Homeowners living in zones for top state schools are discovering their houses are worth up to $100,000 more than similar properties that fall just outside the boundary.
It means parents wanting their sons in Auckland's top state school legitimately are having to fork out an extra $50,000-$300,000 to buy in the coveted Auckland Grammar zone.
The demand for the school - which recently cracked down on so-called zone cheats - means similar houses across the road from each other can vary hugely in price if one side of the street is zoned for Grammar and the other isn't.
"In some cases, you can add $100,000 to the price of a house from one side of the road to the other," says Barfoot & Thompson agent John Elgar, who sells homes in Mt Eden.
"They might be very similar houses, same number of bedrooms, same land area and in similar condition, but being in zone will make a big difference."
People looking to buy on the other side of the Grammar zone, in Remuera, will have to dig even deeper to find the extra cash.
"If you've got two fairly comparable properties where the only difference is being in zone, you could be looking at as much as $300,000 more for thehouse [that is]," said John Lantz of Bayleys Remuera office.
Houses that sell for about $900,000 in out-of-zone Remuera streets would go for about $1.2m if they were in the zone.
And even if you had that sort of money to spend you might not find anywhere suitable, said Lantz.
"There've been people looking in zone for a three or four-bedroom villa on a full site who are prepared to pay $1.1 or $1.2m and there isn't anything."
Bayleys' Gary Wallace recalled selling a large, beautifully renovated Remuera home on a big section for $1.7m last year.
"It was a good price for the house, but if it had been 300m down the road it would have been in Grammar zone and that same house could probably have sold for 20 per cent more."
In Mt Eden and Epsom, $800,000-$1 million was probably enough for a three-bedroom villa or bungalow on a full site, said Elgar, but purchasers have to be prepared to pay much more if the house is in a popular street or has been renovated to a high standard.
"A very nice house just went in Woodside Rd, Mt Eden - which is a very good street - for $1.228m, which was probably around $100,000 more than the vendors were expecting."
Being in the Epsom Girls Grammar zone can also add to the value of the house, said Elgar.
There are still bargains to be had - Elgar cited two tidy three-bedroom bungalows right on the Grammar boundary in Mt Eden that were slow to sell and eventually went for figures in the $700,000s. But generally, even do-ups and units in zone will cost more.
"People who can't afford to buy houses will buy smaller units so at least they're in zone.
"We've had brick-and-tile units selling for $200,000 for a one-bedroom place and $300,000 for two bedrooms."
Property market analyst Kieran Trass of The Hybrid Group said demand for certain school zones was pushing up house prices in other parts of Auckland.
"Look at Mt Roskill Grammar. In the last few years, that school has become highly sought-after and it has added value to properties in the zone.
"We're talking maybe around $20,000, which is not in the same league as Auckland Grammar, but it is definitely making a difference."
Primary school zones can also have an effect on property prices, but to a lesser extent, said Ian Gray, manager of Barfoot & Thompson's Mt Eden office.
"People will pay more to get their children into very good primary schools, like Maungawhau."
While some parents are planning well ahead - "I've just had inquiries from one couple who want to move into the zone and their kids are 1 and 2 years old" - others are deciding it's not worth getting into huge debt just to send their sons to Grammar.
So near, yet so far
Louise richardson and Gabrielle Charman live about 500m from each other on the same side of a Mt Eden road.
Richardson's house is a three-bedroom 1920s bungalow on a full, flat section. It's decorated and updated inside, and has landscaped sub-tropical gardens.
Charman's home is a four-bedroom 1950s split-level house with three living areas on a large sloping bush-clad piece of land. Both are north-facing, but Charman's is worth about $85,000 more, mostly because it is in the Auckland Grammar zone.
The house Richardson shares with husband David Cowie and children William, 8, and Issey, 5, is 250m past the zone boundary.
Valued at an estimated $750,000, if it was 10 houses further up it would probably be worth another $50,000-$100,000, and William would be able to go to Grammar.
A comparable house a few streets over could cost anywhere up to $1 million.
Daughter Issey will be able to go to Epsom Girls Grammar School if they stay put, because they're just inside that zone, but the couple is deciding whether to move to a home in both zones.
Charman's home, in both zones, has her house on the market for $835,000 - about seven times the figure she and her ex-husband paid 20 years ago. "[Zones are] a big attraction for a lot of people."By Donna Fleming