Renting in Sydney is a drag. It's overpriced and competitive. It's not surprising that at some stage in our rental history, most of us have had to fluff up application papers simply to get a look in. Some friends of mine, all professionals mind you, who currently rent a very nice home in the Manly area did exactly that. When the Real Estate showed them no interest they employed a computer savvy acquaintance to "improve" their bank statements as a scandalous ploy to win the right to rent their dream property. And you know what? It worked.
By now it's common knowledge that renting in Sydney is no longer about how good a tenant you might be, but the amount of cash you can cough up on the day you sign the dotted line. At the time of lodging their application, my friends made more than enough money to cover their monthly rent requirements, held respectable middle-management positions and offered genuine quality references. It wasn't enough. Before the Real Estate Agent could accept their application he needed to be coaxed with the promise of a large lump sum deposit and the flashing of a few pineapple coloured notes before any of the aforementioned assets held value. This Sydney, is not fair.
Why should my rental opportunities be dependant upon a backhanded system that allows for this kind of behaviour? Is there anyone really monitoring the integrity of the Rental Industry ? I'm not saying that every Real Estate behaves like this, but I do know that most people reading this will have had, or know someone who has had, at least one experience that affirms my observations. Throughout my time in Sydney and the five rental properties I've had attached to my name, I experienced both an unfair loss and pre-conspired win of apartments I applied for.
All this got me thinking, as is the nature of a traveller, about alternatives to the balancing act of couch surfing between different friends and finding a new job whilst going through the pandemonium of seeking a place to rent in Sydney. A solution arose. Ask. Perhaps all this situation requires is a good old fashioned letter drop and some faith in human kind?
My friend and future flat mate Sam, the world traveller, bi-lingual, Radiographer come student of Political Development, has had previous success with this system. During one of her more recent fly-ins to Australia between Europe, Asia, South America and god knows where else, she and one of her friends decided to letter drop around the Eastern Suburbs in search of a house sitting gig. Fortunately for Sam, she has quite a few well-to-do family friends with large homes spotted throughout Sydney, who when the opportunity arises, like to do their own bouts of travel. Over the years this has meant that happy-go-lucky Sam has always returned to her home country, slotting in without too much delay, staying just long enough to afford her the next big adventure in a foreign land.
This time round, however, both Sam and I find ourselves at a very different period of our lives. After years of paradigm shifting experiences on the road we both feel the innate propulsion to plant our roots in one place and share with others on a more intimate level that which we have learned from a life of transience and change. We desire a place to call our own, routine, a long ranging project to nurture and the sense of comfort you receive from leaving your toothbrush on the same bathroom vanity day-after-day. We're looking for our home, our next sanctuary, and we're not settling for less. For that reason we have employed our letterbox strategy as a means of acquiring friends and buying time, time that we will use to attend open houses and to scope out an area that neither of us are completely familiar with at present.
In addition to our lengthy and diverse list of our combined education, work experience, interests, kooky qualities and open mindedness is my borderline obsessive propensity towards order and cleanliness. Though significantly remedied by years living out of a backpack and associated lessons regarding loosening the reins of my controlling nature, I still have the "neat thing" that most home owners welcome with into their space with open arms. I grew up in the kind of family that would take my car on a Sunday morning, wash, vacuum, wax and polish it before I had even begun to stir in my bed. I come from a family in which my 1996 Ford Festiva that I purchased from a friend for $1,000 was treated with as much respect as the brand new Mercedes and Voltzwagon that also lived in our driveway. In my home material possessions are valued not for their appearance or demonstration of perceived success but because they are an expression of our core belief system that quality design paired with care equate to efficiency and money well invested. If I were a Real Estate agent, I would chase me down and plead me to rent out their property, however this is not the way the rental industry works which gives rise to Sam and my mutual belief that there is another way to tackle this conquerable obstacle that so many people in search of a home face each day. Instead of being forced to move into an apartment less than suited, we intend to buy ourselves some rent-free time in Sydney housesitting for complete strangers under the guise of Operation Experi-Rent.
The flyers we came up with, each one a third of the size of an A4 sheet of paper, are clear and free of fluff. We express our offering and describe the kind of person that might be interested in us without the undue pressure of so many things that arrive at our homes via post. We figure that if from 100 flyers, we receive only 1 interested party, then our minimal effort has been warranted. After all, what else is life but an opportunity to experiment and learn by utilising our inherent freedom as individuals to question and push the created parameters of social norms and expectation.
So, if this weekend you find yourself in the Bondi area and just so happen to spot two Australian girls delivering pamphlets whilst conversing with each other in Spanglish, you can almost be sure it is us. And if you are so inclined, or of the friendly variety, you may even feel compelled to extend your best wishes to two spirited girls on a well intentioned mission to do things a little bit differently.
* Keep up to date with Operation Experi-Rent @ www.fionadickson.com.au