Money

Why the Sydney property market is still a cesspool of lies and dodgy dealings

More regulation please.

By Amber Manto
For two solid years I have been searching for an apartment in Sydney, and it’s been more heartbreaking than a Bachelor finale.
Countless open inspections, a slew of chats with slimy middle-age men in suits with ridiculously shiny shoes, money frittered away to lawyers on properties I never ended up winning at auction or was gazumped on in the final hour – this is the Sydney Real Estate Games. It’s brutal, there are no rules and you can trust no-one.
I’ve almost bought five properties in the last 730 days. That’s right, FIVE. Five times I fell in love and five times I was rejected.
I was told they weren’t “ready for a relationship” when in fact they just didn’t want a relationship with me because something better had come along.
The first two I painfully lost at auction.
Price guide $600K quoted the first. Final selling price? $777K. Yeah right, just slightly unquoted.
And this was for a property with no car space or window in the bedroom. Still, I wanted that windowless bedroom to be mine, damn it. Meanwhile, $1700-odd wasted on lawyer fees, building and strata inspections. Ouch, burn, sting.
That’s action rules though. You win the property, it’s legally yours, problems and all. There is no cooling off period so you have to make sure all your checks are in place, and contract sorted.
And unfortunately in Sydney, it would seem 99.9 per cent of properties go to auction where emotions can come into play. The only way something doesn’t go to auction is if you offer a price so ridiculous, the vendor would be a fool to knock it back. I’ve even had real estate agents say that to me on the sly: “You know, you’d have to go well above asking price to make them consider not going to auction.” Um, so what you’re saying is you want me to pay more than a property’s market value to get the deal done? Nah, I'm cool mate.
The second auction disappointment was for a place looking at offers over $690k. It sold for $790K. I guess that constitutes as an offer over that amount but still, that wasn't even in my financial ballpark. This one also had no car space, this time no air-conditioning. Still, it was cute. But an extra $100K for cute when we all know that’s just real estate speak for “small”? Another $1500k wasted on inspections and lawyers.
All up I was over $3000k down in one year.
^ Lawyers love me.
Ironically this is money which could have gone on helping me actually win a property. I felt deflated, defeated, downtrodden – anymore synonyms I can chuck in there?
It wasn’t meant to be I told myself while crying into my pillow at night after I'd just checked my abused bank account. Something better will come along.

LET THE GAMES BEGIN

Just as the Sydney property market went from a boil to a simmer, the Government finally decided to do something to make it fairer on buyers. When the legislation was shaken up in January of 2016 and under-quoting rules tightened, I thought for sure last year would be my year to buy.
No longer could agents vaguely list properties as “offers over XX”, “offers above XX” or “$800,000+” it had to be a price within 10 per cent of what they realistically thought it would go for.
By this time I had decided to change my tactic: NO MORE AUCTIONS. I couldn’t afford to pay for contract amendments and building inspections I’d never use, and with a crack down on foreign investment and the interest rates for Aussie investors raised around the same time, it seemed the odds were slightly more in my favour.
Well, I was wrong. Agents just found sneakier ways to work the system and ruin the lives of countless property-hunting Sydney-siders for nothing but their own enjoyment and ballooning bank accounts.
The third property asked for “offers between $700-$770K” which was the new, legal way to do it. I came in strong with an offer of $775k. In other words, $5k over its market value. The agent said no, that they were hoping to get even more and as such would go to auction where emotions would come into play.
^ Will you accept this offer?
I won’t even bore you with the details of the fourth property but the fifth saw my offer accepted, the paperwork filed and paid for only for me to be gazumped (in other words, someone came along and offered something higher even though my offer had been verbally accepted and agreed to by the seller). Although unethical and soul destroying, this is 100 per cent legal in NSW.
The sixth property is the freshest wound in this long and tireless battle. Again, after having my offer verbally accepted, a phone call mix-up by the real estate agent revealed there was another purchaser involved in the sale.
Not again. This time I shined my armour and went to war - sneakily bypassing the agent and emailing the seller's lawyer because I would not be jerked around for the sixth time (plus, my lease was almost up so I was in desperation mode). Considering both offers were within a couple grand of each other this time around, a challenge was thrown down – whoever can make it to the lawyer's office with a signed contract, cooling-off period waiver and 10 per cent deposit would take out the title of New Homeowner.
Is this even legal? Well it’s certainly not illegal. Until contracts are exchanged, the property is still technically on the market. The Amazing Property Race was on and, with the hope things would work out better than Bachelor Blake Garvey’s love-life...
...I journeyed across town on a steaming 40-degree Saturday out to the only bank open on a weekend, then out to the lawyers - winning the property in a sweaty, stressed mess. Tears of frustration and joy streaming down my face.
Sure I ruined someone else's dream in the process but hey, if the NSW Government wants us to wrestle with the real estate pigs and get dirty then that's just what we'll have to do.