In my assigned profile, I earn $54,000 in gross annual income. I have $10,000 in savings and $400 in monthly debt. According to the CNN Money affordability calculator, I could afford to purchase a home between $190,560.68 and $208,855.60 with a 4.25% mortgage rate. Using 33% of the $4,500 I earn each month as a guideline, I can afford up to $1,485 in rent.
As a resident of Hartford, I have some prior knowledge about surrounding towns and their school systems. I took my $200,000 budget and searched Home Finder, an online database of properties for rent and for sale. My target towns were Farmington, Avon, Simsbury, West Hartford, and Bloomfield (in order of most desirable to least). I was surprised to find that it was much easier to find homes to purchase that were within my budget. My monthly rental budget of $1,485 yielded little to no results in my target areas. I found some 2 bedroom apartments in Farmington, Bloomfield, and West Hartford that were slightly under budget, but I didn’t want to stick my 3rd and 6th grader in one room.
I found several 3 bedroom homes for under $170,000 in my desired areas. I settled on a 3 bedroom 2 bathroom condo in Farmington, Connecticut. The purchase price of the home is $168,300. My monthly mortgage will be $827.93. I will pay $129,756.54 in interest over the course of 30 years. I figure that it is a small price to pay to give my children a quality education. There are many magnet schools that we are eligible to apply to, but our neighborhood schools have out performed them all on state standardized tests. My 3rd grader will attend East Farms School where, according to Smart Choice, 89% of students score at or above test goal. My 6th grader will attend West Woods Upper Elementary where 93% of students score at or above test goal.
Buying a home at 20 years old is not easy. My annual gross income was $54,000; I did not have any debt and had $2,000 in savings. This may seem ideal, but I did not have a car, which made it virtually impossible to find good homes in West Hartford, which is considered the more ideal side of Hartford to live in. When looking for homes to buy, I kept my children in mind, because I would need to enroll them in a good school. I also kept in mind that I did not have a car to drive them to school, so I did not want to live too close to the school because I’d have to figure out how to get them to school on a daily basis, including during bad weather. Because of my limited options, I had to figure out which district (public) schools were the best for both of my children, while being mindful of the fact that I’d be working in the downtown Hartford area. I was able to find 4 homes that were within my spending range: 274 Flatbush Avenue, 114 Cumberland St, 130 Saint James St, and 42 Popieluszko Ct. After looking at various factors ranging from transportation and school, I decided that 42 Popieluszko Ct, Hartford CT 06106 would be the best housing option for me and my family.
42 Popieluszko Ct is priced at $175,000, which is way below my intended budget. I chose this home because it is ideally priced on the lower end of my budget’s spectrum. It has 3 beds and 2.5 baths, which also meets all of the requirements I looked for when searching for a home. This home is also in located near downtown Hartford, where I would be working and in a zone with very good schools. I also noted the number of parks that surrounded my home, an asset I would really have appreciated as I will probably may want to take my two children to the park on a weekend afternoon.
My future home is located a few blocks away from Park Street, one of the major avenues in Hartford, which would make it easier for me in terms of transportation since many of the buses that go downtown (39, 37, 61, 63) pass literally within a block from this home.
Because I live in Hartford Zone 4, I found it difficult to find good public schools for both of my children. Most of the schools in Hartford are Magnet Schools that choose their students based on a lottery. The living/transportation implications I face would not allow me to enroll in any lottery. I was able to find an excellent elementary and middle school for both of my children. Achievement First Hartford Academy Elementary and Middle School is a k-8 public institution located on 305 Greenfield Street in Hartford, Connecticut. It is located approximately 2.3 miles away from the home I plan to buy, and it is also a school with excellent academics. The school has a 74% test passing rating, a percentage that is well above the Connecticut average, and although it may not be racially diverse (most students are of African American descent), I was impressed by the quality of education. My family qualified for transportation arranged by HPS because of the distance away from our home.
Family of four, including two children, one going into 3rd grade, the other 6th.
With a mortgage rate of 4.25%, I calculated the loan I could receive with the $5,000 downpayment I had available.
Aggressively, I can spend $90,000 on a new home.
