking
2013 Test Score
2014 Estimated Median Household Income
Avg. Home Price
Avg. House Payment
Mortgage as a Percentage of Median Income
Tom Matsumoto Elementary (San Jose)
Forest Park Elementary (Fremont)
Jensen Ranch Elementary (Castro Valley)
Gilroy Prep (Gilroy)
Hidden Hills Elementary (San Ramon)
Live Oak Elementary (San Ramon)
Henry P. Mohr Elementary (Pleasonton)
Carolyn A. Clark Elementary (San Jose)
James Franklin Smith Elementary (San Jose)
John Green Elementary (Dublin)
Bay Farm Elementary (Alameda)
Corona Creek Elementary (Petaluma)
Monte Gardens Elementary (Concord)
Walnut Acres Elementary (Walnut Creek)
Ruskin Elementary (San Jose
Mt. Diablo Elementary (Clayton)
Morello Park Elementary (Martinez)
John Sinnott Elementary (Milpitas)
Sunset Elementary (Livermore)
Yulupa Elementary (Santa Rosa)
Marlize is the digital producer for the San Francisco Business Times.