Unapologetic insolence from an aging subversive

Unapologetic insolence from an aging subversive

Saturday, 16 February 2008

A Parasitic Industry

During the last month, I’ve been helping two of my offspring find accommodation in Brisbane so that they can study there. This has brought me into contact with the Real Estate industry.

It’s not the first time, of course. At last count, my wife and I have lived in nine different homes since we were married. Of these, four were rented, and five purchased. This is a product of a series of appointments in schools and regional offices all over Queensland.

The one common thread through these two groups of experiences has been the absolutely hopeless level of service offered by the real estate agents encountered.

In the case of my recent experience, one of my kids is officially squatting in the students’ digs he has applied for simply because the agent concerned hasn’t gotten around to getting the assorted documents together for the property owner to sign. This agent has been sitting on them for three weeks. Independently, my son and I have been nagging over the phone. The interesting thing about this is that the excuses given to him vary a great deal from those given to me.

Also interesting is that when I asked to speak to the manager to make a complaint, I was told that they did not allow clients to do so, and the receptionist then hung up in my ear.

The upside is that he’s staying rent-free in the short term, as is one of the other students in the house who is in the same predicament. I wonder how the owner would feel if he knew?

In the case of my daughter, much the same occurred, but she’s now signed up after a delay of two weeks. What we have discovered with this (different) agent is that absolutely nothing she says can be believed. “Today” means any time during the next week, “Your room can be locked”, means that there are keys somewhere, but no-one has any idea where, and “there are only girls on that level” means that all the other boarders with the exception of one are male. The straw that broke the camels back was when I asked her for directions to her office so my daughter could sign the lease, I was told - “Sorry, I’m new to Brisbane, and have no idea”.

This from a person who earns a living selling and renting a property in the river city!

My memory of earlier experiences is no better. Buying and selling is like dealing with Piranhas, and renting is a minefield.

In Townsville back in the eighties, we rented a home to live in prior to buying. When it came time to leave, my wife and I farmed off our two infant kids to relatives, and spent two full days cleaning the house before the agent’s inspection. By the time we’d finished, it gleamed, and was a damn sight cleaner than when we moved in.

Imagine my surprise when a cleaning fee was deducted from our bond. I personally fronted the agent asking for an explanation. I was told by the receptionist that there was dust on the upper side of one of the ceiling fans in one of the bedrooms.

Being unconvinced by this, I insisted in seeing the manager. I was then confronted by two large and swarthy individuals who told me in no uncertain terms that I had better leave if I wanted all my limbs to remain intact.

At that time, with wife and children in tow, it wasn’t advisable to make an issue of it. When I made a formal complaint to the REIQ, I was told that this was common practice on the part of this agent, and there was nothing they could do, despite the REIQ accreditation.

As far as I know this agent is still renting property in Townsville.

My brother has made a great deal of money buying and selling property, but won’t use agents, referring to them as “snakes”. He’s not far off the mark.

In the end, it’s a parasitic unnecessary industry.

When I lived in Mount Isa, my family was in public service accommodation. There were literally hundreds of teachers and their families in this situation, and the whole shooting match was managed part-time by an administrative assistant who had many other tasks. Any grievances went to the accommodation committee. In my five years there, there were never more than one or two grievances heard by the committee. It puts the lie to the assertion that private industry manages more efficiently.

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