How will school-boundary changes affect the DC real estate market?

WASHINGTON — Homebuying just got a little more complicated in the District of Columbia.

Many buyers, whether or not they have children, want to know they’re moving into an area with good schools. For those with children, it’s an immediate concern. For those without children, it’s a question of resale value.

This week, Mayor Vincent Gray unveiled a proposal to overhaul school boundaries, including changes to the way school assignments are determined. It’s the first proposal to change the boundaries in decades, and it comes as the D.C. real estate market has heated up, including in neighborhoods east of the Anacostia River. Darrin Davis, owner of Anacostia River Realty, says, “The D.C. market is hot. I just sold five houses this week.”

So will changes to school boundaries cool that market?

Eldad Moraru, with Long and Foster, says D.C. has become a desirable place — not just for young career-minded singles, but for families too. And the proposed school-boundary changes raise questions.

“Some of them — I won’t say all of them, but some buyers are holding off on making decisions until this plays out to its completion.”

Moraru, who is licensed in D.C., Virginia and Maryland, says the uncertainty created by Gray’s proposals could send buyers elsewhere. “I’m sure there are some people who’ve opted to go ahead and purchase in other school districts like Maryland and Virginia because of this, but others are taking a wait-and-see approach.”

Davis says buyers who are looking to Anacostia, where the housing stock is plentiful and the prices are within reach for many priced out of other neighborhoods, tend to be young singles. Schools may not be a major consideration for those buyers right now, but he says, “I do see that being an issue five to ten years down the line.”

Gray is expected to announce final plans for school-boundary changes by September, but he’ll be leaving office at the end of the year, and the changes will take effect in 2015. So what will the next mayor do?

The Washington Post has reported that mayoral candidates Muriel Bowser, the Democratic nominee; and David Catania, running as an independent, have made one thing clear: Both say they will not agree to any plan that takes students out of neighborhood high schools.

WTOP’s Kate Ryan contributed to this report. Follow @WTOP on Twitter and WTOP on Facebook.

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