The Bloodied Messenger: Property Managers and Public Respect

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The phone would ring three times – the receptionist having told me already that John from East Melbourne was on the line. He was a tenant in a property I’d been instructed to sell, and I hadn’t spoken to him before. As an estate agent, it was my role to inform him that yes, his rental property was going to be sold and that yes, we’d be doing our first open within two weeks. A veteran of these conversations, the response from my tenant went almost uniformly in one of three directions.

“No, I’m sorry I won’t let you in my property. I don’t have to.”

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“I have concerns about security, so I need to be at every open. And I’m at home on Wednesday morning at 9:30 am or Sunday evening at 7:00 pm, so those are the only times I will allow you access.”

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‘The landlord needs to offer me some compensation. Then we can talk.”

In every one of these instances, my first proposed open on a Saturday at a normal time when purchasers could attend went ahead. Principally because as the agent of the vendor I did have the right to enter the property given due notice to sell a home. The landlord doesn’t have to pay any inducement to legally access the home for the purpose of selling – but indeed they may agree to pay an inducement if the home is presented beautifully and with good will.

In retaliation for having done my job as an agent, I have been variously threatened with a knife by a caterwauling tenant in considerable distress, had to speak with police and sign a state dec confirming that I did not steal a computer that a tenant accused me of pilfering. I have had tenants stay in bed farting during open for inspections, leaving bucket bongs in the center of the living room. Prior to an auction, I had tenants involved in a little light latex bondage in their kitchen, seemingly surprised to see me (and thirty enthusiastic auction-goers) pouring in the front door. That was a real doozie, and I called that auction with relish.

Having worked in the real estate industry, I’m keenly aware of both the failings of the real estate industry itself and of the deep disregard for people who work in the industry. Did you know that – on average – every three years 80% of the real estate industry in Australian turns over? When you consider the vitriol aimed at those working in property – in particular, property managers – this should cause little wonder.

When I’m online and see people having conversations about the sheer gall of agents attempting to  having open homes in their leased property, I am often saddened. Our community see property managers as bottom-dwelling halfwits who are attempting to do the wrong thing by them at all times. If they’re tenants, they view PMs as inattentive, unfairly exacting in their standards or stalkerish when following up overdue rent. If they’re landlords, property managers are viewed as unavailable, ill-educated and on the tenant’s side.

Given the lack of community respect for what is effectively a vocation (because they sure as hell don’t do it for the money – particularly in property management), the rapid industry turnover makes sense. Property managers – on average – have a portfolio of 220 – 250 properties which they oversee. This means 500 relationships – those with tenants and landlords – and a mountain of maintenance orders, following up of rent arrears, negotiations between parties with the added frisson of occasional abuse. They are usually overworked and quite stressed out.

I’ve often seen online conversations from ostensibly lovely people decrying estate agents for daring to ask to have an open for inspection on a Saturday at their leased property. Cue a stream of replies about ‘leaving the dishes undone and the house dirty, that’ll teach ’em’ and ‘just don’t let them in, they can’t make you’, and I’m left angered. As a tenant, you are required to allow fair access to your property for the purpose of lease or sale once given notice. Just as the landlord must fix problems with a home once alerted to them, tenants must allow public access to their property at fair times for the purpose of re-leasing or selling. Being difficult and aggressive – by either making the agent fight with you to do what they are both instructed to do and legally allowed to do – isn’t a solution. It won’t make the problem go away. Leaving a home dirty and unpleasant isn’t helpful either – all it results in is more and more opens as it takes longer to lease or sell the property.

Undoubtedly, we need to make changes to property and investment laws in Australia. Annual rent increases, short leases and negative gearing all have a deleterious effect on the relationship and respect between landlords and tenants. The property manager or estate agent is the meat in the sandwich between these oft-warring parties. Instead of working out ways to stymie your 23-year-old property manager from making a fair repair to your investment property or making her feel unwelcome to do her job as legislation supports – think about petitioning to government bodies about the rights of tenants and landlords. We probably need longer lease terms, and longer periods between rent increases – it’s not fair to expect people to move home every year. But until those things are amended, the agents you deal with are following through on their roles in the best way they know how, trying to solve problems and make everyone happy.

And if one thing’s certain in this life: trying to make everyone happy makes no-one happy. So: don’t be cruel. Don’t bully and demean a profession for attempting to do their jobs well – remember, these are property managers are confronted by regular verbal abuse and rental properties sometimes destroyed and defaced by hostile tenants. Allow fair, tidy open for inspections without aggression or violence – they’ll be out of your hair as soon as they can. Equally, if you’re a landlord, make reparations on your property when you need to, and be understanding about what ‘fair wear and tear’ means.

Above all – don’t shoot the messenger.

Feeling Smart

Everything you have ever wanted, is

Alexandra and Genevieve Smart are two business women with a very clear understanding of both their offering and the lives of the clientele. The sisters behind the elegant-yet-restrained label Ginger & Smart have paired up with Dulux Australia for the latest iteration of the paint brand’s ‘United By Color’ collaborations – drawing upon their most recent collection ‘Arcadia’ to create a triptych of interior spaces in a palette of bespoke Ginger & Smart colors.

