By Justin Mandese
The purpose of this letter is to explain the dynamic relationship between the perception of the East Greenwich School System and the local real estate market. With the East Greenwich School Committee and superintendent considering several impactful initiatives for the 2015-16 school year, it is crucial to understand the ramifications of the implementation of said initiatives, will have on the local real estate market.
As a top-producing local real estate agent, I am lucky enough to have proprietary data at my disposal, as well as an “expert-level” understanding of the behaviors of those looking to purchase a home in Rhode Island. I intend to explain the reasons why I believe the real estate market has already violently shifted, as a result of the perception of the school system, as well as some other important factors.
According to Statewide MLS, as of the date of this letter, the following statistics hold true for the number of home sales in Rhode Island, broken down by municipality:
Other municipalities with relevant data to note:
Analysis and Interpretation
It is blatantly obvious that East Greenwich has realized the most dramatic change in 2014, with a loss of over 20% in volume, year-over-year. Lincoln, a municipality that has consistently been compared to East Greenwich for its neighborhoods, school system and lifestyle, is also off nearly 18 percent. The next closest in the loss column is Providence (excluding the East Side), with a drop-off of over 13 percent.
I believe the effects of “enhancing” the gaming experience at Twin River, such as the uncertainty revolving around traffic, demographic shifts and similar factors, play a significant role in explaining the loss in Lincoln. Unfortunately for East Greenwich, I cannot seem to think of any similar catalysts that would explain their decrease.
It is no secret that the “calling card” for recruiting potential buyers to East Greenwich, has consistently been the reputation of their school system. Just talk to any local real estate agent – is there even a need to ask a mother or father, with 2 or 3 kids in tow, why they are looking at the 4-bed, 2.5 bath home in EG? Traditionally, buyers are drawn to EG from other municipalities in RI, regional locations in and around New England, and even as far as overseas – again, mostly due to the strong reputation of their schools.
Even though common performance metrics may not be slipping, buyers still seem to be fading on the “can’t miss” schools in EG. In fact, “Greatschools.org,” the self-proclaimed “…independent nonprofit and the leading source of school information for families,” rates all of East Greenwich’s schools as “10s,” with the exception of Frenchtown Elementary, which rates as a “9.” No other community in Rhode Island has such a high percentage ranking … not even Barrington.
Other important factors have to be mentioned here, which certainly maintain their influence on the real estate market. Affordability is certainly a factor that prohibits buyers from flocking to EG. East Greenwich now boasts the 8th (out of 39) highest residential property tax in the state. In addition, over the same period as the drop-off in volume, the average sale price in EG has been $443,712, which is nearly 55 percent higher than the state average of $287,000.
Conclusions and What the Future Holds
So if the school system is to receive the lion’s share of the credit for attracting buyers to East Greenwich, then should it not also receive the majority of the criticism for why volume is way down?
As I mentioned in the introduction, the East Greenwich school administration and School Committee are considering a few initiatives for the near future. Of most significance, and what is drawing the attention of many EG parents, is the implementation of full-day kindergarten across the district. Currently, East Greenwich is one of only 7 or 8 districts in the state that does not already have a full-day kindergarten already in place. As I have argued throughout this piece, this is exactly the type of initiative that needs the full support of all EG residents, as home values are directly tied to the success of our schools.
Having spent time with many EG parents who are feverishly pushing for all-day kindergarten in the 2015-16 school year, I can say that support for this initiative is at an all-time high in EG. In fact, I would argue that the recent election of three new school committee members is mainly attributed to the campaign support from these this group. The aptly named “Full-Day Kindergarten for East Greenwich” group communicates primarily via email and Facebook, with an occasional brainstorming session thrown in the mix. Their presence and voices at local meetings have certainly had, and will continue to have, an impact on school initiatives.
From what I have seen in 2014, the potential buyers who have been considering EG, as well as other municipalities in RI, seem to be doing the math in their heads, and EG, although still desirable, has begun to finish second to its competitors. With a thriving Main Street and unparalleled access to both Providence and the South County beaches, I see no other significant indicators that would account for such a decline in volume. I strongly encourage Supt. Mercurio, as well as the School Committee, to ensure that initiatives such as full-day kindergarten are implemented beginning in the 2015-16 school year and encourage more East Greenwich residents to start paying attention to what the “branding image” of East Greenwich is and how it is affecting their real estate values.