Real Estate · Uncategorized

#metoo real estate agents….

In recent weeks we have all read the stories about Harvey Weinstein, since then we have heard from people in the movie, music and entertainment industries who have told stories of their own personal experiences.

It made me think about #metoo and how it resonated with me, not because I have been harassed as an employee etc but as a real estate agent I have experienced harassment and inappropriate advances from people who I have interacted with during my career. These experiences have made me a very cautious woman.

I have to admit that I have had a few scary experiences myself however as an agent in London, I was made very aware of the “Mr Kipper” story. Wikipedia reports that  Suzy Lamplugh was an estate agent reported missing on 28th July 1986 after going to an appointment with someone calling himself “Mr Kipper”, to show him a house in Fulham. Her office diary recorded the essential details of the appointment: “12.45 Mr. Kipper – 37 Shorrolds Road O/S”, with the “O/S” annotation meaning outside the property. Witnesses reported seeing Lamplugh arguing with a man in Shorrolds Road and then getting into a car.

Her white Ford Fiest (registration: B396 GAN) was found that night outside a property for sale in Stevenage Road, Fulham, about a mile and a half away. The ignition key was missing and Lamplugh’s purse was found in a door storage pocket.

Police suggested that a black, left hand drive BMW vehicle might have been involved, because of an eyewitness account of a car at the same location as Lamplugh’s in Stevenage Road. It was thought for some time after her disappearance that “Kipper” was her pronunciation of the Dutch name “Kuiper” but despite police investigations, nobody of this name was found to be connected to Lamplugh.

As a young agent in London I found this story to be truly shocking and a warning to all real estate agents in the industry. This story in particular made me very wary of who Iw as dealing with.

During my career, at one time or another, I have armed staff with personal alarms, come up with coded phone messages, developed safety strategies & precautions in order to protect my staff whilst they have been out meeting strangers in empty properties.

To be honest when you think about it, it goes against everything that you have been taught doesn’t it? Meet a stranger you say? No thanks…. Meet a stranger in an empty property you say? No way! You just would not do it and I am sure you would not encourage your children to do it, however we as agents do it every single day. When I write this down, it seems ridiculous!

There have been similar cases to Suzy Lamplugh’s i.e. in June 2006, there was a similar case involving a 48-year-old female estate agent in Wiltshire, UK who met a client called Mr. Herring. She was attacked with a sharp object, causing cuts to her arm, and was pushed to the ground, but managed to free herself. The assailant ran away. Police have said there is no connection between this case and the disappearance of Lamplugh.

In January 1992, Michael Sams kidnapped Stephanie Slater. She was an estate agent working in Birmingham, UK. Slater’s employers paid a ransom and she was released. He was later found guilty of her kidnap, and of murdering 18-year-old Leeds prostitute Julie Dart. Sentenced to life imprisonment, was still imprisoned as of 2015.

There have been numerous times where I have felt intimidated in a property. Let’s get this out in the open now, I talk a big talk,  I am feisty and I do not back down. However, I am also less than 158cm (5ft 2in in the old money) so I have managed to be lucky enough to manoeuvre myself out of worrying situations.

In order to avoid confrontation and bad situations, I always do the following:

  1. Make sure my appointment is in my calendar
  2. Make sure that the appointment has a link to an email invitation (I email the other party to confirm the appointment, location etc)
  3. Make sure I enter the name and the mobile phone number of the person I am meeting.

If I am visiting a property to do a periodic inspection I will always do the following:

  1. Knock on the door loudly
  2. Announce that “Hello Tracie from Harrintgons’ is here”, several times over and over
  3. Inspect the property quickly to check if anyone else is in the home (always leaving the front door open in case I need a quick exit)
  4. Once I am sure that no-one else is in the home, I lock the front door behind me, I do my inspection and then I leave.

If I am visiting a property to do a private inspection, I will always do the following:

  1. Open up the rear door and other doors in the property in preparation,
  2. Stand out at the front of the property and meet the person there,
  3. I will assess them and see how I feel about them and what my gut says, and
  4. If I feel safe enough then I will take them through the house,
  5. I will always try to put myself between the nearest exit and the person I am meeting.

If I am hosting an open home and I expect a few people to come through, I will always  have another staff member at the front of the property obtaining ID details of people wanting to enter the property – however many people feel that it is unjust to provide ID before you enter a property.

