A few months ago, we took the plunge into the nightmarish Sydney property market. That meant spending a lot of time with real estate agents. Needless to say, we now own a small portion of a nice suburban home. Like, we probably own the laundry. At least part of it. Of course, the bank owns the rest and won’t let us forget it, drawing out a slightly horrifying sum from our accounts on the regular. There’s a few differences between renting and “owning”. If we break something, we have to fix it ourselves, for example. But if we want to knock out a wall, we definitely can. We tried that out. Liberating, to say the least.
Real Estate Agents
One big difference that I’ve noticed is the real estate agents. They’re a strange breed, in my experience. (Overarching disclaimer: #NotAllRealEstateAgents)
When we moved out of our rental, I thought that final battle to hold on to our rental bond would be the last thing I’d have to do with them. It turns out that even the ones that seem decent at the quarterly inspection, exchanging pleasantries while they take pictures of all your stuff, can get painful at the end. Things like emailing you 3 weeks after you’ve moved out to complain that there are now sticks in the backyard (from the trees in the backyard). Or trying to charge you $20 for a single regular light bulb. Suffice to say, we applied to the bond board and got it back that way.
Once we started going to open homes, real estate agents became our new besties. They walk you through these homes, gushing over walking pantries with the wives while ushering the men towards garages and media rooms. Some were super nice, most were alarmingly vague over the less-than-positive aspects of a property.
The Muddy Jungle
We went to one open that looked positive- new kitchen, pool etc. The pictures didn’t show the bathtub, with the rusted taps and spout that was snapped clean off, laying in the middle of the tub. It didn’t show the stained carpets, damaged walls or the bamboo-and-mud jungle that was the yard. There were textured ceilings, obvious issues with damp and the pool itself had damage, obviously disguised in the photos.The agent was all smiles, asking us what we thought. He was pretty shocked at my “NOPE!” I explained that it was a fixer-upper, needing repairs, new bathrooms, new flooring and a lot of yard work. He looked puzzled and vaguely hurt.
Did they fix motorbikes on the carpet?
Another house had formerly blue carpet that looked like it had been sprayed with bleach. That may have been done to try to get rid of the greasy dark stains. The resultant mix of patchy colour and heavy staining was interesting to say the least. I asked what had happened to the floors and the agent looked blankly from me to the floor then back to me. That’s without even considering the broken shelves, scribbled in cupboards and strangely charred BBQ area.
Speaking of charred…
A townhouse we looked at had the charred remains of an air conditioner out back. The real estate agent looked annoyed that we had discovered it then tried to sell us on the fact that the pipes etc for ducted air were there, we’d just need to drop a few grand on a new unit. The other off-putting aspect to this otherwise pleasant townhouse was the current tenants were everywhere. They were of the 6-legged variety. I don’t know if the owners or the neighbours were on the grubby side but it put me right off. Actual footage of one of the tenants:
If you’re gonna sell your house, clean it first. I’m shocked that real estate agents don’t insist on it! One place we went to had pale cream carpet and walls in the photos. The liberal photo-shopping became clear as soon as we walked in. The walls were sticky and nicotine-brown. The floor- that was something else. It looked like someone had bled liberally all over it, with heavy splotches of a dirty brown through the lounge and the study. There was mould, dust and pet hair everywhere. A thorough clean would have done wonders and maybe we could have overlooked the overgrown yard and enormous hole in the kitchen ceiling.
If we ignore it, no one else will notice it
We looked at one place that was, admittedly, pretty spectacular. It was in our price range, fairly new, decent yard, gorgeous kitchen, big rooms, perfect bathrooms, you name it. The off-putting part was the house next door. They’d enclosed their veranda in wooden palings. There was a large demon statue mounted to the front of the house. The yard was littered with mechanical parts. The fence between the properties was topped with bits of sharp wire and glass. We walked in to the open house, wide-eyed and shocked. I asked the two real estate agents “What’s the story with next door?” and they looked at me blankly. “What do you mean? The neighbours? What statue?” was the response. When I pushed, one muttered something about how he thought they might be a mechanic but he he was sure they were moving out. Did we want to make an offer? Uh. No. No, thanks.
Real Estate Agents are very different when you’re a tenant
When you rent, they’re your contact when anything goes wrong. In my experience, they give zero fucks about tenants. A memorable instance was ringing on the Sunday prior to a public holiday when raw sewerage burst through a drain and flooded the driveway.
“Our office is unattended until Tuesday. For urgent repairs, please call this number….”
“The mobile number you are calling is switched off…”
I can’t even tally up the weeks and weeks I spent with broken dishwashers because I couldn’t get anyone to return my calls or emails. Or the days without hot water, the years of leaky pipes, the windows that weren’t close-able, the cupboards held together with tape, the appliances that zapped us for weeks before they sent an unqualified landlord out to “fix” it- I could go on and on.
When we entered the buyer’s markets, we were on a first-name basis with all the real estate agents in the area. They’d ring just for a chat- still looking? Did you drive by that one on such-and-such street? What did Carl and the kids think? Didn’t see you at that open- want a private viewing? They remembered our names, our kids, the things we were looking for, which properties we’d already seen, how we had our coffee and who we voted for in the last election. Amazing.
It’s been almost 7 months…
We picked a house, agreed to a ludicrous sum of money and liaised with our new BFF real estate agent for a few weeks. First name basis, handshakes for everyone, lots of friendly chit chat. Then we moved in. Within weeks, the calls started again. Not what you might expect-Settled in? All okay? No. The real estate agent that we bought through rings me every month to ask if we are still looking. Last month, I burst into almost hysterical laughter.
“You guys ring me every month asking this! It started 2 weeks after we bought a house- through you! We have this same conversation every four weeks! You always apologise and say you’ll take me off your list and then call me again a month later! Sorry, but I can’t help laughing, bahahahaha!”
Flustered, she apologised and promised to take me off the list. Again. I’m expecting her call any day now. We also still get emails from almost all the agencies. Their unsubscribe buttons don’t seem to actually do anything. And one sent us text messages every couple of days until my husband rang in frustration. He spoke to a couple of people before finding someone to help him. The texts stopped, but he still gets the emails!