My rent affordability (monthly) is determined by my gross income. The appropriate amount is 33%. Therefore:
The rent I can afford to pay, while still having enough money monthly to survive (food, etc.) is $833.33.
I decided to look for different homes in various suburbs surrounding the Hartford, CT area.
The following homes are within my budget and provide the space necessary for the size of my family:
$58,000 home with 4 beds and 2 full baths in Windsor, CT:
HUGE backyard…great for the kids!
$59,000 home with 3 beds and 2 baths in Windsor, CT:
$85,000 home with 4 beds and 2 full baths in Windsor, CT:
251 Bloomfield Ave
Windsor, CT 06095
$84,150 home with 5 beds and 2 baths in Middletown, CT.
62 R Silver St
Middletown, CT 06457
A fixer-upper, but a beautiful home!
If I were to move into the first house on this list, located at 32 Wilson Ave, Windsor, CT, my children could attend schools such as the following:
Wish School (through 8th grade)
Though the COmmunity Educational Climate is low, the school has a high level of technological accessibility. Furthermore, there is an extremely impressive 12/1 teacher ratio.
Journalism and Media High School
Though this school reports a medium measure of technology and a below average community educational climate, it is important to note that this educational facility focuses on journalism and media. Therefore, if one of my children has a special interest in the subject, they have the ability to attend a High School that focuses on what he/she is truly interested in.
The next home, located at 470 West Wolcott Ave in Windsor, CT, would allow my children to attend schools such as:
Sage Park Middle School
Not only does this school have a high measure of technology, but the student/teacher ratio is only 9/1. This school is located less than two miles from the home (1.8 miles).
In the home located at 62 Silver Rd, Middletown, CT, 06475. This is the home I would choose to purchase, namely because of the most nearby school.
My kids could attend Woodrow Wilson Middle School (or schools similar):
This school is not only located only 1.1 miles from the home (walking or bike-riding distance!), but has am average community educational climate, a high level of technology used within their classrooms, and a great 13/1 student/teacher ratio.
This school focuses on bettering its students not only academically, but mentally and physically as well. Each month, Woodrow Wilson middle school posts online the cafeteria menu, and a guide to eating right and staying active. This schools’ willingness to post their menus online shows that they are honest and open with their students and their families, and perhaps willing to better or increase the options (much like Jack posting his evaluations on moodle!).
Furthermore, Woodrow Wilson Middle School recently published a plan to better the school academically, and work towards a more unified and advanced student body. This school is determined to operate at its highest level, for the betterment of its students.
Because my search was extremely elaborate and extensive, the conclusion of my results is not necessarily typical. Buying a home (namely, a home in my top, top price range) will leave me with a large mortgage, with a big interest rate. However, renting a house for a family of four, for under $833.33 a month is nearly impossible. Only one bedrooms in the suburbs surrounding Hartford go for less than $833. Unfortunately, this puts my family in a glad place financially, for our only viable option is to buy a house, leaving us with a pretty large mortgage. However, I believe that it is worth paying out a higher mortgage if it means that my children can attend a better school.
During this simulation, I was given an annual income of $30,000 which breaks down to $2,500 a month as income. For a downpayment, I had saved $5,000 dollars but had a debt of $100 a month to pay for a car that I own. Because of the income I have, the downpayment I can put down, and the debt I owe, my price range for buying a house was $79,856 – $105,266 (using an online mortgage calculator). Moreover, the possible rent I would pay for an apartment if a house were not possible would be approximately $833.33 (a third of my monthly income). Judging by my price range for houses, there was a small possibility that I could find a house in either West Hartford or Wethersfield. However in my decision to buying a house, I wanted to make sure that there were district schools near by because the lottery system for magnet schools did not guarantee a spot for both my 3rd and 6th graders. Furthermore, I wanted to make sure that the schools were fairly close to the house so that commute would not be an issue. During my search (using Zillow), I was given a lot of results with condominiums for sale two of which I considered: 100 Oakwood Ave. in West Hartford and 60 Mountain Laurel Dr. in Wethersfield. All of the houses I researched were within my price range; however, I narrowed my choices down to two houses each in pretty great and different school districts: 6 Fenwood Ave. in West Hartford and 18 Marguerite Ave. in Bloomfield.
