While Cyprus teeters from bankruptcy to viability and back I have been getting on with the task of finding somewhere to live.We spent eight weeks at Oxygen Apartments which were great. I am happy to report that I am now in the house I found and close to unpacking all the boxes so time to reflect on the Australian real estate scene, some of its joys and some of its peculiarities.
Our view of the city from our eighth floor apartment at Oxygen
The lap pool and gardens
Our pleasant if impersonal bedroom
Of course I can only talk about Brisbane, Queensland as this is the only area I have been looking at property but it might interest you to know that here:
Properties are advertised without prices !
I could not believe this to start with but basically you develop some sense of what a property may be worth but as a foreigner you are at a distinct disadvantage.
Quick squeeze viewing
Properties are put on the market and you as the eager buyer are allowed to view them. But it is not as in most of Europe where you book an appointment with the agent and then you turn up at the door and the owners show you around for as long as it takes to draw you in.
Here owners are ejected from their premises for the so called OPEN HOUSE. They simply leave but not before they have chucked everything from a surface into the closest cupboard, left a candle of sweet vanilla burning and laid out the silver service as if the Queen will be coming to dinner. Nearly every property I visited looked like something out of House and Garden or a hotel room and there were no SIGNS of LIFE anywhere.... I was very disturbed by this trend to anodise everything as I think houses should be lived in and not just shown. Huge emphasis on coordination and accessorising.Furniture clearly brought in by the agents for effect. Complete absence of books, newspapers, a pair of shoes hanging about, the odd jumper draped over a chair - NOTHING.
You and a host of other hopefuls traipse threw the house and making encouraging or other noises to the agent who takes down your details and promptly rings you up to ask you what you thought of the property.
In the space of about an HOUR you have to decide whether you are going to spend thousands and thousands of dollars on this house. If you are lucky and it is a bit slow you might get another OPEN HOUSE and another half hour to race round.
Plenty of choice but not enough time
Most estate agents hold their open houses on Saturdays or Tuesdays so you might have eight to visit but there is no way that you will get around them all as the hour sadly will be up.
Then you have to be even braver and bid at an auction, because this is how some houses are sold here, where basically you could be the only one ..or you could have one annoying other bidder driving the price up terribly or twenty - you just don't know until you get to the venue.
Don't plan, dream, remodel the house, work out where the walls will come down before you have secured it at auction. You might end up losing it for a few thousand. Auction means between 5-10% deposited on the day and no further questions.
Houses come on the market and are gone within the month. If not, they are problematic properties which will almost certainly go to auction and failing that a price might reluctantly appear.
Sign the contract and then explore the property
Here in Brisbane the rule is Buyer Beware. The Seller doesn't really have to tell you anything and it is up to you to find all the hidden dark secrets of the house through searches and Building and pest inspections.
However apart from a five day cooling off period when either party can back out, there is not a lot that you can find which would allow you to walk away from the contract, not even the fact that the property floods !
Riverside apartments and palatial estates, town houses and superb Queenslanders all available at the right prices. If you are in a complex beware the Body Corporate as they call the residents associations here and the fact that most of them will not accept dogs over 12 kilos - well the fat dog crushed our hopes of the riverside apartment even with the rigorous walks that my sister is giving her in Cyprus.
From finding your property to moving in can take as little as one month ! Super fast and wonderfully efficient bankers, lawyers and building and pest inspectors all work away to make this a painless and worthwhile exercise. So here we are safely in and most of the boxes unpacked.
Our deck looking out onto beautiful mature trees