Waiting lists at Hamilton's most popular high schools are so long that some parents are moving to less-desirable homes just to secure their kids a sought-after spot.
Real estate agents have been under pressure to find family homes within the Hamilton Boys' High, Hamilton Girls' High and Hillcrest High zones for families whose children missed out on out-of-zone places.
More than 130 families have enrolled late at those schools and a large number are likely to have moved into the areas solely for the education.
And hundreds of Year 9 students who live out of zone are still waiting for places.
Hillcrest principal Kelvin Whiting said the school was unable to offer places to any students who were out of zone and had no links to the school.
Hamilton Boys' principal Susan Hassall said demand for places kept growing every year despite there only being 400 spaces for Year 9 students.
Half the spots were automatically taken by people living in zone.
She said it was quite common that people whose children didn't get in moved houses. She estimated that the 60 late enrolments were likely to have been from people relocating.
Ms Hassall said families who move into the zones had to produce two forms of proof, such as a tenancy agreement, sale-and-purchase contract or utility bills. Hamilton Boys' could waive an enrolment if the student was found living outside the zone.
Lodge Real Estate director Jeremy O'Rourke said his agency started getting calls for houses in the Hillcrest High and Hamilton Boys' zones soon after school acceptance letters were posted out last September.
The suburbs that largely fell within the zones were Hillcrest, Claudelands, Hamilton East, Hamilton Lake and Hamilton CBD.
Mr O'Rourke said popular school zones made the properties more attractive and boosted the value of a family home.
Harcourts general manager Brian King said Hillcrest had always been in demand for primary, intermediate, secondary and even university education.
"We had a lot of people looking for different areas in November and December and a lot of that was school-related," he said.
Quinovic Property Management principal Gaye Hancock said there were often few suitable properties available in the Hamilton Boys' area because a lot of the homes in its small zone were townhouses or units and more suitable for a flatting situation. "You have got the whole of Rototuna where there are a higher standard of residential family homes and none are in the zone for Boys' High. They are all zoned for Fairfield College, so it's a dilemma.
"Sometimes they [families] might rent their house out and rent something not up to the standard they are used to, but zoned for the school."
Harcourts Rental manager Melanie Rouse said people often settled for poorer-quality rentals as the start of the school year got closer and the best rentals had already been taken.
"Even some of the not-so-good houses on Peachgrove Rd are going if they are in the zone. But the zoning is strange, like one side of the road will be in the zone and one zone won't be."
The principals of the sought-after state schools said entry for children living outside their area with no links to the schools was made even harder by the introduction of a new rule by the Ministry of Education this year which gave priority to students whose parents attended the school.
Students who have siblings at the school or whose parents work there are also given preference.
Melville High and Fairfield College are the only two schools in the city without zones.
Melville accepts students from as far north as Ngaruawahia and south as Te Awamutu.
Principal Clive Hamill said the Year 9 roll was up by about 12 students so far this year.
He expected it to continue to grow, because last year, 10 per cent of the students enrolled within the the first two weeks back at school.
Fairfield College did not respond to requests for its enrolment figures.
A spokesman for Fraser High School said it was too early to tell what the attendance there would be, but expected the roll to be similar to the 1600 last year.
* Hamilton East
* Hamilton Lake