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I spoke briefly with Alexandra (left) at their VAMFF activation this week, and was immediately impressed by both her eloquence in dissecting the tropes of the ‘Arcadia’ collection, and her ideas about Ginger & Smart’s contribution to a modern woman’s experience of herself. The sisters Smart were approached directly by Dulux to collaborate on the United by Colors project, as Ginger & Smart are well-known for creating their own swatches of color each season rather than using palettes and colorforms already created by Pantone or similar.

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A dark floral tribute punctuated by soft textures and pink-coppers. ‘Arcadia’

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Alexandra spoke about how the ‘Arcadia’ collection is inspired by both their clients – women who are variously creatives, corporates, daughters, mothers, wives, friends – often all at once, and organic nature. The moody palette reflected in both Ginger & Smart’s collection and in their Dulux ‘dream rooms’ – can be recreated in your own space with a little know-how and the right painter.

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Muted pinks, blacks and natural woods. ‘Eclipse.’

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For more details on bringing Ginger & Smart’s aesthetic into your home, read on.

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‘Afterglow’

Legend Of The West: Frank Trimboli, Veteran Estate Agent

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They don’t make ’em like they used to – a phrase that rings true when it comes to veteran estate agent Frank Trimboli. As much of an icon of the west as Franco Cozzo or T. Cavallaro & Sons – everyone seems to know about Frank.

That’s because he’s been working hard to elevate both himself and his real estate business in one community since 1959. When I began helping to build Frank’s latest iteration of his brand online – Trimson Partners Real Estate – I was delighted to discover he had so many wonderful newspaper cuttings of his career in real estate. In my experience, very few agents have been consistently working in the industry long enough to enjoy such a treasure-trove of retro marketing – testament to the fact that Frank has kept changing with the times, and continues to do so today. We had the chance to ask Frank some questions about his time in real estate to date, his beloved Footscray and the music he likes to listen to best before he calls an auction.

What did your family and friends say when you decided that you were going to be an estate agent?

I left school at the end of year 12 despite my parent’s wishes who wanted me to continue with my education, at that time my prime ambition was to go into business. When I got a start in real estate my parents were quite happy on the proviso that I continue with my education. Similarly my friends were very supportive and happy with my choice of vocation.

What is your favourite thing about being an estate agent and working in Footscray?

I love the interaction I have with people and having the chance to assist them achieve the Great Australian Dream of home ownership. Having grown up and lived in Footscray all my life, I believe it has the greatest potential due to home affordability and close proximity to Melbourne’s CBD.

What’s the song you most enjoy listening on the way to calling an auction?

I have been a lover of classical music and somewhat an Opera buff. Having grown up during the rock and roll era, I enjoy all music in those categories.

What is the biggest misconception buyers have about the home purchasing process?

Although buyers are now better educated in property issues, the biggest misconception is around property values (what property is worth currently) and the unknown add-on costs in buying property (such as conveyancing and stamp duty).

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Where can Hometruths get the best breakfast in Footscray?

Currently, the best place in my opinion is the Red Room at 79 Paisley Street, Footscray – only a short distance from my office.

How can the local property industry improve it’s practice?

By becoming better trained and educated in property issues so that the advice given to the public is precise in relation to all facets of property matters.  Regretfully, rather than increase the standards of agents, Governments have eroded the criteria of entry to the industry.

Do you remember the first home you sold? Can you tell us a little about it?

Yes, I remember it vividly, it was during February 1959. The home comprised a double fronted timber home with an iron roof, located in Braybrook amongst housing commission homes. It sold for 3250 pounds. The property is still virtually in the same condition, I often drive past it.

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Frank Trimboli (at right) with his business partners Frank Forti and John Verduci – outside their Barkly St premises.

Why do you think the public is suspicious of real estate agents in general?

The low image of agents started during the land sales period some 60 years where some of the practices of agents were questionable. I believe that we have gone a long way since then by being better trained and educated.

Describe the current Melbourne Property Market in a sentence.

The current Property Market is quite healthy offering substantial potential to property buyers.

Selfish For All The Right Reasons

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Is being selfish always a bad thing? We say: sometimes yes, sometimes no. In general, selfishness has a bad rap, and deservedly so.  When one is selfishly inconsiderate, other are hurt, excluded or diminished. That is never good. There is, however, another side to selfishness – one that is harder to embrace, but that one brings about the possibility of personal renewal and achieving great change with single-mindedness.

The selfishness of boundaries (saying that you can’t do something or don’t want to do something without proffering an excuse) and the selfishness of a life focused on personal priorities are two kinds of selfishness I sense are necessary to a life well-lived. If you’re anything like me, you will find it difficult to be difficult. But difficult we must become – and firm in resolve when the moment comes, as it always does. I was reminded of this positive aspect of selfishness on a recent architecture tour of Heide, a pool of solace in Melbourne’s Eastern suburbs and one of my favorite arts spaces to visit. The site itself features three pieces of architecture – Heide I, II and III – respectively a federation home, a modern expression of a home built to display art and welcome conversation, and a purpose-built gallery.

