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Estate agent dreaming. Renting in Canberra

By luisa_batalha - 18 September 2011 31

How come Australians accept and comply with the renting situation in the country, poor quality housing to shocking prices, careless landlords and dishonest real estate agents?

I’m moving houses and this is an excerpt from the estate agent’s description of the property in order to attract a new tenant:

 “Character and charm!

A bright, leafy and private one bedroom semi detached heritage house in the heart of the city. Character and charm exude from this ideally located gem.

Great living space with renovated kitchen and updated bathroom/laundry, the spacious bedroom overlooks the shared rear garden”.

Having lived here for two years, here is my review of it: To begin with, to call this pimple on the side of the house a house in its own right is an incredible stretch of the truth. Not only in words, as the agent shows only three photos in the ad, all of them showing the main house with not even a glimpse of the actual place advertised.

Is all of this false advertising? Perhaps not, maybe its just opinion and opinions can differ from one person to another.

But it is misleading at the very least. I wonder what the Trade Practices Commission would have to say if Woolies advertised their bread rolls trying as hard as they could to get you in the store by pretending it was a full loaf of bread on offer.

Character and charm? The author of the ad may genuinely find this place charming. We’ve always said to ourselves there seems to be great character, if not charm in walking barefoot in the bedroom and feeling the holes in the floor under the carpet.

It also takes great character to steel oneself to either the cold or heating bills in the winter as the heat slips out unhindered through gaps in the windows and thin walls without insulation.

It’s also charming in a Spanish village boarding room kind of way to have the two of us trying to shower in the mornings with a hot water service that contains all of 50 liters!

As for the renovated kitchen it came as a surprise as I’ve never noticed it as being renovated. I guess though that it may have been somewhere back in the mists of time.

But the updated bathroom takes the cake.

Updated?

True, the tiles in the shower were recently replaced. But the whole truth is that is the one part of it that has been updated. The tiles were constantly falling off the walls of the shower because the plants outside had grown through the walls and were pushing them off. They were replaced. But the rest of it? A patchwork would describe it well as things have been chopped and changed over the years! Result: three different kinds of tiling and patches of concrete, some painted, some not: in other words, a patchwork. Charming? A wall seems to have been removed between the bathroom and laundry. I could go on, but enough said perhaps.

A “GEM”? Although not all rental properties are in bad condition, the misleading advertising I believe is quite representative of how real estate agents operate. Sure, people will quite easily see for themselves what a place is really like once they arrive for the inspection, but how are real estate agents any different from other businesses?

Why are they able to get away with such blatantly misleading advertising that other industries would be censured for?

As they are allowed to get away with this sort of blatant bending of the truth they clearly believe that truth and integrity are discretionary in their industry. Where does that leave vulnerable renters and purchasers?

Why does the government let them get away with it? Why do we let them get away with it? As a tenant it’s easy to feel as if one is a second class citizen. Don’t I deserve respect and honesty just because I don’t own my own house. The rule of market forces in housing in Australia means that home owners take as much as possible and give as little as possible. Does it need to be that way?

Here’s a suggestion for how tenants might become empowered. Why can’t we create a website where we could give property descriptions from a user’s perspective.

Perhaps something like the hotel reviews that go with online hotel booking sites. When you move out from a house, you would go into the site and write a review.

That would give tenants a better view of what a place is really like and perhaps places that don’t offer the value that their rental price and estate agent spruiking suggests might end up being offered for what they are really worth.

What happens now? Without any solidarity amongst tenants, people move out and people move in, with only the assurances from real estate agents and a quick, competitive glance through the property for the 15 minutes that the real estate agents routinely offer you at openings to make a judgment on the suitability of the property.

We are growing in number thanks to the wonders of unfettered market forces. At the moment there is very little by way of support for us. The laws are stacked in favour of the real estate agents and property owners. The laws as they apply to truth in advertising don’t appear to apply to real estate agents. Tenants are second class citizens without clout. We need to get some clout.

[ED the only problem with the plan is that property owners have more and better lawyers than renters on average.]

What’s Your opinion?


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31 Responses to
Estate agent dreaming. Renting in Canberra
RentWiki 8:08 pm 19 Sep 11

Arescarti42, sorry to hear about your plight but frankly, join the club, then go to http://www.RentWiki.com.au
RentWiki reveals what others have to say about the properties on your inspection list!

There seems to be a huge disconnect in Australian property. It’s blatantly obvious that one man’s investment property is another man’s home, so why isn’t there transparency in our market to help all parties make informed decisions that meet their needs? Well we don’t know either but through http://www.RentWiki.com.au we’re trying to do something about it.

RentWiki is for:

* TENANTS who want to know what they’re really signing up for
* LANDLORDS who want reliable tenants and reliable managing agents
* managing AGENTS whose hands are sometimes tied
* INVESTORS who want the inside story on rental properties they’re considering

We’re new (about 12 days old as of this post) and we’re only as good a resource as the people who post their constructive reviews, tenants, landlords and agents alike. So when you visit, please contribute. Together we can create transparency and fair value in Australia’s rental market.

Happy house hunting!

powerpuffpete 1:09 pm 19 Sep 11

Unfortunately given the demand at the moment I have heard a lot of cases where tenants are treated poorly or with disregard.
My ex had major problems renting through Independent. The owners were selling and there were frequent open house inspections. That was disruptive but not necessarily a breach of any agreement. However, the lack of notification multiple times was. It wasn’t fun coming back to see strangers in the apartment, knowing full well I’d had a lazy morning and left some undies on the bathroom floor.

http://www.tenantsact.org.au/

GBT 12:43 pm 19 Sep 11

And Landlord Insurance, if you choose to get it.

