Archive | February 2008

I’ll give you this for free: tips for real estate agents

Recently I have been complaining about the lack of a decent bookshop in or indeed, anywhere near, this town. Today I am going to complain about the confounding and altogether nerve-frazzling way in which real estate agencies are run. That is, confounding and nerve-frazzling for those looking to rent a property. So, some tips from a long-term renter:

1. If you don’t want to deal with renters, don’t manage rental properties.
It’s simple really. If dealing with enquiries, updating your website, keeping your rental list current, showing properties, processing applications and returning phone calls is just too hard, then don’t advertise the service. You’re clearly not providing it.

2. Not all renters are trying to pull a swifty or want to trash your properties.
Yes, I have rented before. Yes, I have references. Yes, I know that someone else owns the house but I am looking for somewhere to LIVE. A dog doesn’t s**t in their own bed and all that.

3. If you advertise a property make sure you can provide an inspection time.
If I’m looking for a home I would like to inspect it. Sometime soon after I see the advertisement would be good. A nice idea might be to organise an inspection time with the vacating tenant when they give notice or at least soon after. You could advertise this time on the web, in the listing for the house. You know how you don’t like having to call prospective tenants back and give them a time? Or have prospective tenants continually call as you won’t take their name to call them back? Well, this little inspection-time-on-the-web technique will save all that hassle. It’s magic. (And yes, I know you are worried about security but having rented for 15 years in the wilds of inner west Sydney I noticed all the agents there seemed to advertise inspection times on the web…)

4. Renters aren’t usually available to do inspections in the middle of a weekday.
You know how you are so worried about potential renters having jobs? Well, most people with jobs actually work during the week, especially around, oh…2pm…

5. Try to be as transparent as possible about the applicant selection process.
If you are going to turn the process into a race and approve the first acceptable application received, then make this known. If you are going to collect all applications then go through an interminable approval process, then make sure we know this. I don’t really enjoy spending two hours on your form that requests the finer details of my weekly spending and collecting 100 points of identification documentation only to be told the house has been leased. Three hours after the inspection.

6. Small offices require multi-tasking.
I know the offices up here are small but that is all the more reason why you need to organise your information properly and have everyone informed. If I have a query about an inspection time for a house that is for sale, I don’t appreciate being told I should come back when the sales person is off the phone. It’s a simple request. A time. Have a list that you prepare for each round of inspections. Make sure it is freely available and all your staff know where it is. If you don’t have enough people to organise inspections, then re-think your business. Most people don’t like buying or renting houses on spec.

7. Even though I am renting now that doesn’t mean I always will.
One day I might be looking to buy a house. If I went into your agency and had to wait several minutes for your attention while you pretended to be busy I won’t be real keen to buy a house from you. Nor would I be keen to have such a person managing my property should I wish to rent it.

8. Renters are people too.
We like to be treated like people who have as much right to live in the world as those who own property. There are many reasons why a person may be renting and it might not always be because they can’t manage money and have no job and are generally unfit to grace the planet. A bit of civility please. Small towns are full of talk. Manners are noticed.

That is all.

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Fed-up academic and renegade librarian go wild with good intentions

Wanting to do more than attempt to teach undergrads how to write, Malcolm King came up with a more tangible way in which he could contribute to education:

What I lack in integrity, I make up for in guile. I asked Janet whether it was possible to access the unspent monies to restock and build a modern literature library complete with DVDs.

Janet was a cool customer. She was the type of woman I would like on deck if I was going to sail around The Horn. Steely. Full of resolve.

‘Yes, I think that could be done.’

We were a team, and the university valued teamwork.

In October 1998 I prepared one of the largest single book orders in the history of the university. I ordered $27,000 worth of books split between a large Australian owned-bookstore in the arts precinct and a few other smaller bookshops.

By May 1999 Janet and her cabal of secret literature-loving librarians had catagorised and shelved the books. They had been paid for by the unspent book budgets. The head librarian and her coterie of bun-haired passive aggressives in building 101 were none the wiser.

It’s in Eureka Street and it’s rather amusing.

Ok Mum, you can go now

Dash started school last week. He had two half-days and then yesterday did his first full day. As he’s been in daycare since time began I figured it would be a doddle. School is much shorter. He is older. Etc. Etc.

He was pretty excited about his uniform. And having his lunch made. And the fact that the mystery of words would finally be unravelled once he went to school. He got up on his first day and got himself dressed (or attempted to) just after 6. I had to tell him to undress so I could iron his shirt and so he wouldn’t spill cereal all over his new get-up.

His first two days went fine. I found them a little more frantic than I had predicted them to be. I felt strange the first day as he lined up and went off and didn’t look back. At daycare he would occasionally cling on, even when he was at the end of his time there. School obviously was a different situation. I didn’t know whether I should cry or not. It was momentous but not. Another mother told me that the feelings of strangeness were normal, even considering the years of childcare separation.

“It was you leaving him then. Now, he’s leaving you.”

And she was right. He is moving on in the world. He’s getting older and he’s going to move further and further away from me and despite the fact that I sometimes yearn for him not to touch me, such is his continual proximity, the thought of him moving on is disturbing. At the same time, it makes me incredibly proud, to see him walk away without a backwards glance. I know he feels good in himself and that is all I could ever want.

On the morning of his first full day I walked him down to the playground and waited until the bell went for class. He kept asking me:

‘Don’t you want to go Mum?”

He was trying to get rid of me. That afternoon he didn’t want to hold my hand as we crossed the carpark. He told me that the next morning I should drop him off at the gate and not get out of the car and that I should drive away immediately. I had a silent laugh at this and then realised he was serious and that I was the one who was stressing about not being there with him until the bell rang.

My mother suggested taking his cousins with me in the morning so I could drop all three off at once and then he wouldn’t be alone. So, I did this and felt a lot better about dropping a four year old off at the gates of the school.

I looked back as I drove away and I saw a little face following the car. I don’t know if he was wishing I had stayed or seeing me off the premises.

At least I do know that he likes school.