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John and Sunday Reed were important patrons of Australian art, celebrating a unique kind of Australian-ness whilst living a notoriously bohemian life. A significant part of the Heide collection was assembled over five decades by this eccentric and forward-thinking couple, whose two homes are onsite amongst the sculpture park and kitchen garden for visitors to tour and enjoy. The Reeds initially lived in a traditional weatherboard home before building Heide II (inset above), a radically modern, decidedly selfish piece of magnificent architecture hewn from luminous Mt Gambier stone.

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Built by architect David McGlashan over the years 1964-1967, Sunday Reed’s brief was to create a residence for her family that was ageless, romantic and that should melt into its surrounds – she felt that it had to be a living gallery. Rising from a gently sloping hill and framed by gumtrees and natives, the graphic blocks of stone that make up this masterpiece have aged and appear a natural part of their surrounds. The home itself has no doors, and a floating double-story floorplan framed by pinus radiata ceilings, white terrazzo tiles and Belgian glass windows. It is without the decorative features which were common to Australian homes of the 1960’s – such as architraves and skirting boards – instead, the home’s design draws attention to the Mt Gambier stone and lush surrounds.

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 A conversation pit and fireplace from Heide II where artists and thinkers whiled away hours, talking deep into the night before falling asleep in front of the brazier. The Reeds were not ungenerous hosts – Heide II has separate guest quarters which adjoin the main body of the home. At right, a Mirka Mora artwork.

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 From the top floor looking down: these lush courtyards were also cat-runs when the Reeds were in-situ: Sunday was a great lover of felines. Above, a quiet moment outside Sunday and John’s kitchen. Just to my right is an indentation in the stone, made by countless morning lean-and-chats over coffee and tea.

Architect McGlashan’s work was influenced by the Gropius and Breuer-led Bauhaus School which influenced late 1950’s design. Heide II is an example of a platform house inspired by the De Stijl movement – a paring and abstraction of design to its most basic.

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When the Heide II was first built, there was no glass balustrade or barrier to this exotic floating stair-case. As you can see, any fall from such a height onto terrazzo would be potentially life-threatening. I can imagine the Reeds weaving warily down the stairs, trying to acquaint themselves with their bold new space. As I said, this is a deliciously selfish piece of architecture which had nothing to do with safety or user-friendliness: the Reeds built a space to better-enjoy their art, to be in dialogue with the political and artistic ideas of the time as expressed through architecture, and to live differently. It was not a project for comfort or relaxation. Heide II was a dedication to ideas, to modernity, to a new kind of Australia.

With the passing of Gough Whitlam last week, rumination on the kind of Australia we might be seems of critical importance. We need to see past the selfishness of today’s political policies in Australia – which dismiss the needs of the elderly and the young, the chronically poor, the disabled, the mentally ill and the different  – and instead embrace the selfish-for-good Keating / Whitlam-style social politics which focus on investing in the infrastructure and projects which allow us to realise ourselves as a community. The Reed’s first home – Heide I – suited them well. They could have decided to live as they were, without changing things up or investing in a new architect and a new vision. Instead, the Reeds doggedly pursued building a new residence which reflected the cultural changes of the time and and their own potential. It’s high time that Australia did the same.

Hometruths Interview: Photographer John Wheatley

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When it’s time to sell a home, you’ll soon find that the skills of a range of property professionals need to be called upon. Of course, there’s the agent to be considered – but you’ll also need to elect a solicitor or conveyancer, a finance broker, a copywriter to ensure inviting and professional marketing texts (that’s us – contact info@rubyslipper.com.au for booking details), a home-staging service to furnish the home with elegance … and a specialist property photographer to ensure your home is captured at its most beautiful and alluring. Today Hometruths Melbourne begin a series of ‘meet the professional’ interviews, highlighting the skills and career trajectories of Australia’s most remarkable property specialists. We begin with John Wheatley, the Director of Urban Angles – a Melbourne-based prestige property photography studio whose images illustrate this editorial.

HT: How did you come to specialise in photographing homes?

It all began back in the mid-nineties when we where working for most of Australia’s major paint companies, photographing home interiors and exteriors for their marketing. In those days, specialising in residential photography was pretty rare and home styling for the real estate market was quite basic. The more I looked at property photography, the more I realised how badly images were composed, framed and set up. Often detail would be obscured and the best features of a house ignored. I asked around and chatted with some of my real estate contacts and realised that there was a gap in the field, so in 2001 Urban Angles was established to raise the level of property photography to match the standards you’d see in mainstream advertising and creative. And that came down to treating the vendor or agent as a client and respecting the property by showing it in its best light.

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HT: How does professional photography differ from simply using a DSLR camera?

Like any photography, capturing a home on camera is not just taking a few snaps and applying some clever filters. Professionals start out by getting to know the subject and of course knowing the market – what do potential buyers want to see. This can sometimes be different from what vendors want to show. Years of experience have taught us what makes a good real estate image – from the light to the framing, the focus and the detailing. But choosing the right lens and taking the photo is only the start. Each image is then taken back to the studio and perfected. We can remove an unwanted reflection or touch up the colour to better reflect the actual décor. We can even make a cloudy sky look less gloomy or tone down blazing summer light. It’s all about adapting an image to suit a whole range of marketing mediums from traditional newsprint to high-end brochures, sign boards and online. Some vendors might be tempted to save a bit of money by using a ‘friend of a friend’ who’s not bad with a camera, but it means trusting an amateur to help sell what is often their biggest and most valuable asset.

