District’s Partnership with Real Estate Agents Helps Educate Potential Buyers

Illustration of a house with a sold sign out side of it

by Leslie Trahan

In suburban Houston, Clear Creek ISD is appealing to prospective families via a new partnership with an unexpected source — local real estate agents.

Like most of Texas, League City, home of CCISD, has seen tremendous growth over the past decade. According to the 2020 Census, the city’s population has increased by more than 34% since 2010. Texas, one of the fastest growing states in the country, has seen a 10-year jump in population of 15.9%, or nearly 4 million people.

Amid this growth, CCISD has developed a way to attract prospective families — leveraging the city’s real estate agents to serve as frontline ambassadors to help promote the district. This is accomplished through a six-hour training course that covers everything from special education and specialty program options to attendance boundaries.

“Every school has something unique about it, and in the program for the Realtors, they were able to showcase where you can find those programs,” said Jonathan Cottrell, a CCISD board member and local real estate agent. “If your child is into engineering, or maybe you work at NASA and you’re getting relocated here and you want your children to be given that skillset or education, you know what schools are going to have those programs.”

Having real estate agents in the area who are informed about the local school district is beneficial for both agents and parents, said Cottrell. It is also helpful for CCISD, which seeks to define itself amid growing competition from charter and private schools, as well as nearby districts.

As a top-rated school district that enjoys a partnership with the NASA Johnson Space Center, CCISD has a lot to offer potential buyers in League City. “People see that home values will go up when you’re in a good school district. You’ve got the personal side of the children — you want to live in a home within a good school district to get a top-quality education,” said Cottrell. “The personal is first, but people also see the correlation between rising home values being in better school districts.”

Educating the community

Eva deCardenas, CCISD’s assistant director of marketing, said the city's growth created a natural alignment between area real estate agents and the district, which serves more than 41,000 students and spans 103 square miles.

When the program began in April 2021, she said the goal was to ensure that real estate agents have all the information they need when talking to families, who often have specific school questions or concerns. The certification course is now being offered once a semester.

“We wanted to be their direct connection as a communications office for any questions they have or uncertainty about a program or a boundary,” said deCardenas. “We learned that there was a desire to take this to another level, so they can get to know the school district, their neighborhood school, and amenities and be more informed with their clients.”

One aspect of the six-hour class is giving real estate agents an actual tour of CCISD schools so they can see how public education has changed and progressed. “Many haven’t been in a school in many years,” said deCardenas. “They tour the CTE [Career and Technical Education] program, meet students, and actually see the real work that’s going on. There is nothing like seeing it.”

A win-win situation

Real estate agents who complete the course are given a USB drive loaded with comprehensive resources about the district, including information on the programs offered at each school. They are also listed as a certified residential specialist on the district’s site and are provided with a certificate and a digital emblem they can use on their promotional materials.

Penny Brockway, a former teacher who now works as a real estate agent in League City, worked with deCardenas to develop the training. She said the course and district certification have been a boon for real estate agents in the area.

“When I hang up a sign in the yard, it has my CCISD seal on it,” Brockway said. “That was a big deal, and Realtors really pushed to get into it. We could only take 50 at a time, so they just wait to get into this class. It’s an impressive seal and a very prestigious certificate to have.”

Given the popularity of the certification in CCISD, deCardenas would love to see the program grow. The district is working on creating a more generic curriculum for the course so that it can be provided as continuing education credit for real estate agents through the Texas Real Estate Commission.

DeCardenas said she believes expanding the course could have ripple effects for public education in the state of Texas.

“If we are all speaking this common language and have this common course, it’s an effort to not only inform our Realtor community, but also they become advocates for public education,” she said. “Many of them are very influential and well known in their communities.”

Ongoing demand

Considering the influx of new residents into Texas and the demand for housing, Cottrell is a proponent of ongoing collaboration between CCISD and the local real estate community. In League City, bidding wars and multiple offers are common as the housing inventory struggles to keep up.

“Our home values, like everywhere else across the United States, are going through the roof,” he said. “I’ve got two houses under contract right now and they’re both over a million dollars, and both of them were bidding wars. There’s so much demand and so little inventory, so there’s the economic factor of it that has also created the rise in home values.”

According to Adam Perdue, a research economist for the Texas Real Estate Research Center at Texas A&M, this trend isn’t likely to end any time soon. “The factors that have been driving the growth of Texas relative to the rest of the country are persistent, and we don’t see that changing,” said Perdue. “Texas is younger than the country as a whole and has been growing faster than the country as a whole consistently since the ‘90s.”

Though fair housing laws prevent real estate agents from steering clients toward or against a particular neighborhood, Cottrell said having the facts about the district helps empower buyers by giving them accurate information.

“We can’t tell somebody, ‘This is a good neighborhood, this is a bad neighborhood,’ or ‘This is a good school, this is a bad school,’” said Cottrell. “You can definitely put that information in front of them and say, ‘This campus has this program’ and let them decide, ‘Yes I want my child to be involved in that program, so we need to live within those boundaries.’”

This article was originally published in the May 2022 issue of Texas Lone Star magazine.