If there is one thing that I want prospective tenants and buyers to know is that we do this for the safety of our staff and the property more than for marketing.

Eventually I am sure that the process of viewing a property will become safer for real estate agents but until that day we will have to continue to adopt our strategies to the particular environment and situation that we are in.

-Tracie

 

Real Estate

Tenants and their Furbabies

Throughout my career one of the most asked questions has been if a property is “pet friendly”.

pets

It has been my experience that more than 70% of the tenants that I have come into contact with have a pet of some kind. Unfortunately they often find themselves falling in love with a property which is not pet friendly i.e. the landlord will not approve a pet. This is also true of tenants who find apartments closer to the CBD or near town centre who have to apply to the body corporate board for permission to approve pets in the properties, prior to tenants securing it.

I have noticed in the southern states there is now a growing push to alter the rules so that landlords are not allowed to add a ‘no pets’ clause to a general tenancy agreement.

I recently had a tenant who had a medium sized staffy and they were finding it very difficult to find a property in their preferred area that would allow a dog. We had to wait over 2 weeks to secure permission from the body corporate – all the while a great tenant may have secured another property because another landlord may have been able to give her a quicker response.

I know of other tenants who will hide their pets from us during inspections in order to have their furbabies live with them at their preferred property.  You know that they have a pet, you can just catch a whiff of them or all of the doors and windows are open during the periodic inspection. It is difficult, we have to actually catch tenants with pets in the property in order to issue a Notice to Remedy Breach. We do not want to have to force anyone to give up their furbabies.

I do not know many people who would give up their family members in order to secure a property. In saying that though I have assisted tenants to re-home several pets via my network of tenants and landlords.

I know of a tenant (not one of mine) who would put her cat and dog into her car and make sure that she was not at home during the time of the inspection. The pets would go to her Mother’s house for the afternoon or she would sit with them in the car around the corner avoiding the property manager.

I have known other tenants (again not mine) to just pop the cat over the neighbour’s fence and pretend that the cat belonged to one of the neighbours.

I understand that many tenants feel that they have no other option but to lie about the existence of their pets because they will lose their home.

 

 

 

The RSPCA says that strict controls on animals being not allowed to reside in rental properties are contributing to the overcrowding in the shelters. Many shelters receive surrendered pets because tenants are unable to secure approval to have their pets at their new rental property.  I personally could not imagine having to give up my furbaby but some people just have to.

In Queensland the Residential Tenancies Authority advises that “tenants are not allowed to have a pet on the premises without permission from the landlord”.

The RTA advises that “statistics show that pets are not favoured among home owners with just 10 per cent of the state’s rental properties allowing pets”. I have to admit that my experience is that the majority of my clients will allow pets where possible(as many as 60%). Many of my clients are pet owners themselves and they feel empathy for their tenants and their families. In fact where possible I will advertise that the property is pet friendly in the title banner for the advertisement on the internet as I know that it will secure more tenant enquiries.

It is understood that the lack of pet-friendly homes has sparked calls by leading industry bodies including the REIQ for more property owners to consider allowing pets.

So what are supporters of pets in properties doing about this? I have seen a surge recently in media articles discussing this topic. I see that online petitions have started to pop up. Tenants are petitioning for laws to be changed to allow pets automatically instead of automatically denying pets. Tenants feel that there are already clauses in the General Tenancy Agreement which ensure that the tenants have to rectify any damage caused, so why not extend this automatically to pets?

I also see that politicians are looking to change the legislation in order to remove the landlords’ ability to not allow a pet at the property. Some of the opponents to the changes feel that to have an all inclusive pets allowed clause will wreak havoc on the industry. Once again they feel that the rights of landlords are being diluted more and more.

 

What do you think?

-Tracie

 

 

 

Real Estate

OMG is that us?

Driving to work one Summers’ day a few years ago, I was listening to the radio when I heard that there was a police incident in a street where I managed a property.

I listened intently as we had not been able to get hold of the tenants for a few days….. my spider senses were tingling….their rent was behind and we had been trying to get hold of them without any success.

When the radio announced that police were onsite investigate a “double death” my stomach lurched. I knew it that they were talking about our tenants and our property. Luckily I had a contact in the police and they were contacted, they confirmed that yes it was our property. Damn! OMG it was us!