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HT: How do you work with vendors and agents in the home when you arrive for a shoot?

When we first arrive at a property we walk through it and really get a feel for the home and its ambiance – because we want to try and reflect that in our photography. We look at all the showcase features, chat with the owner or agent about what they think is most noteworthy and definitely take on board their suggestions. But we also try to stay objective and look at the home through the eyes of a purchaser. It’s also important that we try to show scale and overall composition. Where possible we try to give people an idea of how the home ‘works’, and each room interacts with the next. Then we try to balance the ‘architectural’ shots with those that give a hint to the lifestyle the home will offer and ultimately show it off – making it look its best from every angle.

HT: Are there any particularly memorable properties you’ve enjoyed documenting? 

I guess, from the perspective of sheer scale, the most impressive home I’ve photographed was on the Gold Coast. The owner was a builder with an incredible eye for detail. He flew me up to the Gold Coast and I was blown away by the quality that this home displayed. It was built across two regular blocks and included its own private beach (image below).

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The builder was very particular about the materials, even waiting two years for the timber to be sourced from an historic jetty that was being rebuilt.The workmanship throughout the entire property was incredible. Nothing was left to chance and it allowed for a huge array of photographs. I was there for two and a half days, and I still think I could have photographed more. There was so much detail and so many features to the home that a prospective buyer would fall in love with.

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The other home that springs to mind was one in East Melbourne (inset above and below), a very different and heritage style Victorian-era mansion with that signature eastern suburbs architecture. I first photographed it years ago when it was certainly grand and imposing, but in need of careful renovation. It sold and the new owners did just that – updating it brilliantly. I was lucky enough to be asked back to photograph it when the new owners were ready to sell, and it was incredible to see how they had so meticulously and sympathetically updated it. The original home was certainly recognisable, but it had been given new life. The subsequent owners then improved it even further, but like the previous residents, did it in a way that respected the original features and the heritage of the property. It’s not often you get to see a period home evolve through its various makeovers, but on this address I was lucky, and really got to appreciate each owner’s commitment to restoring such a beautiful example of classic Australian architecture.

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HT: What preparations should a vendor undertake to make their property photograph beautifully?

Whenever we’re asked to photograph a property, we always advise vendors to go through the checklist on the Urban Angles website, because it’s easy to overlook details amid all the emotion of selling a home. There are the usual tasks, such as making sure the lawns and gardens are in perfect condition, since good first impressions are always vital. The second area to tackle is the kitchen. It’s the most functional and busiest area of the home, but can also appear the most cluttered. Only then should a vendor begin to tackle the other areas of the house – from the cellar to the attic. A clear checklist makes all the difference, because ultimately, it’s about being absolutely prepared for when the photographer arrives. In most cases, there’s only about an hour or two to complete the shoot, so every minute that a photographer spends moving furniture or helping to tidy a room is time that should be spent behind the camera.

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HT: What’s your favourite season in which to photograph?

I love shooting in late autumn when there’s a feeling of winter coming on. The air has this real crisp light to it that provides plenty of clarity and atmosphere. The cooler season makes even the most imposing home look warm and inviting. A lot of people are surprised that I like it when deciduous trees have lost their leaves, but it means you can often see more of the home’s architecture and facade. Bare trees can be really stunning when photographed correctly. Early spring is also a great time to photograph homes, which is fortunate since spring is also the key selling season in Melbourne, and like autumn, enjoys that crisp clean air that makes the showcase features of a home really stand out – because after all, that’s always we professional photographers are striving to achieve.

Contact Urban Angles to photograph your own residence by clicking here.

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Fear & Loathing in the Property Market

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Today’s Hometruths article is a response an article by The Age’s Economics Editor Peter Martin, whose article “House prices are inflated and a fall seems certain – the only question is when”, which asserts that Australian house prices are unnaturally inflated and heading for a fall … sometime soon. I put it to you that this is not only an unlikely circumstance, but that his recommendation to wait ’til prices fall is advice best taken at your own risk.

As I read Martin’s article over my tea, I wondered at his perception of the driving forces behind our growing property market – as they’re polar to my own in-market observations. Martin remarks that house values falling is undoubtedly on the cards:

“Nothing is more certain. Here’s why. House prices can’t keep rising faster than incomes and population growth. Both were strong a few years back. Now only immigration is strong and there’s every sign that’ll wind back. High population growth and income growth push up rents. Higher rents push up prices as it becomes even more economical to buy than rent as would-be landlords discover they’ll make more money by buying.”

