KNOXVILLE - Location, location, location: the magic phrase in the real estate business.
Tied up in "location" are crimes rates and school testing scores and graduation rates.
Suzy Trotta, broker and owner at Knoxville's Trotta Montgomery Real Estate, says potential homebuyers frequently ask: Is this neighborhood safe? And where are the good schools?
They're questions Trotta isn't allowed to answer. The Fair Housing Act of 1968 prohibits realtors from answering those questions, in order to combat housing discrimination.
Still, numbers show a correlation between home values, crime numbers and schools.
In a 10News investigation, WBIR crunched more than five years' worth of statistics from Knoxville Police and the Knox County Sheriff's Office, looking at reported crimes within a half-mile of each Knox County public school, from 2012 through Feb. 2017.
Farragut High School is one of Knox County's most highly regarded high schools, with the district's top graduation rate in 2016: 97.9 percent.
It also saw fewer than 17 nearby reported crimes per year, on average, over the past five years, this 10News investigation revealed.
Not surprisingly, then, home prices around the school are high compared to other parts of Knox County.
A 2,400 sq. ft. home, built in 1961, sold for $226,000 last August.
Compare that to a 2,313 sq. ft. home, built in 1915, near Austin-East Magnet High School. It sold for $60,000 earlier this year.
On average, Austin-East saw nearly 200 nearby reported crimes per year over the past five years (1,022 reports 2012 through Feb. 2017), which is more than 12 times Farragut High's numbers (83 in that same time frame).
Some of that disparity is due to sheer population density. More people live within a half-mile of Austin-East than do near Farragut High.
Perceptions, however, do undeniably shape people's buying decisions.
"Around certain schools in Knox County, the prices are a lot higher, and it's a lot harder to get into certain school zones," Trotta said.
Our home value numbers come from Trotta Montgomery Real Estate.
Among Knox County's high schools, Fulton has the third-highest number of nearby reported crimes in the last five years, at 981. It's 2016 graduation rate was 83.1 percent.
Recently sold homes there have ranged from $24,000 to $184,000.
Bearden High School, with the district's sixth highest graduation rate last year at 94.3 percent, saw homes ranging from $63,000 to $325,000.
Trotta points to Hardin Valley Academy in Northwest Knox County as another example.
"When Hardin Valley Academy was built, there was very little home inventory because it was built kind of out in the country, so the existing homes weren't necessarily expensive," she said, "but the new construction that came in in Hardin Valley, almost all of it has been built over the $300,000 mark."
The academy's 2016 graduation rate was 91.8 percent, and the area saw 29 reported crimes over the course of five years.
Trotta said crime statistics alone can be misleading, if that's all a potential homebuyer explores about a particular neighborhood.
"The number one thing I tell people when they ask about schools is to check online, talk to the neighbors and call the schools," Trotta said. "Make an appointment with the principal, make an appointment to go visit the school. I think that's really important."
"One of the pieces of advice I give to my buyers is: drive around a neighborhood on a Saturday night, because you'll get a really good feel about what that neighborhood is like on a Saturday night, because if anything's going to go on, that's when it's going to go on."
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Knoxville police chief David Rausch said good schools and safe neighborhoods can be found all over the city.
"I think if you're looking at moving into an area, the first thing you should do is go to that area during different hours of the day to see what's going on," he told 10News. "Everybody chooses differently. Some people don't want to be in an urban area. They choose to be out in a suburban area because they want, you know, wide open spaces and they want more property...It's just an individual choice."
Knox County Commissioner Evelyn Gill has chosen to live in the inner city, where she represents District 1. Many schools with high numbers of nearby crime are located here.
"We really work with the city police to make sure and advocate on behalf of East Knoxville, saying, 'It is really a really good place to live,'" Gill said. "We have historic properties, we're accessible to downtown, we have wide sidewalks."
People move into neighborhoods for all kinds of reasons, Gill said.
"They want a combination of what defines a neighborhood: good schools; safe streets; political, social, economic engagement," she said. "Whether I want to walk and meet my neighbors, whether we can stop and have a cup of coffee. It's a combination of all of those factors that build strong neighborhoods."
While crime and graduation rates aren't the only factors in buying a home, for many families-- they top the list.
Despite surrounding crimes, 10News has pointed out in each story, school buildings themselves are safe, county and law enforcement leaders agree.
"I don't really think we have a bad school in terms of where you send your child to get an education because I think when you look at our record, we do a pretty good job of educating students and preparing them either to go to college or for career," Knox County Schools superintendent Bob Thomas said. "Can we do better? Absolutely. And are we going to do better? Absolutely."
Knox County Schools Security Chief Gus Paidousis added the inner city schools are deeply woven into the fabric of their communities.
"Some of our inner city schools are some of the best schools we have because they're part of the community," he said. "They bring a lot of energy and a lot of pride to some of our inner city neighborhoods."
Crimes Near Schools Map
Click on a Map Marker to see the number and types of crimes near that school
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