Why Expats Need a Point Person Back Home - May 2021
A young fellow I met a while back at a function told me the story of when he first moved to Sydney from Brisbane and arranged to rent a charming Darlinghurst terrace over the phone.
The real estate agent sent him a video walk-through of the place, which was old and a bit rough around the edges but looked very livable and full of character. His first day in the place, he realised his terrible mistake.
His new home was indeed charming, but also extremely dark, with no natural light flowing in at all and a whole lot of dampness throughout. It was also on a narrow lane way looking on to the back of a few busy restaurants, including a seafood place that only had its waste bins emptied once a week… making for quite an aroma in summer.
And worst of all, his front door opened on to the back door of a night club, so every Friday, Saturday and Sunday night until sunrise, the booming bass of electronic dance music filled the whole street.
I’ve heard a few stories recently of Australian expats buying property in a similar fashion to this chap’s rental disaster, relying on the judgement of friends and the video clips of agents to get a sense of what they’re buying.
Obviously, this is fraught with disaster for many reasons… but beyond the potential for noisy neighbours, rising damp or potent seafood stench is the possibility to misread. You might miss out on better deals elsewhere or, worse still, seriously overpay in the market.
But first, before touching on any of that, buying property from afar is a nightmare right now because of the strength of the market, particularly here in Sydney.
If you were here, you’d see it – open for inspections overflowing with people, with lines out the front door and around the block in many cases. Auctions with hordes of people showing milling about like they’re at the launch of a new hipster restaurant opening.
Just as quickly as a property hits the market, it’s often gone again. Desperate buyers, sick of missing out and over the tedious and stressful search, are throwing money at any dwelling that vaguely fits their criteria just to avoid going to auction.
And at auctions themselves, decent properties are going for well above the guide price.
Trying to compete when you’re not physically on the ground is tough. Even those expats with a mate who might be willing to sacrifice the odd Saturday to go to an open home isn’t going to be enough. You need someone who’s committed to your search, knows what you’re after and what you want to avoid, can dodge minefields and pitfalls, is able to spot good opportunities, and will stick on the winding path for the long haul.
Not even the best of friends is going to sign up for that monumental task. Even if they do, they’re bound to miss things that could be important to you either now or in the future.
Take school zones. Trying to determine whether a property you’re looking at is in a good one, or if there are stronger options nearby, is tricky when you don’t have the lay of the land. The same goes for local amenities like parks, shops, cafes and restaurants or entertainment venues. And, of course, especially with a city like Sydney, knowing if a suburb or street is overly noisy, is usually local’s knowledge.
There’s only so much a Google Maps explore can tell you about a location – both its current attributes and any future changes, both good and bad.
An experienced, well-connected and knowledgeable buyers' agent on the ground is an exceptional asset to have when you’re looking to buy from afar.
A buyers' agent works with you to determine your needs and wants, as well as your budget, and find potential properties that fit the bill. They also work with their contacts to find off-market opportunities that never make it to this popular listing websites.
They can uncover areas that an expat, unfamiliar with how a city has changed and evolved in their absence, might have disregarded previously. It might lead to a potential deal that’s better – and cheaper – than expected.
But more than that, they work on your behalf to negotiate for the place that you want. That’s especially important in a frenzied market like this, when it’s critical to move quickly to avoid missing out. A buyers' agent is able to act on an opportunity, but in an informed way, knowing the area and market movements intimately, to secure a deal for the best possible price.
The tyranny of distance already makes this process a challenging one to navigate on your own, without adding the tyranny of time zones. If you’re in expat hotspots like London and New York, get ready for a lot of midnight and beyond phone calls to try and catch agents during their waking hours, as well as one day or longer lags in replies to your emails.
A buyers' agent eliminates these delays by dealing with a seller or their agent on your behalf, from the very first moment of contact through negotiation and to contract signing and settlement.
They can also coordinate your team on the ground, be it your finance broker, conveyancing solicitor or pest and building inspectors.
In addition, a national firm like Propertybuyer means you get a truly nationwide perspective on real estate markets, as well as access to other cities.
Smart Aussie ex-pats know – outsourcing to a local professional is the most efficient way to secure the right property at the right price back home.
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