By: Ben Leahy
Families have been making last minute dashes to move into suburbs with good schools ahead of this week’s return to the classroom.
The demand has added to struggles to find rentals with an Auckland property manager saying families have been willing to pay premiums for tenancies in the most sought-after school zones.
The Herald is also aware of one recent case where a family reportedly bought a Remuera home as a ruse to enrol in the local primary, but now largely leave it vacant to live in a house elsewhere.
Students must live in a public school’s catchment zone to gain entry, with just a few places usually reserved for out-of-zone students, who can only enter through a ballot.
Auckland Grammar School – as one of the nation’s most sought after secondary schools – employs two full-time staff to check students are living where they claim, and, in serious cases, also hires private investigators to crack down on parents trying to cheat the system.
Principal Tim O’Connor said the school while there hadn’t been more suspicious enrolments this year, there had been a surge in last minute January enrolments.
“That is clearly from people who did not get a place on the [out-of-zone] ballot and have [consequently] moved into our zone to access education,” he said.
Ray White Remuera owner Megan Jaffe says rental demand was hot in suburbs close to popular schools.
She acknowledged reports of recent Remuera rental viewings attracting 30 or more prospective tenants.
“If we have a rental property available in Remuera, double grammar zone, in that $500-$700 band, we do see a lot of people wanting those,” she said.
Demand to buy and rent homes near schools like Auckland Grammar helped make Remuera – with its median home value of $2.05m – “recession proof”, she said.
Wendell Property Management co-owner Ashley Giles said there had been huge demand for a pair of Epsom, two-bedroom apartments currently listed by his firm.
“We put up a viewing and 20 minutes later the viewing is full with 30 people and you are having to turn people away because you could rent it 10 times over,” he said.
Mount Albert was another hot-spot because of its popular primary schools with people willing to pay premiums to be near schools of their choice.
“Economically, it is hard out there for a lot of people so being in a good school zone rather than paying for private school is probably more advantageous than it was in the past,” he said.
OneRoof editor Owen Vaughan said schools clearly had an impact on house demand and prices as evidenced by the strength of Grammar Zone property values.
One renter, aged 25 who did not want to be named, said the demand for school zone rentals had made it harder for her.
She has spent four months unsuccessfully looking for a new rental with her partner, despite both earning good salaries.
She was recently offered a one-bedroom “shoebox” apartment in Remuera for $430 a week, only to have the owner text back a short time later to say she had instead given it to a family of four, she said.
The family had been willing to pay higher rent because they were desperate to get their primary-aged child into Cornwall Park District School.
The owner also told the renter she bought the Remuera property so her children could go to a “good” school as well, but left it vacant most of the time because preferred to live elsewhere.
The Herald couldn’t reach the owner for comment.
Cornwall Park District Primary School principal Janine Irvine said her team did “everything by the book” to ensure parents had a fair chance to attend her school, including asking for proof of address.
Auckland Grammar’s O’Connor said he expected some parents to continue to prize his school’s education style.
“And they are the people who will do whatever they can to access it because it is a unique philosophy and has a unique character,” he said.
Source: NZ Herald