House prices have consistently risen faster than incomes, which hasn’t dampened enthusiasm for property purchase – in fact, for many Australians it is our only form of enforced savings for the future (outside of sluggish superannuation). With interest rates currently at all-time lows, buyers with healthy deposits have better access to larger loans than ever before. Buyers are confident, ready to compete and asset-rich, usually being property owners already. To my mind, there is nothing more certain than property prices continuing to rise due to our city populations growing, rental demand increasing and those who are able to buy placing a higher value on the limited amount of property which is available for purchase. I do not see that immigration (in its true sense) fuels our rising rental market – it is Melbourne’s ability to provide employment which is bringing new members to our community from interstate and rural areas (rather than immigrants).

Moreover, how many tenants do you know who find it easy to segue from renting to home ownership? Rental prices increasing does not make it more economical or possible for individuals to buy housing. There are many barriers to buying (in the form of high deposits required from banks, and the time it takes to save or acquire these deposits) – and in urban areas even as rents rise, they are not comparable to the costs of owning. Tenants becoming homeowners (i.e. first home owners) are not a big portion of our current wave of buyers (although they wish that they were). Tenants discovering how affordable it is to own a property are not pushing up the value of property. Those with existent funds and the ability to loan continue to confidently purchase property, recognising that property close to amenities is finite. Finite resources are valuable. Property (in areas which enjoy hot competition and demand) is finite, and will continue to increase as a valuable commodity.

Martin’s article reinforces an age-old paranoia amongst nervous purchasers (those who probably most need to make the leap now and buy property before being locked out of the opportunity indefinitely), who may choose to wait for a fall in value that may simply never come. As an estate agent for over six years and a keen property investor and observer, I’ve seen many buyers (in many different cycles of the market) reserve their decision to purchase, waiting for that ‘bubble to burst’. Reader, they are still waiting – and they’ve been priced out of the markets they wished to purchase within. Another excerpt from Martin’s article below:

Here’s how it works in the labour market: If there’s a shortage of engineers and their wages climb, more students enrol in engineering degrees. Four years later they graduate and find there are too many of them. Wages fall back. On a graph the to-and-fro looks like a cobweb.In the housing market rents push up prices with a delay and by the time they’ve risen more houses have been built and more renters have bought, pushing prices back down.  Except that the market gets ahead of itself.

The key error in this explanation of the property market as compared to the labour market is that property is finite. Unlike populations which continue to grow infinitely (or to use Martin’s analogy, continue to enrol in education degrees to fulfil market demand), suburbs do not get bigger. There are only so many double fronters in Carlton North. Only so many workers cottages in Collingwood. If you are priced out of these markets, that’s it. You can get back into these markets by buying something a little further out and stretching yourself, before attempting to buy a modest property in your desired postcode again. But you won’t be getting into coveted suburbs because of the market sky falling, chicken little.

Not all property is equal – buying in Fitzroy North is not like buying in Wallan or another outlying suburb which is challenged by poor access to public transport, ready employment and services. Certainly, should you buy ‘off the plan’ in areas where land value is low and plentiful, you risk overinvestment and a plummet in value. In some CBD developments you may also have this problem when purchasing ‘off the plan’. But when buying property in desirable areas which are close to the city – you can be sure that competition will continue to be fierce as Melbourne further refines itself into an increasingly European city.

My message to property purchasers? The time is now (if you’re fortunate enough to embrace it).

Hometruths Sixteen

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Spring has sprung, and frenzied buyers gather around available Melbourne property like hungry sharks in water. Every auction its own mini-drama of expectations rising or being crushed with the fury of bidding fingers, I look at a robust spring property market as an onlooker at the colosseum. Who will be victor?

I began my auction weekend last Saturday in Kensington, a suburb which is closer than you’d think to the city – literally bordering North Melbourne. It’s very quaint and tree-lined, and in the blue brilliance of the morning its gracious streets of renovated workers cottages look positively Tasmanian. I don’t know the area very well –  (aside from writing the odd piece of real estate copywriting there) – and chose The Premises on Bellair Street for breakfast. It was bustling with couples and girlfriends catching up on the week past, and the shopping strip in general seems cute and worth exploring. Kensington has quick public transport to the city, and all the trimmings that make up a popular inner-city suburb.

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Wearing: sass & bide denim, Witchery leather, Bourjois 12 Heure lipstick. Photo credit to Alex at Lightdrop Studios.

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Top: Hungry property aficionados need big eats – the BBQ Breakfast roll at The Premises hit the spot.

I intended to observe my first auction in Kensington under the hammer of Richard Rendina, but when I arrived it had been sold prior. Buying property prior to auction can be a gamble, but one worth undertaking if your pockets and big enough and it’s a ‘keeper’. Different agencies have different procedures around buying before auction – but in short, don’t think that you can buy a property at the lower end of the quoting range before auction. It’s about klout and audacity when wooing a vendor away from their auction.

Some of you might know that I teach a course for writers (digital and otherwise) hoping to monetize, finesse and further refine their content – it’s called Leader Of The Pack and I’ve another one coming up in mid-November. I’d been searching for a new venue when I popped into Kensington’s gorgeous Lightdrop Studios instead of attending the planned Rendina auction – reader, it was love at first sight! Huge city views in an ex-woolstore near the mills – an ideal place to learn and share. Alex, photographer and Lightdrop Studios manager took these suitably ‘lightfilled’ images of me there. (Want to attend Leader Of The Pack? Email info@rubyslipper.com.au for details on the next class.)