Both houses were within the price range I had. However 6 Fenwood Ave. in West Hartford seemed to offer more than the house in Bloomfield. The house is priced at $99,900 which lies right in between my price range for houses. There is only 2 bedrooms which means the children would have to share. However, the schools for each of my children each are really great schools and perform really well. The 3rd grader would attend Bugbee Elementary located at 1943 Asylum Ave with grades K – 5th. The school is about 4.1 miles away meaning I would have to drive him/her to school or they would be provided with bus transportation. Bugbee Elementary has 95% of its students meeting the testing goal for Connecticut, and they are showing +4 growth in its testing which is above the average for Connecticut. Similarly, the school for my 6th grader has similar results. The 6th grader would attend Bristow Middle School located at 34 Highland St. approximately 2.8 miles with grades 6th – 8th. Since the school is a little far to walk, I would also drive the 6th grader to school or they would also have bus transportation provided. Bristow Middle School has 85% of its students meeting the test goals for Connecticut which is also higher than the average for Connecticut. Although the school seems to have dropped a bit (-3) this past year, their achievement on meeting the test goals are high. The children would be in great schools earning a quality education in the West Hartford School District.
Finding the different places to live along with really great schools for a family is really difficult. There’s a lot to consider when buying a house in a specific district and considering the quality of education your children will receive. I learned that the process become a double edged sword. There’s the possibility of living somewhere really amazing in a really great school district. However, the downfall is the amount you have to pay for it. I found a lot of places that were really nice, but didn’t have great school districts. I also had other places in which were really tight living quarters and not the best but remained somewhere that had a quality education. With living somewhere not so great with the quality of education being average or below, the price maybe much more affordable and easier to deal with.
For this Home and School Buying Simulation I was given $30,000 in annual income, $2,000 for a down payment, no car, and no monthly debt. Through the use of an online mortgage calculator, I estimated that with my income I could afford to buy a house in the $77,000 to $102,000 range or rent an apartment for about $825 a month. Soon after I began my online house hunt on Zillow, I realized that my meager monthly allowance might secure me a good neighborhood, but not necessarily a good home. In East Hartford I could buy a 65-year-old house for nearly $90,000 with what looked like an endless amount of repairs. In West Hartford nearly all of the “homes” that fell into my price range were not actual homes, but actually empty plots of land.
If I chose to purchase a two bedroom home in Bloomfield for $85,900 with a $2,000 down payment, a thirty year mortgage with a 4.25% interest rate would leave me with $412 in monthly payments. Although this number initially seemed small to me considering that my monthly income is $2,500, an online amortization table from Bankrate estimated I would pay $3,830 in interest after only one year. By the end of my thirty-year mortgage, that number would be nearly $65,000 – over two-thirds the actual cost of the home.
The economic burden these types of mortgages would undoubtedly put on my simulated family makes it seem as though I should at least be guaranteed a good school district. However, if I were to rent an apartment in the Manchester School District for $800/month, my children would either have to walk to a district school that underperformed in every subject when compared to the state, or instead take a bus to one of the nine inter-district schools in Hartford that showed positive test gains in 2012. Essentially, I would be paying to live in Manchester while simultaneously busing my children back to the neighborhood they just left. West Hartford public schools offered the most promising educational opportunities – schools with smaller class sizes, more teachers, and better test scores. But this was also the same neighborhood with nearly no homes or apartments in my price range.
With a $30,000 income and no transportation, I am not at all convinced that “life is better in the suburbs.” Sure, the suburbs are great for people with cars, stable jobs, and a comfortable amount of disposable income. But I expected my school search to be much easier. I anticipated I would see broken down houses and small apartments – and I was right. However, I hoped my investment in the neighborhood would just be a sacrifice in return for better educational opportunities. If I were to choose a final house and school for this simulation, I would either have to choose a home in West Hartford at the top of my budget with access to better schools, or choose a more reasonably priced home in East Hartford, Mansfield, or Bloomsfield with hope that through the luck-of-the-draw my children would end up in promising schools.