3 Mistakes to Avoid when Buying a Home by School

The first time that I made pancakes, they turned out like hockey pucks. And then I wished I had welcomed my Mom’s advice on how to make fluffy, golden pancakes… Listening to her would have saved me from some key mistakes!


Follow good advice to avoid non-fluffy pancakes

Buying a home is certainly a lot more important than making pancakes, and I hope that the following pointers will help you avoid 3 of the most common mistakes people make when buying a home by school:

1. Why you can’t use Zip Codes to find a home by school in Fairfax County

School boundaries are one way to divide a geography and zip codes are a completely different way to divide the same geography.

If you were looking at the building plans of a house, using a zip code to find a home by school boundary is like using a plumbing plan to find the electrical main on a house.  Sure, it might be the exact same house, but it will be very hard to find what you are looking for if you are using the wrong map!

Read more about the details of Why you can’t use Zip Codes to find a home by school in Fairfax County.

Once you are convinced that you can’t search for homes by school using a zip code, then see why it’s best to choose a high school boundary first, and then select your middle and/or elementary schools.

2. Why you should choose a high school boundary first

School boundaries are complicated business.  You would think that a high school boundary would contain the middle and elementary school boundaries within it.

Unfortunately, it doesn’t work like that at all.  School boundaries of elementary (and middle) schools rarely match the high school boundary, so it’s a rather messy business.

To make your life easier, see Why you should start by choosing a high school boundary.

If you are ready to start looking for homes by school boundary, with the right tools (i.e. not by zip code), and you want to begin by choosing a high school boundary, be careful of which online resources you use.

3. Why you need the most up-to-date boundaries to search for a home by school

Many well-known websites with homes for sale have jumped into the bandwagon of letting you search for homes by school (aside from all the other ways that you can search). Usually, one way you can search is by selecting a school from a list, and another way is by seeing school boundaries on a map.

Selecting a school from a list

Some websites let you search for home listings by selecting a school from a list.  To provide you with a resulting list of homes for sale, many of these websites rely on the data that the listing agent entered into the home listing, and not from a map.

The problem is that not all home listings have the school fields filled out, so you might be missing up to 40% of the homes for sale in the school boundary you selected.

A better way to search is to use a map and see the school boundaries drawn on it.

Other websites have boundaries drawn on a map

Having school boundaries drawn on a map is helpful, but the biggest problem with these websites is that most of their boundaries are OLD!!!

I’ve been checking, and some of them are OVER 8 YEARS OLD.

As you know, the FCPS school district tweaks the attendance areas for a few schools pretty much every year.   So school boundaries that are even 1 year old are useless for searching for a home by school.

You need the most up-to-date data!

And for the most up-to-date data,  you need to check the official FCPS boundary locator*.

But the issue is that the FCPS boundary locator only lets you find one address at a time, so it’s not a very good tool for finding homes for sale by school boundary.

This is why we try very hard to keep up with the school boundary changes so that you can have the most accurate home search experience.


If you want “fluffy pancakes”, listen to some good advice and avoid the following 3 mistakes when buying a home by school:

  • Using zip codes to search for homes by school boundary
  • Not starting your search from the high school boundary
  • Using incomplete or outdated school boundary information

Log in now to the Fairfax County Map of school boundaries to see the most up-to-date boundary maps:

Log in to the Fairfax County Map of School Boundaries

Fairfax County Map with high school boundaries
Click to access the Fairfax County Map (with UP-TO-DATE high school boundaries)


Log in to the Fairfax County Map of School Boundaries (a.k.a the Affordability Map) to see the location of each of the most UP-TO-DATE boundaries within Fairfax County and to choose your ideal boundary.

When you log in to the Fairfax County Map of School Boundaries, you will find:

  • UP-TO-DATE School boundaries
  • Photos and videos
  • Highlights of the area covered by each boundary
  • Transportation options
  • Statistics about housing
  • School rankings for schools in each boundary

See you on the other side!

* Here is the FCPS Boundary Locator

If you haven’t subscribed yet, why wait?

The No-Tears Guide to Moving to Fairfax, VA
The FREE No-Tears Guide to Moving to Fairfax, VA

Downloading The No-Tears Guide to Moving to Fairfax, VA is free, and you’ll get access to our unique home-search (by school boundary).

Plus, you get the Fairfax County Real Estate Affordability Map, AND access to detailed information about each Fairfax County School boundary.

Image by WayTru on Flickr

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