What to Do When Buyers Ask About Schools


When Melanie Coyne is asked by home buyers what are the good schools in her area, she has an in-depth response that involves a lot of anecdotes.

“I’m trying to lead the person by asking them questions to get them down a path to help them understand—there’s not necessarily such a thing as a good school,”  says Coyne, broker/REALTOR® at Corcoran HM Properties in Charlotte. She also serves as the Chair of the NC REALTORS® Forms Committee. Everyone is  looking for something different when they talk about “good schools.”

“Schools need to be evaluated by the person who will be sending their children there. I’ve had buyers indicate that a good school has a later start time because they don’t like to get up early,” she adds. “Another family wanted the best lacrosse team in the area. One person’s  good school is another person’s bad school.”

All of us in life are busy. We are trying to seek the easiest answer to obtain.

But homebuyers need to first think through what they mean by “good.” Once they can articulate what “good” means to them, then agents can provide them with third  party resources which can give them information to make their own decision.

Legally Speaking

“REALTORS® have hardly ever asked questions on the NC REALTORS® Legal Hotline about what to say when people ask about schools,” says Will Martin. He  serves as general counsel for NC REALTORS® and manager at Martin & Gifford, PLLC in Winston-Salem.

However, a 2019 Newsday exposé revealed systemic racial steering in which real estate agents directed homebuyers to specific localities based on their race. The  National Association of REALTORS® put out guidance in 2014 about steering under the Fair Housing Act. Steering on the basis of any of the characteristics defined  under the Fair Housing Act is not only unethical, it’s illegal because it limits the housing opportunities available to that buyer.

For instance, if an agent expresses his or her good or bad sentiments toward a particular community or school—the purpose of which is to direct a buyer either  towards or away from a community—then that agent may be stating a housing preference based on race or familial status or religion.

“The exposé really put that whole issue on the radar screen for REALTOR® associations,” Martin says.

One of the possible concerns is that agents are giving buyers information about schools, which subtly steers them to or away from neighborhoods.

“It’s not illegal. But it could certainly raise questions whether you did it based on somebody’s protected characteristics,” he states. “Just stay away from giving opinions about schools.”

Michele Hobaugh, REALTOR® at Allen Tate, Chapel Hill-Pittsboro office, has always shared with buyers that it is not a good idea to purchase a home based on the  school district as district lines are constantly changing in her area—especially now that so many people are moving there.

“The only way you can guarantee what school your child attends is to pay for private schooling,” she adds.

And when her clients start asking about schools, she adds, “It’s always necessary to document, document, document.”

Martin reveals that a REALTOR® can give the contact information for the school and say, “Check this school out yourself. I encourage you to visit the school.”

Insight_Q2May2022_Schools_MelanieCoyne“Schools need to be evaluated by the person who will be sending their children there.”
– Melanie Coyne, Broker/REALTOR® at Corcoran HM Properties in Charlotte

Insight_Q2May2022_Schools_WillMartin“Some REALTORS® may not even realize that their steering isn’t intentional discrimination. There’s no doubt some agents do this unconsciously. Just stay away  from providing opinions about schools.”
– Will Martin, NC REALTORS® General Counsel and Manager at Martin & Gifford, PLLC in Winston-Salem

Insight_Q2May2022_Schools_MicheleHobaugh“It’s called buyer due diligence for a reason. There are many options today for schools…Each has its merits and drawbacks. Parents today have a lot of choices in  the manner children are educated.”
– Michele Hobaugh, REALTOR® at the Allen Tate Chapel Hill-Pittsboro office


Once a homebuyer identifies a house or two, let the client confirm with the school district themselves if it is located in that particular district.

“If you are going to do it for your client, I would be very careful to provide them with the source of the information,” Martin states. “Explain that your call with so-and-so at the school came down to the fact that you were told the house they are looking at is within the school district.”

He adds that good risk management is to also reiterate that this property is not guaranteed to be within the school district. You are just quoting your source.

Martin doesn’t see any harm in telling homebuyers which school your own kids go to if they ask.

“That’s not problematic. Going much beyond that is really going down a slippery slope,” he explains.

For instance, if they ask how the football team is, you can say, “They were pretty good last year.”

There are certain factual things you can say about a school. But when they start questioning the quality of the school or class sizes, be very careful of answering.  Martin also suggests practicing these types of conversations and scenarios with other brokers in your office to determine how to handle these things in a professional and not off-putting way.

“A good agent can handle something like that with an upbeat kind of way and redirect somebody to a source that can help them,” he adds.

NAR states that a truthful response to the question: “Where do you send your children to school?” is not necessarily a violation of the law. But a buyer could perceive such as response, even if truthful, as a way of limiting choices or as discrimination.

“There’s no doubt some agents do this unconsciously,” Martin adds. “Just stay away from providing opinions about schools.

Giving Resources to Help Clients

Although REALTORS® bend over backwards to do so many things for their clients, Hobaugh engages her buyers to do their homework when it comes to finding the  right school district for their children.

“It’s called buyer due diligence for a reason,” she says. Hobaugh is serving as the 2022 president of the Orange Chatham Association of REALTORS®.

She explains to her clients with children that “there are many options today for schools—homeschooling, Montessori, public and private. Each has its merits and drawbacks. Parents today have a lot of choices in the manner children are educated.”

But one of her first responses to them when they start asking if certain schools are good is to check out the North Carolina Department of Public Instruction School  Report Cards website.

Report cards provide information for all North Carolina public, charter and alternative schools. This user-friendly website includes such information as school safety,  digital teaching and learning, educator qualifications, class size, preschool enrollment, college endorsements and credentials, test scores, per pupil expenditure and  so much more.

Additionally, parents can check out other useful websites such as, and

Remembering Everyone is Different

“Everyone is coming from a different perspective when it comes to finding the right house in the right school district,” says Coyne.

She’s been working with out-of-town clients who are moving to her area and want their children in a school with a strong performing arts department. She feels fine in connecting them with resources at the school districts who are experts in this arena.

Coyne also likes to warn clients that the rating sites about schools should be taken with a grain of salt.

“One person’s 10 out of 10 could be another person’s 3 out of 10. Liken it to a Yelp review. For instance, someone might say a restaurant has great steaks. I don’t  eat meat. I don’t ignore the review, but I seek out multiple reviews,” Coyne states.

Most REALTORS® genuinely want to help their clients the best they can. However, some REALTORS® aren’t mindful of the implications of their guidance.

“This is a very important purchase. We can help provide clients with resources, but they need to do the work themselves and draw their own conclusions.”

Helpful School Resources for Your Real Estate Clients





Lee Nelson is a freelance journalist from the Chicago area. She has written for Yahoo! Homes,, and REALTOR® Magazine.  She also writes a bi-monthly blog on

Be Epic. Be an NC REALTOR®.