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Jeffrey Smart via Hometruths Melbourne: big blue Kensington sky and rolling wheat mills

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My first auction of the day was a hockingstuart four-storey townhouse at 4 Raglan Street in North Melbourne. As I walked up the (admittedly, many) stairs, I heard the rumblings and mumblings of people commenting on the stairs, how inconvenient they were, what a joke etc. I am always disappointed when I hear people being needlessly rude at open for inspections – I find this kind of behaviour is particularly bad before an auction event. Remember, there’s a hopeful vendor behind that property which you’re badtalking – so if you’ve nothing nice to say, say nothing at all. Some properties have more ‘problems’ than others – be they endless stairs, bedrooms without windows, poor views, many levels … the list goes on. These eccentricities might be inappropriate for you, but they do not diminish the broader value of the property which is based more squarely upon land value and availability.

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4 Raglan Street is a tall-narrow mid-90’s townhouse positioned just off Erroll Street with all its cafes and culture. It had a beautiful rooftop with views to the city and the town hall. The crowd was middling – there were probably about 40 people in attendance.

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Trevor Gange of hockingstuart North Melbourne called the auction in a simple, straightforward manner. His style isn’t warm, but it is efficient and informative – furnishing the crowd with the basic details of the property, its location and rules around the auction process. The auction itself went in jerks and hops, with a starting bid at $700,000.  Another hockingstuart agent took occasional bids from a remote purchaser on his phone, confusing some purchasers. The auction continued to eek upwards from $830,000 to $870,000 before it finally passed in at $875,000. I bid the underbidder good luck, before jetting off to my next auction for the morning. The property sold after auction for $900,000 – its price testament to the confidence purchaser have in inner-city property.

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 Next stop: 767 Rathdowne Street, Carlton North for the auction of stately residence ‘Illawarra Villa’. (Image of minaret nearby taken on Drummond Street at the Albanian Mosque.)

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Sold by Woodards Carlton, Illawarra Villa is a regal, vanilla-white residence which is ideally positioned on a corner for natural light. It had a number of formal downstairs rooms and a renovated rear with a sunny conservatory. As with all Carlton North auctions, all the locals come out for a good sticky-beak and a look at the street theatre to come. This particular auction – called by Jason Sharpe – was over quickly and a competition between essentially two parties. Selling for $1,425,000, the two-horse race was super-fast with Jason inclining right, then left, then right again to catch their bids as they rose in the midday sun.

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Are you looking for  a new home this spring? Have you noticed anything extraordinary at a recent auction you’ve attended? Perhaps you’re going to be selling in the coming few months. If so, you might be just the person Hometruths Melbourne would like to feature in an upcoming editorial featuring the story of your home. Contact info@rubyslipper.com.au for details on participating in this unique magazine-style editorial.

Hometruths Fifteen

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Melbourne’s inner-north is rather like Twin Peaks at the moment. Which is – in its own Lynchian way – not unfamiliar. The inner north has all the coffee (hot and black as midnight a la Dale Cooper) it could ever want and all the baked goods it can handle. I know those are the things that want to eat before I go Hometruths-ing.

The inner north also shares a TwinPeaks-ians paranoia – although in our case it’s not to do with owls in the forest, or mystical ancient beings. Our paranoia is of a property-related nature, fuelled by the ancient mystic being of jealousy and worry about being priced out of our community. In today’s Hometruths, we spend time hanging out in Brunswick East (image above, snapped at famous Mirabella lighting) before heading to a popular auction on Warburton Street in Brunswick proper. I even made a little video for you to enjoy, too!

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Newly opened, did you know that

Lygon St now has its own nursery? The (aptly named) Lygon St. Nursery has a beautiful selection of indoor-and-outdoor plants in their cute shopfront and rear garden sanctuary. It reminded me of the Ruby Slipper studio where I shot these editorial pictures amongst our own interior foliage, featuring Alpha60 clothing and a whole lot of cobalt blue. To see more from this edit on our sister site, click here.

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As you head up Lygon Street away from the cemetery,  you’ll soon see that the block near Barkly St to Glenlyon Rd has become increasingly fancy. With popular bakeries such as the much-loved Sugardough (where I had a piping hot chai and a oozingly-raspberry bomboloni to keep my auction-going energies up), newly-interred Jimmi Jamz and old favourite Small Block, this portion of Brunswick East is deeply gentrified when compared with its wild counsin-to-the-west, Sydney Road. The surrounding streets are a mixture of tightly-packed weatherboards, brick veneers and townhouses, in various states of repair. Well-serviced by tramlines, shopping and popular schools, this portion of the inner-north is fiercely competitive  and desirable when it comes to property.

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Red coats and old Melbourne laneways on my way to the Warburton Street auction.

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A traditional family home in the Victorian style, 3 Warburton Street has undergone a relatively new renovation which provided an open-plan living and dining to the rear of the property. Immediately comfortable and benefiting from position and a rear garden, this home was popular although far from extraordinary. The popularity (and gigantic sales price achieved, but more on that later) of this property was due to position and amenity. Held by one family for 20-odd years, the punters attending the auction this weekend were mostly young families.

