Sunday, November 02, 2014

the property game

Hugh and I are looking for a new place to live. There is an ad running on TV at the moment that says that Melbourne doesn't have a property market; it's a property game. While I don't agree that those two are mutually exclusive, finding a home here is certainly a game.

[It appears that, after telling everyone we were moving to Sydney in November, we failed to tell a significant number of people that we are NOT, in fact, moving to Sydney at all.]

Here's how finding a new place to rent works in Melbourne: is the most widely used website, and has a pretty good app. You star the properties you want to shortlist, then there's a feature where you can view all the properties being shown on a given day, in chronological order of when they're being shown, so it's easy to plan all your viewings. Here's what that looks like:

I love the little "time to relax" drink at the bottom of the list 😄

That's part of the dumb, game-y bit: real estate agents only show a property once on a given day, and for only 10-15 minutes. They might show a property twice in one week, but usually they'll only show it once a week.

At any given viewing, between 6 and 16 people will show up. Since most people shop by neighborhood, we'll go to one viewing on Saturday morning, then continue to see the same people at subsequent viewings. This could engender some form of comraderie, except that this is a game, and we are competitors. These bastards might snatch this AMAZING property from right under your nose!

The agent doesn't do much. They open the door to let the flood of people in, then stand outside handing out applications to the interested parties. And unless you hate the place, you take an application. When you're only given 10 minutes to see a place, and there are 15 other people there, it's difficult to make a decision on the spot. I'm amassing quite a collection of applications myself.

Of those 16 people you viewed the property with, whoever gets their application in first is considered first.

But most places aren't amazing. This is the other shitty part of the property game: apparently, the landlords have all the power. There is a huge epidemic of "investment properties" in Melbourne, as in, anyone with a bit of cash buys up properties, then rents them out to young people, who can't afford to buy properties because they've all been bought up already. The plus side of this is that, as a renter, there is a wide variety of properties available to rent; apartments, houses, warehouse conversions, you name it.

The downside is that most landlords can't be bothered to put any money into their investment property, so houses that are in awful condition get rented out in awful condition. We viewed one place in a gorgeous neighborhood, very convenient to the city, which had a breakfast nook with rusty brown marks showing through the peeling, no-longer-white paint. It looked like actual shit smeared on the walls. It would have taken someone three hours to slap one or two coats of paint on that wall before showing it to potential renters, but they couldn't be bothered. And they were asking $410 per week ($1775 per month).

So that's what we're up against. We've gone house-hunting every Saturday for three weeks now. We've applied for two properties and been rejected for both (we viewed on Saturday and waited until Monday to apply, so we were probably too late.) But we aren't in a hurry because we don't have to vacate our current place at any time. So we'll be picky, and keep collecting applications.

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