fireman W(Rental) house hunting has become a very all-consuming task. We have been looking and saving for over a year, but now things feel more immediate. Parents in W’s school are already talking about kindergarten next year and the inevitable, “so where is W going?” question comes up and it makes me want to vomit. I know it will work out. And the reason I know this is because I know me. I know I will work ceaselessly to make a move into a nice school district happen.

There has been a lot in the news about how dire the school system situation is in the city of Philadelphia. On the Great School website, a site dedicated to helping parents understand area school systems nation wide, Philadelphia schools score a 3 out of a possible 10. Where I live the schools score a 2. Most of the people in my town send their children to area parochial or private schools so there is no real motivation or urgency to create change.

I am maybe a bit picky about school systems. In fact when the real estate guy we started working with asked me for a list of places he should be scouting for properties I gave him quite a long list of towns. With W having an IEP (Individualized Education Program) already in place in pre-K I am focused on what is best for him.

This will come as a surprise to absolutely nobody: we can not afford the rental houses in the towns with the best school districts. It would be hard to afford the rental homes in towns with the next best. The third best areas are where we are honing in, and the properties in our price range are slim pickings.

Last week we found a home in one of the best school districts. It was in a neighborhood we love. It was affordable. It was on the small side, but manageable. We submitted our application and I wrote a note to the owner of the house explaining how honored we would be to make her property our home. Everything was looking good. Then we found out we were the 2nd family to submit an application.

It became a game of “what can we do to make us get ahead of the other family?” We filled out more forms, submitted more data and personal information. It was suggested that if we could provide multiple months rent now it would put us at the top of the list. We are simply not in a position to do that. We have saved to move, but not pay a season of rent.

I started wondering about the other family who was ahead of us in the application process. They must be so excited. Then they must have freaked out to hear another family put in an application. They could be another family like mine: trying to climb into a better school system or neighborhood, trying to keep turning corners. The search for our house continues.

I really hate competing. This house hunting quest is going to be tough.

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