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Drizzle and the street-theatre of the Saturday auction.

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Called by veteran Nelson Alexander agent Nicholas West, the auction was smooth, civil and fast with bidders coming to the party swiftly. Nick made known that he had sold this property to the current owners 20 years ago. I know. He doesn’t look old enough to have been selling this property 20 years ago. #fountainofyouth?

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Sold under the hammer with stiff competition from  multiple bidders, the 3 Warburton Street home reached just over $1,400,000.

As I walked away from the auction, I overheard couples quietly commiserating with one another about the prices now being achieved for relatively-humble properties in the inner-north. The feeling of anxiety pinged through the air over the babble of kits and iPhones pinging. Dear reader, the days of families being able to afford a three bedroom home as first home owners are long gone. At least, in Brunswick and its immediate surrounds they are. My advice to you? Buy now. Buy something. If you can afford to. Whatever you buy doesn’t need to be a forever home … just somewhere that is comfortable enough, close to things that you and others love, that will be easily sold once you’ve grown out of it. What you need to become a property owner at prices like $1.4 million is a history of buying, starting with something small.

Buyers at the $1.4 million dollar bracket haven’t reached their potential overnight. They are usually couples who are older, with a good twenty-odd years of buying (and capital growth) behind them. So think about a two bedder in Coburg, Reservoir, Preston. Maybe a  two-bedroom apartment if you’d like to be closer in. Avoid the panic and feelings of property paranoia, and above all, victim-hood. If you’re a young family looking to buy, you’re not being doddled out of a bargain by an agent or a greedy owner. It’s time that’s your enemy here – the time that your competitors have spent growing their wealth. You just haven’t had time in the market yet, that’s all. Begin by hooking into the market at a level you can afford and take advantage of the low-interest rates and capital growth in the long-term that being a property owner grants you.

Yorkshire Brewery

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Melbourne has a conundrum on its hands. Year-on-year, more people flock to our city. Their reasons are multiple: employment, bearded hipster men, education, souvlaki. These are all good reasons to come to our town, and the more the merrier. But merrier is not what we will be should there be no accommodation to house our new citizens.

This was the point that Martin from SMA Developments made at a launch event for his new project at the Yorkshire Brewery in Collingwood. Located on a historically rich footprint crowned with a brewtower, the Yorkshire Brewery development will add another 350-odd properties to the inner-city market. In today’s Home Truths, we share with you our evening tasting beers at this promotional event to give greater context to the Yorkshire Brewery.

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The Yorkshire Brewery (inset, above) was (until recently) a darkly looming, Dickensian tower off Wellington Street. You’ll recognise its gables, and probably recall the graffiti that has graced its face for years. Heritage listed, such towers (bigger or smaller versions of them) populated Melbourne’s inner suburbs, providing fresh ale for the working communities that surrounded them, much like a bakehouse. Developing such a site into a useful, modern space  is always a conundrum, with heritage, council, community and developers’ voices often conflicting. Where do you stand on inner-urban development? Should some prestigious or leafy suburbs be exempt from high-rise development? Or do we need to change our expectation of the urban environment to provide housing for our ever-growing population? If we hope to contain our urban sprawl, a happy medium will surely need to be met.

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The scene is set: a very swank display suite launched the Yorkshire Brewery’s sales this weekend. It also hosted our beer tasting, which was genuinely educational and wonderful to enjoy in such a historically-loaded space.

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Led by craft beer impresario Costa Nikias, our group of media were told about the history of beer and the trope of our local craft-beer market. Beers were matched with rich fare from Tommy Collins. They were variously fruity, malty, aniseed-y and champagne like.

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The Yorkshire Brewery site itself will have several modern building surrounding the heritage tower – this will include a large piazza where it is hoped a sense of communality will be developed with a cafe and weekend market to come. Other points of differentiation for the Yorkshire Brewery will be two body corporate-owned apartments which will be ‘guest apartments’ for visitors. Developers increasingly need to up-the-anti to differentiate their projects, and this guest-suite is certainly a new offering. A communal dining space, yoga room and library will also feature as amenities.

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Costa talking about the import of water in brewing, and the relative flexibility to create when imagining a new beer. Costa won a prestigious award at Good Beer Week for his La Sirene belgian praline ale. You read right! Vanilla pods, cocoa nibs and more were used to create a uniquely fragrant product.

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 Hops (which are fragrant flowers, compressed into pellets) and wheat (toasted to various darknesses) give each ale its distinctive color, odour and taste.

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Costa’s craft beer was last on the tasting menu, and definitely my favourite! Not only for its dreamy graphic design (as we all judge a book by its cover occasionally…) but for its honeysuckle taste and fragrance, and light, bubbly appearance. Fresh!

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What do you think of repurposing heritage architecture into modern developments? Does presenting an off-the-plan project in context make you more or less likely to purchase property of this nature? I’d love your feedback on this contentious topic.