The tenants were twenty somethings and we had never had any problems with them throughout the tenancy. Hence why it was so unusual that their rent was not in the account as usual. My heart immediately went to to the parents of the young boys, who were now experiencing the loss of their children. Those poor parents. I personally really hate it when a tenant dies, I have had to deal with 6 in my career so fortunately there was no emotional panic and I could be the professional property manager that the parents needed.

My job was to now support all parties involved (including my staff). I actually had an ex-staff member who once told me how he had found a tenant hanging in a property – my ex-colleague was approximately 23 years old and he was doing a periodic inspection. He called the office to tell them what had happened and unfortunately he was left there to deal with the situation all on his own. His boss did not arrive to assist! I was disgusted  by this. I would never do that. This is not something that a young professional should be dealing with, it will have lasting effects. If a tenant passes away at a property, the owner of the business should be out dealing with it, not the younger ones. (Rant over!)

Thoughts kept running through my head; how do I tell my client that this has happened? She will be devastated. Has anyone told the parents yet? Hopefully the police had already informed them. How did they pass away? What had happened? What did I need to clean up? I  know that the last question sounds very basic but at the end of the day someone has to take care of this and usually it is the property manager.

So I dashed over to the property, luckily the police were still there and they advised that the bodies had been removed (you could audibly hear my sigh of relief). I was told that it did not look suspicious and that they suspected that it was a drug overdose.

When I went to have a look I could see that the tenants had moved a mattress from the bedroom to the lounge room where they passed away. Unfortunately they had been undiscovered for a few days and it was now my job to arrange the forensic clean up.

So let me tell you what the practicalities of this entail:

Getting the preferred contact details of a forensic clean up team from the police, booking them in and getting them to sort out the problems left behind. I did this and was then informed that they had to remove some of the carpet because bodily fluids had saturated through the mattress and the carpet was unable to be salvaged.

So I had to arrange for a carpet supplier to quote to replace and/or patch the carpet. In the end we voted to replace the carpet entirely, (let’s face it you probably would not have wanted to just patch that carpet anyway).

In the meantime I had made contact with the tenants’ emergency contacts and I arranged to meet them onsite to allow them access to look over the property and the possessions of their loved ones. Be under no illusions, this is a very emotional time for these people (as well as whomever is hosting this inspection). It is not something for the fainthearted.

Once the initial inspection was carried out, we then had to field questions, when do they have to get all of their possessions from the property, what happens with the bond, were they paid up to date etc. It is my experience that the relatives of the deceased want to ensure that they do not inconvenience the landlords (and they are usually very apologetic for their loved ones passing away, and causing a problem). It is weird but in my opinion, it tends to follow the same pattern.

As you can imagine our client was very upset about the situation, her heart went out to the families that were affected. Her main aim was to ensure that she could do everything possible for the families.

We made arrangements for the tenants possessions to be removed and their family paid the rent that was outstanding. The bond was returned and they were then able to mourn their loved ones.

We had to now balance the sensitivities of the bereaved and getting the property back on the rental market to save our client from any further financial loss. This was a delicate process. The property itself was now what they call a “stigmatised property”, we had to let everyone who inspected it that 2 people had passed away in it. Which in turn meant that the pool of tenants was dramatically reduced. Not many tenants will secure a property where someone has recently passed away – let alone two people.

I remember going to carry out an inspection one evening and finding a “goodbye” letter at the back stairs (which I can only assume was from one of the tenant’s girlfriends). I have to admit that my heart was a broken after finding that.

So….. it took a while and we reduced the rent, a few weeks later we found a lady who felt that she could make it work and we arranged to move her in.

The silver lining of all of this is that my client was smart and she had insurance which covered the death of a tenant. Her policy covered her for 6 weeks’ worth of rent in this instance as well as the cost of the forensic clean up. If she did not have this insurance policy she would have been much more on edge and stressed about the situation. I expect that she would not have been able to afford to allow the bereaved time to make the appropriate arrangements. The insurance policy made things a lot easier for her, the parents and us to deal with.

What is the moral of the story? Please ensure that you have adequate landlord insurance.

-Tracie

 

 

 

 

Allergy

Time to Open the Office

My son was 7 months’ old on the day that I officially opened Harringtons Realty.

