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How does the Home School Distance (HSD) impact home buyers?

buy property singapore

What does Home School Distance mean for property buyers and owners?

One of the key considerations, when buying property, is the presence of nearby schools. However, many home buyers misunderstand the full impact of these amenities. For example, many may think that schools are only significant if you have children attending; but the reality is quite different.

Here’s a more comprehensive look at Home School Distance (HSD), the presence of schools, and what it all means for your property purchase:

The revised Home School Distance (HSD)

The HSD refers to the distance between your residential postal code, and that of a school.

Being within one kilometre of a given school places your child higher on the priority list, for purposes of enrolment. Enrolment priority is in the following sequence:

  1. Singapore Citizens (SCs) living within one kilometre of the school.
  2. SCs living within one to two kilometres of the school
  3. SCs living further than two kilometres from the school

(Permanent Residents come after SCs, in the same order of priority)

This is one of the reasons why a prestigious school can boost property values. When parents purchase a home, they are indirectly picking the most probable school their child will end up in.

Starting from Primary 1 Registration this year (2022), the Ministry of Education (MOE) is making a change to this system.

Previously, the HSD measured the distance from your postal code, to a point somewhere in the centre of the school’s land plot. This was not very accurate however, as it’s quite arbitrary where the exact “centre” of the school is. As such, the new HSD will now measure the distance from the school’s boundary line, to your residential address.

The end result is that, on average, more homes will fall within one kilometre of a school. There are only three schools that, under the new HSD, will have fewer homes within one kilometre:

  • Maris Stella High School
  • Marymount Convent School
  • Cedar Primary School

This is due to changes in the overall layout of the schools over the years, which have shifted the boundary lines (another sign of how the old system was quite inaccurate).

To see whether your property now falls within one kilometre of a school, reference OneMap.sg. This is the same official reference that the schools will use.

HSD discrepancies can exist within the same development

The most notable example of this would be Leedon Green: two postal codes in this project (266075 to 266076) identify as having no schools in priority range, but the rest of Leedon Green is in range of Nanyang Primary.

This is more likely to happen in mega-developments with large land plots, as the blocks are spread further apart. For example, at Treasure at Tampines, some but not all units are within one kilometre of St. Hilda’s Primary; and at Verdale, only a part of the development falls within one kilometre of Pei Hwa Primary.

I am not sure if MOE will entertain appeals on this notion – parents could try writing in to explain they’re in the same development, and are only out by a little bit. Regardless, this is a matter of concern to property buyers: don’t assume that just because some units in a given project are in priority distance, that all the other units will be. Do check before you buy.

What is the wider impact of the HSD on home buyers?

  • Even if you have no schoolgoing children, it affects resale value
  • HSD can impact rental demand
  • For HDB flats, MOP and HSD are a significant pairing of factors
  • Urban planning takes schools zones into consideration

1. Even if you have no schoolgoing children, it affects resale value

The changes to HSD are expected to affect property prices and rental rates, on a general scale.

Even if you don’t have schoolgoing children, you need to consider that future buyers might. It’s not uncommon, in Singapore’s competitive academic culture, for parents to fork out a higher sum in order to secure homes near prestigious schools.

Consider, for example, the prices of condos near CHIJ St. Nicholas’ Girls’ School, one of the most in-demand schools in Singapore:

Average prices of homes, within one kilometre of the school, are $1,855 psf. This is around 19.6 per cent higher than the average condo price for District 20, which is just around $1,551 psf.

As such, a common strategy of owner-investors is to look for either (1) a prestigious school nearby, or (2) multiple schools within the one-kilometre priority range. Even if they don’t have children, these properties tend to appreciate better, and can be easier to sell in future.

2. HSD can impact rental demand

For those seeking rental income, a common strategy is to look for prestigious schools in prime locations (e.g., the city centre).  The price quantum is high for these areas; and it may not be viable for parents to buy there.

However, parents who are highly driven to give their children the best education might instead choose to rent. Note that parents can use a rental address for the purposes of calculating the HSD, provided the child reside there for at least 30 months prior to registration.

As such, properties near top schools tend to see higher rentability.

(Note that rentability refers to how easy it is to rent the property, it is not the same as rental yield. Gross rental yield for these properties may actually be lower, due to the higher quantum of the unit. However, you are less likely to suffer vacancies, and are likely to have tenants that commit to longer leases – if for no other reason than to meet the 30 month requirement).

3. For HDB flats, MOP and HSD are a significant pairing of factors

If you’re buying an HDB flat, remember that there’s a Minimum Occupancy Period (MOP) of five years, or 10 years if you pick a Prime Location Housing (PLH) flat.

Parents should not forget that, for the duration of the MOP, they are locked into the location: they cannot move freely to shorten the HSD to a desired school. In this sense, your choice of BTO launch location, or resale flat, is also indirectly your choice of school for your child.

This is why I suggest that, for flat buyers, you also check the HSD to the nearest schools as part of your shortlisting process. Timing is also a factor: when your child completes Secondary School after four years, for instance, you may still have one more year of MOP before you can move near their Polytechnic, University, etc.

4. Urban planning takes schools zones into consideration

For home buyers who want to settle in the long term, consider the bigger picture. If the government were to locate facilities like sports hubs, libraries, or safe places for students to hang out after school, where are these likely to be?

The answer is, of course, close to schools. Likewise, authorities in any city – not just Singapore – are careful to avoid the encroachment of shady businesses into school areas. This means a lower chance of rowdy pubs, seedy massage parlours, dark KTVs, etc. moving in.

As school zones involve hundreds of children coming in daily (e.g., lots of Primary schools within one kilometre), urban planners also have added impetus to minimise traffic, and improve public transport.

So it is, overall, sensible for home buyers to expect school zones to be more family friendly.

That being said, you don’t want to be too close to a school either!

I would suggest trying to keep within 500 to 600 metres of a school, rather than being right next to the school.

Having a school right next door can be a disamenity to some. It raises the odds of traffic congestion in the morning, for example; and if your unit is on a lower floor, you might be disturbed by the noise from the school. This even continues on weekends – I have heard complains from more than one home owner, about the uniform groups, school band, etc. shouting drill orders or playing marching music, on a Saturday morning.

Balance is the key here: try to be within priority distance of desirable or multiple schools; but not so close that they become a disadvantage to you.

If you need help finding such a location, do drop me a note on Facebook, or follow me on RonChongProperty.sg.

 

 

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Ron Chong

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