For upscale buyers with school age children, the answer is pretty simple: A whole lot.
Despite the downturn, the bidding wars to get into towns with the best school systems - as measured by test scores, teacher-student ratio, and other metrics - are raging unabated.
That's my quick take on Boston magazine's annual ranking of the area's top school systems.
A quick look at the top 15 reveals communities that also boast some of the highest home prices in the state, if not the country. And some have seen just nominal declines and even gains over the past few years, when the real estate market in general has gone haywire.
The top 15: No. 1: Dover-Sherborn; No. 2, Concord-Carlisle; No. 3, Weston; No. 4, Lincoln-Sudbury; No. 5, Lexington; No. 6, Manchester-Essex; No. 7, Wayland; No. 8 Northborough-Southborough; No. 9, Hamilton-Wenham; No. 10, Sharon; No. 11, Wellesley; No. 12, Newton; No. 13, Cohasset; No. 14, Westwood; No. 15, Acton-Boxborough.
While overall sales are down markedly, price per square foot for homes in Dover is now nearing $300, up 2.8 percent over last summer,Trulia reports. The median sale price is $1,040,000.
The median sale price in Sharon, ranked No. 10 on the Boston magazine list, is just under $400,000, after a modest, 1.7 percent decline over the past year. Not exactly a huge drop, despite the double dip in home prices we are seeing generally across the state and country.
The median price in Lexington, No. 5 on the list, is down half a percent from last year, to $699,000, though price per square foot is off 8.8 percent, according to Trulia.
I just picked those three towns at random off the list. It is clearly going to cost you if you want to buy a home in one of these top school districts.
That said, I happen to think school chasing is foolish - what happens, or doesn't, at home is likely to make a much bigger difference.
And that boils down to encouraging a love of reading, which will unlock a myriad of doors. I'll take a bookworm in a middling school system any day over some video-game addicted brat in a supposedly top school district.
The author is solely responsible for the content.