Rental Smental

The Norwegian and I had our first taste of the competitive world of the Sydney Rental Scene today. The flat we are staying in is great, but they are selling, so we need to find another more permanent place to rest our heads.

Rental properties are only available for viewing for 20 minute slots between 11am and 1pm on a Saturday. All of them. This means you end up choosing to view places that are close to each other rather than the ones you actually like. If you do like a place you have to fill out an application form with TWO work references and TWO property references. They choose who they like the best. If you REALLY like a place you are advised to put down a deposit – refundable if the owner doesn’t like the look of you. We’ve heard tales of people secretly putting down larger deposits than requested to show willing, and agreeing to higher rents just to secure their ideal pad.

Earlier this week we had cleverly chosen four flats all within walking distance of where we are now in East Manly, but we woke this morning to the heavy rain that Sydney sometimes enjoys. The Norwegian calls Sin Rain. It comes in large and heavy doses and would have Noah racing to the hardware shop. As our flat was also being shown for four seconds to twenty prospective buyers at 11am and we had to clear out anyway, we piled on the gortex and sallied forth.

By chance we have ended up living in one of the pricier areas of Sydney, a little enclave of very expensive houses, but there is the odd apartment block to keep the plebs like us out of the rain. Maureen, the agent showing us flat number one, was a well groomed forty, with a smooth but surprisingly voluminous black bob and a woollen shawl draped over her shoulders. She didn’t have a coat.

‘Quite some weather hey?’We all take off our shoes. The flat was shabby, woefully out of date (seventies brown bathroom tiles anyone?) and carpeted throughout – which is a no no for us. She half heartedly extolled its virtues without quite being able to hide that the place makes her feel itchy.

‘Two balconies. With harbour glimpses.’ She opened a door onto one and the sound of a jack hammer from the building work next door drilled into the flat.

‘And for East Manly, you won’t get cheaper than $410.’

The info on my sheet said $430. The Norwegian asked about the lack of fridge and she told us about a white goods hire place on Pittwater.
‘So do you have much furniture already?’ she asked.
‘No nothing.’
‘Well there is a Salvation Army shop also on Pittwater. You can find lounges*, beds. Very reasonable.’
The Salvos! I looked down at my drenched jeans, rat-tailed hair and soaked anorak. One of my socks has a hole in it.

We said our goodbyes to Maureen and young man in a baseball cap who has just arrived and struggled through the sheet rain to the next property, getting slightly lost on the way. As we squelched up the drive we spied a figure through the rain trying various keys in the lock. It is Maureen. She is completely dry.

‘How the heck did she get here so quickly, and bone dry,’ I whispered to the Norwegian.

This flat was much more popular with at least four other couples interested, but again, no good for us, carpeted throughout and though much bigger, outdated – this time 80s avocado. They are asking $520 a week – $2253 pcm. Much too much.
We were the first in and smiled at the guy in rubber gloves who opened the door, clearly the current tenant in the last stages of cleaning up. The other couples piled in, grim faced and the strangest competative vibe developed as we poked around the flat, all in our socks. Even though I didn’t like the flat I started panicking that someone else would get it. It felt like a race.

In one of the bed rooms, the Norwegian and I were peering at the tennis courts beyond the back yard. Rubber Gloves wandered in and the Norwegian asked if his tennis had improved living here.
‘Oh, yes. Well not much.’
We all smiled and laughed. A little girl ran into the room, followed by her father. We smiled at her, then him. He grabbed her hand and steered her out of the room without a glimmer of teeth.
‘You know,’ Rubber Gloves whispered when Maureen was out of earshot, ‘This place needs a lot doing to it to be habitable. Mold. That is why we are moving out.’
‘Thanks for the heads up,’ I said as he pointed to the tale tell green smudges on the wall. It never hurts to be nice.

We skipped the next viewing as I couldn’t bear to think what a $350 a week place looked like and headed to a local café, that over looks Little Manly Beach for a coffee to warm up. A group of divers were just disappearing into the blue-grey water. The distant view of Sydney CBD was completely obscured by mist and clouds.

The last place was no better, small, cramped and carpeted and we trudged home, socked to our socks. We made tea and huddled around the electric heater.

Finding a flat might take longer than we thought.

*lounges are sofas.

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