Watson 12:18 pm 19 Sep 11

Darkfalz said :

I never liked people who took a perfectly lovely block and put a little granny flat out the back for raising revenue (rather than for an actual granny to live in).

I lived in granny flats for years and I was so incredibly grateful for their existence as for me it was so much better than having to share a house. Even if the insulation was crap and they had a combined laundry and bathroom, and they were guaranteed to get flooded during extreme hail storms, I would have chosen that any time over a room in a renovated house. So I would argue that there is a market for places like that. But I do agree that it would be better if they wouldn’t charge for them as if the description in the ad was true!

I don’t agree that you have to raise the rent to cover tenants not looking after the place. There are already provisions for that and it is called ‘bond’.

OpenYourMind 11:58 am 19 Sep 11

Erg0 said :

Funnily enough, when I read the agent-speak at the beginning of the post, I imagined exactly the property that was later described. “Character” is a huge danger word in real estate advertisement.

Not just character, but character and charm. Just add ‘personality’ for the hat trick!

Erg0 10:54 am 19 Sep 11

Funnily enough, when I read the agent-speak at the beginning of the post, I imagined exactly the property that was later described. “Character” is a huge danger word in real estate advertisement.

OpenYourMind 8:37 am 19 Sep 11

Your comment that the laws are stacked in favour of agents and property owners is simply not true.
Property owners are at the mercy of their tenants in all sorts of ways. Getting a bad tenant out is extremely difficult and any damage done will usually be way more than the bond. Often the interest alone on a property mortgage is more than the total rent paid. The only way many landlords are likely to ever make any money is through negative gearing combined with long term capital growth.

I’ve rented for years, owned houses and rented out houses. They all have positives and negative aspects!

milkman 6:49 am 19 Sep 11

Pandy said :

Can I have a website on which I can highlight needy, whinging tenants?

I’ve had a couple I’d put on such a list…

Pandy 6:03 am 19 Sep 11

Can I have a website on which I can highlight needy, whinging tenants?

milkman 2:33 am 19 Sep 11

ummmm_no said :

“How come Australians accept and comply with the renting situation in the country, poor quality housing to shocking prices, careless landlords and dishonest real estate agents?”

You lived there for two years…

Exactly.

The only way to really deal with the situation is to buy or build a house you like. Yes, this will be expensive, because there aren’t enough properties in the desirable places to live.

If you have a genuine issue with the advertising, the Office of Regulatory Services can investigate for you. Perhaps contact them and let us know how you go.

ummmm_no 11:30 pm 18 Sep 11

“How come Australians accept and comply with the renting situation in the country, poor quality housing to shocking prices, careless landlords and dishonest real estate agents?”

You lived there for two years…

Deref 5:28 pm 18 Sep 11

“Why are they able to get away with such blatantly misleading advertising that other industries would be censured for?”
Simple – the real estate industry owns the government. It’s one of – if not the – largest sources of funding that the government has. Protecting the government’s income is much more important than protecting the people who they represent.

“Here’s a suggestion for how tenants might become empowered. Why can’t we create a website where we could give property descriptions from a user’s perspective. “
Excellent idea. I suspect, though, that the industry would find some way of prosecuting, or at least threatening, posters.

There’s a reason why real estate agents consistently come way down the bottom of those “who do you trust” lists.

Hazza 3:59 pm 18 Sep 11

arescarti42 said :

I do like your idea for a renting review type website. It’d probably be useful for identifying bad/good property managers/landlords/RE agents as well.

Check this one out http://www.rentwiki.com.au/

Darkfalz 2:31 pm 18 Sep 11

I agree that rents in Canberra are a joke. I don’t know what the figures are, but they’ve definitely increased much faster than CPI in the last 10 years. I agree that I’ve seen places which are dumps are advertised as being “comfy” or “cute” or their location will be emphasised, but what do you expect agents to do? Advertise a unit as a run down dump? Granted, they ask way too much for these places. One thing to keep in mind that the land tax and rates on a place aren’t going to be any less for a run down shack of a house than a nice place on a similarly sized block in the same area. If I ever bought an investment property, I’d be hesitant to buy a dump because I’d feel guilty about renting it out. I dunno what the solution is, landlords can’t afford to knock down and rebuild every older/run down home in Canberra. I never liked people who took a perfectly lovely block and put a little granny flat out the back for raising revenue (rather than for an actual granny to live in). On the landlord side of things though, from their perspective, most tenants don’t adequately look after properties they live in, and some are downright destructive. Evicting anyone is a major, major pain in the arse if they don’t want to go voluntarily. We inspected a house for buying which was currently tenanted, looked like a share house situation of young males, and it was clear they were not looking after the place and had caused all sorts of deterioration, staining to the carpet since they’d been in. Part of that extra cost is to cover what tenants might do, or legal fees for tenants who won’t go, unfortunate part is that good tenants aren’t going to get a discount in advance.

arescarti42 2:14 pm 18 Sep 11

That is a very long post.

“How come Australians accept and comply with the renting situation in the country, poor quality housing to shocking prices, careless landlords and dishonest real estate agents?”

Because statistically only 23.7% of Australian households rent privately, where as 68.8% of households “own” their homes. It is unsurprising that political interests pander to the home owning majority. Additionally I suspect that a majority of renters see renting as only a temporary arrangement, aspiring to home ownership, and subsequently don’t feel the need to try and change things.

In your specific example, the photos do sound misleading, but really all the other points are matters of opinion and would be spotted easily enough by potential tenants inspecting the property.

I do like your idea for a renting review type website. It’d probably be useful for identifying bad/good property managers/landlords/RE agents as well.

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