Living Near A Popular Primary School: The Data On HDB Prices Within 1KM May Surprise You
- Ryan J
- August 1, 2023
- 6 min read
When it comes to property, the proximity to popular schools is often touted as a significant factor that can influence prices. Most people believe that there’s a premium attached to properties located within the catchment area of esteemed schools, attributing a considerable part of a property’s value to the Home School Distance (HSD) on OneMap*.
This criterion can occasionally lead to puzzling scenarios, where one block falls within the priority radius, while the one immediately next door misses out. But is the conventional wisdom correct? Does a property’s proximity to a school significantly influence its price?
HDB blocks provide an excellent case study for this question. Their relative uniformity, compared to other types of properties, allows us to control for various factors and hopefully see if there is an impact. As such, we decided to compare the prices of HDB blocks side by side, one within the HSD and one outside it, to examine whether there’s a discernible price difference influenced by a popular school’s proximity. Here’s how it played out:
*Note that to qualify for priority school enrolment, your postal code must be within a one-kilometre radius of the school. This was changed in 2022, from the old measurement from the centre of a school, to the distance from the School Land Boundary (SLB).
Prices of resale flats at varying HSD ranges:
The following are based on URA transaction records, and we’ve picked these particular schools because of (1) school rankings (based on popularity rankings from schlah.com), and (2) whether there are sufficient comparable flats nearby that fall within the 1 and 2km radius. Comparable flats are determined by their similarities in not just location, but age to account for the effect of its leasehold nature on price.
(Some schools, such as some central area primary schools, are excluded because there just isn’t sufficient HDB housing nearby to derive anything meaningful).
We then grouped the flats by clusters, within the one-kilometre and two-kilometre ranges. Note that some schools will have multiple clusters near them, and some flats will be within the one-kilometre HSD of multiple schools.
Note that while we would have liked to take as many data points as possible, 2021 isn’t a perfect reflection as the HSD was redefined in 2022 (which could affect some blocks). In addition, transaction volumes were low, so we used 4-room flats as they’re the most common home size.
This also isn’t a perfect data set, as there may have been discrepancies such as different floor levels (which we tried to mitigate with a floor-adjusted price), or the amount of renovation that we are unable to account for. For every floor higher, we added $5,000 and vice-versa.
|School||Cluster||Average Price||Volume||1KM Premium|
|CHIJ St Nicholas Girls School||1-Inside-1KM||$444,500||4||4.27%|
|Henry Park Primary||1-Inside-1KM||$779,252||11||4.76%|
|Nan Hua Primary||1-Inside-1KM||$545,000||2||-2.87%|
|Pei Chun Public School||1-Inside-1KM||$542,778||19||-0.87%|
|Radin Mas Primary||1-Inside-1KM||$740,777||1||3.83%|
|St Hilda’s Primary||1-Inside-1KM||$468,206||14||3.47%|
AdviceWe Are A Family Of 3 Looking To Upgrade. Which Of These 5 Condos Are Best If Primary School Is Priority?by Stacked
Observations and word on the ground:
- Difficult to spot anything conclusive
- Too difficult to isolate HSD from other factors
- Registration phases before 2C are considered more important
- Parents want alternative schools
1. Difficult to spot anything conclusive
There’s no consistent finding of higher prices, for being within the HSD. Some units within the HSD even have a negative price premium, as in the case of Nan Hua (it’s negative whether or not it’s the floor-adjusted price).
Even where a premium is found, it’s not particularly huge; the biggest gap is around 8.9 per cent, and most are at around four to five per cent. This is hardly the windfall that many expect, from being near a ranking school.
As such, buyers banking on schools to raise the resale prices are probably in for a disappointment. If they do get a higher price, it’s just as likely due to other factors as it is the schools.
That said, some schools correlate to stronger premiums than others.
Flats near Red Swastika, CHIJ St. Nicholas, and Rulang Primary all seem to see higher premiums; but at single-digit percentages, these are slim differences. It would be a stretch to conclude that some schools are more desirable than others, just on these grounds.
2. Too difficult to isolate HSD from other factors
Our media tends to play up stories about how eager parents are, getting into fights for enrolment, taking on serious debt to move near the school, etc. From word on the ground, however, some realtors have said these parents are actually outliers.
When doing a property walkthrough with their clients (this is when realtors try to help buyers prioritise their needs), you may be surprised at how a school distance rarely makes it to the top three needs.
One realtor said that parents are more concerned with how close they are to grandparents or other possible caregivers (as more Singaporeans are dual-income these days), and another said that familiarity took precedence over schools.
That is, people who are used to a certain town like Serangoon, Tampines, Bedok, etc., will prioritise trying to stay in the same place; and this is often a bigger concern than what schools are nearby.
This could also be a difference between the priorities of condo and HDB buyers. Condo buyers, usually with a higher budget, often see school proximity as an investment, aligning with broader values like education and status. This enables them to justify the costs associated with living near prestigious schools and to move homes based on school proximity.
In contrast, HDB buyers typically focus on affordability, convenience, and familiarity with the neighbourhood. While school proximity might be a consideration, it is often overshadowed by more immediate concerns such as living near family or caregivers. The decision to prioritise schools is thus more complex and varies significantly between these two segments of the property market.
3. Registration phases before 2C are considered more important
One reader, who has already put three children through Primary school, handwaved the distance issue. She told us that “true” priority enrolment comes from the earlier phase (I.e., phases 2A and 2B, where volunteer work and being part of the alumni improves your child’s chances of being enrolled).
By the time it gets to 2C, where it’s down to enrolment distance, the odds may be slim even if you move nearby. Those with siblings in the school, the children of alumni, etc., would already have taken most of the available seats.
As such, being within one-kilometre is more of a nice side bonus, than something parents would bet the proverbial farm on.
4. Parents want alternative schools
One realtor said that in his experience, parents are more interested in being within HSD of multiple schools, rather than one specific school. He says:
“So this buyer initially was considering a 4-room at Clementi Ave. 4, near Clementi Ridges. This is very close to Nan Hua, you can even walk to the school from there, don’t even need the bus.
But the buyer settled for another 4-room near Clementi Ave. 2., close to the swimming complex. I said this is quite far away from Nan Hua. But the client pointed out that from here, they were within one-kilometre of NUS School of Maths and Science, Pei Tong, Clementi Primary, and a few others.
So what they wanted were options, in case their child never got into one school at least they have others nearby, and they also have a Secondary school nearby for the future.”
This may mean that flats within one kilometre of multiple nearby schools, rather than flats closest to one specific school, are preferred by more buyers.
As an aside, do know that some people dislike living near schools
More than one home buyer said they’re not willing to live very close to a school, even a good one. The reasons cited were noise and traffic.
One buyer said that she lived across the road from a primary school in Bedok for around seven years, and traffic congestion during certain hours was so bad, it could take her an added 15 minutes to creep past the school roads and turn into her block’s car park. She’s sworn off any repeat housing situations.
Another buyer said he works from home, and he dislikes the noise coming from schools nearby. This was a nuisance in his last home (a condo, not an HDB), where the noise from extracurricular activities (school band, sports, cadet corps, etc.) was audible even after school hours, and on Saturdays.
Perhaps these considerations, along with factors like MRT access and having grandparents nearby, simply outweigh the “brand factor” of certain schools.
Or perhaps it’s so simply so hard to get into ranking schools, that anyone not in the alumni might as well give up, and stop hoping for sheer proximity to do the trick.
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