The menu that morning was “eggy soldiers” and I was super excited. This would be the first time that J would experience eggs and they were a favourite breakfast of my Poppy (who had sadly passed away when I was 13) and preparing them for my son was bringing back so many lovely memories.

eggy soldiers

I was in my kitchen sitting in front of J (who was in his high chair) dipping the toasted soldiers into the runny, gooey yolk. I was excitedly talking to J about our plans for the day, how the office was to officially open and all of the things we had to do. Sadly, J did finish that breakfast, after about 3 dips he was hysterically crying! I could to figure out what was happening, so I asked my husband to keep an eye on him for a second whilst I went to the bathroom.

When I came back, I noticed that where the egg yolk had been smothered on J’s face there was now a dark purple patch. I remember thinking, “now that does not look right”. It was at that stage that I decided that we needed to drive to the doctors and get it checked out.

Like a shot, I put my son into his car seat and began driving to the doctor’s office. After about 4 minutes I heard J coughing and starting to choke in the back seat. This is when the proverbial hit the fan. Any idea of this not being a serious problem went out of the window. We were a Def Con 4!

I called the emergency services and I was told to pull over to the side of the road and wait for them to meet me. In my state of mind I thought that the idea of just waiting was the worst idea I had ever heard. I needed to get J to the hospital now!

In my panic I hit the curb on the side of the road, all while trying to tell the emergency services operator that there was a doctor’s surgery just up the road and that I would stop there, the ambulance could meet me there.

As soon as I arrived at the doctor’s surgery I raced out of the car and rushed to J. He was crying, coughing and choking now. J was hysterical and he was not the only one. I carried him into the doctor’s office screaming for help (and I mean really screaming, this was full tilt panic). Thankfully a Receptionist was there getting ready to open the office (as it was still before working hours).

Unfortunately the doctor had not arrived for her shift as yet however the Receptionist could see what was happening and she immediately called the Doctor and asked for assistance. She told the Receptionist to administer antihistamine at once, which she did.

By this stage I had noticed that J was becoming enveloped in a large dark purple rash. I was pacing, holding J, consoling him all the while checking to see where the ambulance was. I have to admit that I was thrilled when I heard the sirens in the distance and seeing the paramedics arrive. Help was here!

The paramedics assessed J and we were placed on a gurney with my son in my arms still screaming and crying.  I desperately wanted was to be taken to the emergency department and to have the doctors help J. His wailing screams were piercing my heart. My poor baby was in an utter state, he had no idea of what was going on and he could not comprehend the situation that we were in.

We arrived safely at the Emergency Department and we were taken straight in. I had never been to an ED before and it was an eye opener! The staff were brilliant, they were extremely professional and they were calm as cucumbers (unlike myself).

I noted that there was an elderly man having a heart attack in one of the cubicles so we were not the most severe case and we had to wait our turn. While we waited I watched J’s dark purple rash get larger and larger, it was nearly all-encompassing his body by this stage. J was scratching wherever his little hands could reach and he was the same colour as Grimace (the fast food character), he was an itchy mess. A young nurse came and inserted a cannula into the top of  J’s tiny hand, just in case he needed any medication quickly. That only made things worse for J, he was desperately trying to take the cannula out.

When time allowed a doctor came and saw us, he told us that it looked like J was severely allergic to eggs and that he should be assessed by an allergy specialist. Then on his instructions another nurse administered more antihistamine and we took off all of J’s clothes, my heart sank, this rash was everywhere.

The doctor wanted to observe J for a while to make sure that he did not need an injection of epinephrine so after 4 hours or so, we were discharged. That was the start of our anaphylaxis journey and the story of the first day I opened the doors to Harringtons Realty. I will never forget it.

——————————————-

Being a sick child, J spent a lot of time with me at my office. I had a small crèche that was had set up in the corner, being the boss made this an easy decision to make – and a necessary one.

I loved having J there but let’s face it, this was not ideal. Just owning a business is stressful let alone adding a baby into the mix, but I was already all in, I had financial commitments and there was nothing I could do but make the best of it.

I managed some how to get through it, with support of my husband and family (who helped out with babysitting and who also did a lot of cleaning for us). I had a successful business!

Between doctors visits, inspections, meetings, feedings, specialists, sleeping, medicine, creams and crying I made it work.

Having a high care baby means that there was a lot of time working from home and not being able to physically make it into the office. I have had to reschedule countless meetings or bring my son with me to appointments. As most working mums know you do what you have to do – “no ifs buts or maybes”.

I am blessed though, I have been very fortunate to have some of the best clients in the world. I have never had one client say that they felt it was inappropraite that my son was with me during our meeting, in fact many enjoyed the time spent with him. I remember having to call a client (and holding back tears) because a “poonami” had erupted in the car on the way to meet them at a new property they had just purcahsed – they were very understanding.

