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VOL. 40 | NO. 41 | Friday, October 7, 2016

Growth limits Williamson school options

By Hollie Deese

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Williamson County’s public schools have been luring new residents to the affluent county for years, providing an alternative to private education. But these days, there’s more to it than finding a home in the right district.

Parents moving to Williamson are in many cases looking to be zoned for one area’s schools in particular – the Grassland community.

Real estate broker Mike Post of Post and Company says it is a perfect storm of growth and demand. In Grassland, he explains, there’s limited development by design, especially from large chain restaurants and hotels, while the schools are simultaneously winning awards and lots of local fans.

The Grassland school district includes Hunter’s Bend Elementary, Walnut Grove Elementary, Grassland Middle School and Franklin High School.

“They clearly don’t want to be another Cool Springs,” Post says of Grassland. “And you’ve got what I would say are some of the best schools in Williamson County.

“Walnut Grove was just named a Blue Ribbon School, so you’ve got really good schools and limited development and with that just brings a lot of demand. There’s more buyers than there are sellers. There’s not enough homes in town to go around.”

The National Blue Ribbon Schools Program recognizes public and private elementary, middle and high schools that are either high-performing or have improved student achievement to high levels.

Walnut Grove Elementary is one of only six schools in the state and 329 nationally to be named a Blue Ribbon School for 2016. Grassland Middle was named a National Blue Ribbon School in 2004.

And not only has Post been fielding inquiries from clients, he recently moved from Green Hills to the Grassland area himself with his wife, Green Hills salon owner Suzanne Shephard Post, and their two children.

They liked the small-town vibe Grassland offered, and the decrease in traffic, in addition to the schools. Their oldest had attended Julia Green Elementary, and their youngest now goes to Walnut Grove.

“If you’re going to leave Nashville – and I think a lot of people leave Nashville reluctantly – the last thing you want to do is to move 20 miles away from everything and still deal with crazy traffic and crazy congestion,” he says.

“If you’re going to make that trade-off, I would argue for Grassland with its gorgeous fields and horses and “aw-shucks’ persona. That’s the trade-off.

“If I’m not going to be in Metropolitan Davidson County, at least, I get this picturesque scene every single day I drive home. I get amazing schools, and I’ve got a neighborhood where I feel very, very comfortable at night with my kids running around.”

Post and his wife had looked at several places and schools before making their final decision, and they were all good, but Post says one of the challenges facing buyers in Davidson County with all the growth is that you’ve got schools like Percy Priest and Julia Green and Glendale that are highly sought after creating pockets of demand, while other areas are not as hot because their schools are not as highly rated.

“The savvy real estate buyer, even if they have no kids and have no plans for kids, pays attention to schools,” Post adds.

“Whether you’re looking at Walnut Grove or you’re looking at Scales Elementary in Brentwood or Julia Green in Green Hills, I’ve had plenty of people buy because they know it’s zoned for Julia Green or they know it’s zoned for Walnut Grove.

“They don’t have any plans of having children, but that’s such an anchor, a thing that just drives people to come there.”

Because, of course, being zoned for one of the most desirable schools whether in Davidson or Williamson will only help resale value down the road, whenever they do decide to sell.

“There’s a decent chance that they’re going to be selling to someone that does have children that’s looking specifically for that school,” he says. “It is enormously important.”

Post says that in the past couple of years he has seen more and more potential buyers looking for homes in Williamson County from out-of-state, a shift in his referral-based work that had been focused for years on locals moving within the area.

“Instead of being someone coming from East Nashville to Green Hills, it’s someone coming to Green Hills by way of Chicago or Los Angeles,” he explains. “Usually someone has given them the lay of the land before I get the phone call, a friend that lives here or the company they’ve interviewed with.”

And as Nashville continues to be an “It” city, the influx of people have done their homework armed with all the right stats from Zillow or Greatschools.org, but clients are always asking Post for his personal opinion.

He and his wife are both products of public schools themselves, so when they know just how good the Grassland schools are, it is hard to personally wrap their heads around paying for private school.

“It’s important for me to give them information but allow them to make the decision,” he adds. “I have my own biases in terms of what I like and what I don’t like just like anybody else, and people are soliciting my opinion all the time.

“Without this sounding like an upsell, I work the numbers out for people who don’t realize how good some or a lot of the schools are here, specifically in Williamson County.”

If you spend $12,000 a year for a private school, Post says, and your child is in school for 12 years, that is nearly $150,000.

“I’m not trying to get you to spend more money on a house, but when your kid has graduated from high school, you’ve got a diploma from a private school and that’s it,” he points out.

“You’ve paid a lot of tuition, and that money’s just gone. Or, take the $1,000 a month and sink that into a mortgage.

“When you’re done, you’ll not only have a terrific public school education, you’ll have a home that’s appreciated that you’ve paid down the principle with money you otherwise would have been spending on tuition.”

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