by Leslie Trahan
In suburban Houston, Clear Creek ISD is reaching out to potential families through a new partnership with an unlikely 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, saw its population jump 15.9%, or almost 4 million people, in 10 years.
Amidst this growth, CCISD has developed a way to attract prospective families – by using the city’s real estate agents to act as frontline ambassadors to promote the district. This is accomplished through a six-hour training course that covers everything from special education and specialty program options to attendance limits.
“Every school has something unique, and in the real estate agent program they were able to show where you can find these programs,” said Jonathan Cottrell, CCISD board member and local real estate agent. “If your child has an interest in engineering, or maybe you work at NASA and you get transferred here and you want your kids to get those skills or education, you know which schools will offer those programs.”
Having real estate agents in the area who are knowledgeable about the local school district is beneficial for both agents and parents, Cottrell said. It’s also helpful for CCISD, which is trying to survive amid growing competition from charter and private schools and nearby counties.
As a premier school district partnered with NASA Johnson Space Center, CCISD has much to offer prospective buyers in League City. “People see that housing values go up when you’re in a good school district. They have the personal side of the kids – they want to live in a home in a good school district to get a quality education,” Cottrell said. “The personal comes first, but people are also seeing the connection between increasing housing values in better school districts.”
education of the community
Eva deCardenas, CCISD associate marketing director, said the city’s growth has created a natural connection 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 is to ensure real estate agents have all the information they need when speaking with families, who often have specific school-related questions or concerns. The certificate course is now offered once a semester.
“We wanted to be their direct link as the communications office for any questions or uncertainties about a program or a boundary,” deCardenas said. “We learned there was a desire to take this to another level so they could get to know the school district, the neighborhood school, the facilities, and be more informed with their customers.”
One aspect of the six-hour class is to give real estate agents an actual tour of CCISD schools so they can see how public education has changed and evolved. “Many haven’t been to a school in many years,” deCardenas said. “You travel the CTE [Career and Technical Education] program, meet students and see the real work that is going on. There is nothing more beautiful than seeing it.”
A win win situation
Real estate agents who complete the course receive a USB drive containing comprehensive resources about the district, including information on the programs offered at each school. They will also be listed on the district’s website as a certified housing specialist and receive a certificate and digital emblem to 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 workout. She said the course and district certification have been a boon to real estate agents in the area.
“If I put up a sign in the yard, it will have my CCISD seal on it,” Brockway said. “It was a big deal and Realtors really pushed to get into it. We could only take 50 at a time, so they’re just waiting to get into that class. It is an impressive seal and a very prestigious certificate.”
Given the popularity of the CCISD certification, deCardenas would like to see the program grow. The district is working to develop a more general curriculum for the course so that it can be offered by the Texas Real Estate Commission as a real estate agent continuing education credit.
DeCardenas said she believes expanding the course could have an impact on public education in the state of Texas.
“When we all speak this common language and have this common course, it’s an effort to not only educate our real estate community, but to make them advocates for public education,” she said. “Many of them are very influential and well-known in their communities.”
Given the influx of new residents into Texas and the demand for housing, Cottrell is a supporter of the ongoing collaboration between CCISD and the local real estate community. Bidding wars and multiple bids are common in League City as the housing stock struggles to keep up.
“Our home values are through the roof like everywhere else in the United States,” he said. “I just signed two houses and they’re both worth over a million dollars and both were offering wars. There is so much demand and so little inventory, so there is the economic factor that also caused home values to rise.”
According to Adam Perdue, research economist for the Texas Real Estate Research Center at Texas A&M, that trend isn’t likely to end anytime soon. “The factors that have been driving Texas’ growth relative to the rest of the country are persistent, and we’re not seeing any change,” Perdue said. “Texas is younger than the country as a whole and has been consistently growing faster than the country as a whole since the 1990s.”
Though fair housing laws prevent real estate agents from directing clients toward or against a particular neighborhood, Cottrell said facts about the neighborhood help buyers by giving them accurate information.
“We can’t tell anyone, ‘This is a good neighborhood, this is a bad neighborhood,’ or ‘This is a good school, this is a bad school,'” Cottrell said. “You can definitely show them that information and say, ‘This campus has this program,’ and let them decide, ‘Yes, I want my child to be in this program, so we have to live within those boundaries.'”
This article was originally published in May 2022 edition Texas Lone Star magazine.