My clients have cuddled J, they have bounced him on their laps and they have watched him grow over the years. I think that this is what being a working mum is all about – acceptance, patience and flexibility.

– Tracie

P.S. I later found out that I had popped the tyre on my car and a very kind mechanic who worked at the petrol station across the road from the doctors fixed it for me that day free of chargeeggy soldiers. People are kind.

 

Sport · Uncategorized

Touch Football Mum

Harringtons Harriers-01.jpg

Those of you who know me personally,  you know that I am an avid fan of touch football. Each weekend you will find me out on the fields, screaming, jumping and barracking for the various teams I am involved in.

When my son – we will call him J was young, I was willing him to be older so that I could sign him up to a team sport. I wanted to see him get out and run on the fields, as much for his good as for mine. I desperately wanted to make new friends, meet new people and stop feeling as isolated as I did being a Mum of a small child and a business owner.

I remember when my son was about 5 and they had a mini Soccer team on Saturday mornings. There I was on the sidelines all dressed up (in my office gear with high heels on, sinking into the grass) cheering him on. Then I watched in amazement as he became grumpy because “the other boys were taking the ball off him”. The other parents on the side lines laughed and I have to admit I had to stifle a few giggles as I cuddled him and told him it would be OK.

When the Coach changed his position and made him Goalie, I thought OK here we go! Instead he stormed off the field because the boys kicked the ball in the goal! My little Goalie was lying down on the sidelines (leaving us vulnerable) and he was bawling. Telling me how unfair it was. Oh the joys of parenting and early Winter morning starts!

As you have probably figured out Soccer was not our thing. We waited a few years and eventually we became involved in our school touch football team then our local touch football team. Now for over 4 years we have been playing in various teams and age groups. It has been lovely to see them progress from “little minions” as I call them where they just  chase the ball all over the field in a “swarm formation” to now, where I can see skill and strategy developing.

We are involved in our lovely local club team where we have a very caring coach right up to the local Representative team where try out were necessary and we thankfully made the cut.

These days we are involved in 3 teams varying from Under 12 – Under 14. This keeps us very busy as well as being the Manager for the Representative Team and the Coach of our own team Harrington Harriers. Our Rep Team means that we have Carnivals to attend each month and we train twice a week – it is a lot of organising to make sure that they get to training and then to the Carnivals which are usually at least an hour away.

Along the way I have met some wonderful people, they are very caring and would bend over backwards for you – that is what I have discovered, there seems to be a loyalty with this club. I remember when I was trying to find Mal Meninga (the Australian Coach and legendary goal kicking centre) a home in Brisbane and my son was over the moon. J told all of his friends at school that Mum had met Mal Meninga, what a proud little boy I had that week.

Apart from the people you meet, I love the fact that kids can roam free on the fields, they learn to be independent and to not hover around their parents. I also love the fact that this gives me a bit of me time where I can chat with other parents and a catch up in the Clubhouse (and a cheeky well-earned Friday night drink) after the games have finished. All of our kids are out kicking balls, running around and exhausting themselves even more whilst we are inside chatting away with each other!

Our Carnivals are a huge amount of fun, we all pack the car, we pick up other team mates and friends and we have a bit of a road trip before we get to the fields. We set up a meeting area usually and then is a case of making sure the kids are wearing sun screen, hats & shirts. We go to their various fields and we scream and cheer them on, making complete fools out of ourselves. We have picnics for lunch on the sidelines when we have a break from playing, we watch the older kids play – wow they can fly! We watch our younger kids absorbed in the game, they all excitedly chatter and mimic the older kids moves on the sidelines. It is wonderful to see the comraderie of the team, it is absolutely terrific!

I wanted to say congratulations to every parent, grand parent, foster parent, uncle, aunty, brother and sister etc. who dedicates their time to ensure that their families are involved in sport – whichever sport it may be. There are so many benefits not only health.

I have seen J grow in confidence, his resilience has improved, his perception of right and wrong is now a bit more grey rather than black and white,  because let’s face it we never agree with the referee 100% of the time do we? J is learning about our community, that kids and parents are different that they have different abilities and behaviours.

I believe that parents need a greater amount of dedication to a child’s team than the child does (and usually the parents do!).

-Tracie