Hometruths Fourteen

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Hey. So it’s been a while since you and I met. A while …. like TWO YEARS a while. Why the gap in content? Because of this and this, primarily. But, I’m back with that unusual hybrid of commentary that is Melbourne’s real estate culture. And a culture it is best described as, as any Melbournian worth their salt in Saturday newspapers will tell you. Over breakfast’s clinking cold-drip coffees and brioche french toast, Melbourne’s middle-class discuss their prospects via the mirror of real estate prices, pass-ins and estate agencies.

I myself am a veteran of multiple elements of the real estate culture that is Melbourne. I bought my first home at 21, while working as an estate agent and auctioneer. My husband is an estate agent (a very good one too, mind you). My business creates content that supports some of the best property-related brands in Australia, including agencies, brokers, and businesses that service the real estate industry. I’m also a real estate copywriter. So when it comes to real estate from a bird’s eye view – from within and without – it’s fair to say my commentary on Hometruths offers holistic inquiry into the heartbeat of our collective attraction to property and the value we attach to it.

I can’t promise that Hometruths will be a weekly thing – but I will commit to a return to this project. You can follow Hometruths on Facebook here, and follow us on Twitter @hometruthsmelb. Let’s begin our friendship again, yes?

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One simply can’t face auctions without a full belly, amirite? I started off the day at new hot-thing Hardware Societe on Hardware Street in the city. CBD breakfast naysayers, begone. This joint deserves the hype it enjoys. Featuring a rich Frenchy-Spanish inspired menu, how can you go past fried brioche with lavender panna cotta? I myself had a deliciously filling vanilla rice pudding with salted caramel for breakfast, but will return again on another occasion for more treaty goodness.

For more details on my pre-auction breakfast and Saturday style, visit Ruby Slipper (my arts, culture and style tome – a Top 40 blog in Australian Voices 2014 if you don’t mind 😀 )

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Leave the suits to the agents: wearing H&M woollen hat, Country Road silk dress.

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Auction : 38 Rathdowne Street, Carlton

Time: 11:00 am

Agents: Little Residential, Jeffrey Wilson and Anthony Inglese

Punters: A mostly mature crowd of buyers, with the purchaser represented by a buyer’s agent. Despite the location of this relatively-modern property close to the Carlton Gardens and delights of Lygon Street ( I mean, Readings, Cinema Nova and Brunetti), I wouldn’t have normally thought this property appealing to an older owner – mostly because the bedrooms are both upstairs. Above 55 or 60, most purchasers take their ability to stay in a home long-term into account. Perhaps inner-city location is bringing out the devil-may-care attitude in those who simply want a foothold in a prestigious location.

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Auction: A no-nonsense call by industry veteran (but out-of-neighbourhood agent) Jeffrey Wilson. All biz, no fizz. Good, solid auction without any bells and whistles, but the quick-to-bid punters made Wilson’s job easy. Starting at $750,000 for a two-bedroom home, the auction ran out of competition at around $880,000 before finishing at $892,000. The buyer agent ( I apologise, I do not know who he was) bid excellently, starting things off at a cracking pace and regularly coming back to top any other bidder. This is a great attitude and position to take when attempting to buy at auction. There’s no magic to buying at auction. It’s simply having enough money to purchase the home paired with decisively making your desire for that home known. Forget the game-playing. You’re playing by yourself.

Auction: 5 Chetwynd Place, North Melbourne

Time: 12:30 pm

Agent: Woodards, Anthony Gattuso and Sam Abboud

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Punters: A shifty lot at this auction, all ground-staring and pretending to be busy on the phone. Like a Roman Colosseum, a crowd makes its feelings known with its posture and response to the auctioneer’s call to action (or lack thereof). Five main bidders participated and ‘got the job done’ but there wasn’t a huge amount of energy at the auction for a most desirable property. This is the kind of townhouse I dream of owning, Barbie-Dreamhouse style. It had everything that opened and closed including oodles of marble, sexy kitchen, glass walled bedroom, and a bathroom worthy of a Russian oligarch. The punters had nothing to whinge about with the property itself, but may have had reservations about its location (off a lane) and the surrounding development underway behind it.

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Peering down from above: everyone loves an auction.

Auction Review: Auctioneer Anthony Gattuso is always engaging and highly interactive in his call, weaving story with a powerful voice and giving his auctions the respect they deserve by making them an occasion. Bidders were stingy initially, and the auctioneer refused bids which attempted to break down the rises politely but firmly. Respecting his vendor’s wishes was something Gattuso made clear he prioritized, which is the sign of a sophisticated, confident ringmaster of the auction circus. I did feel for one poor bidder, who looked like the child of someone attempting to bid from elsewhere. The bidder was obviously inexperienced and nervous, hiding their phone behind a jumper and trying to express the proceedings to someone down the line. This approach never works and is very stressful for the person at the auction. Do yourself and your family a favour: hire a professional advocate or build a relationship with an agent you trust to bid on your behalf. In terms of the sale itself, it eeked upwards to $1.250 before finally selling after auction for $1.275. A mighty result for a townhouse on a lane, if I do say so myself.

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Postscript: It’s nice to see you all again. Hometruths will be back again – soonish.