I catch the same train to work as two of my colleagues, we walk around 10min from the station to work and often enjoy a good catch up about how the weekend unfolded, who broke up, who went home together, what wholesome activities we got up to? Farmers market, drive down the coast?
It’s a safe space, never without a few good laughs. By the time we get to work we pretty much know everything that’s going on in each other’s lives, we have shared our confidences and we step off the tram as a band of brothers. Its great. But its over. Temporarily at least.
By coincidence, or maybe just because we are the same age and stage of life, it turns out that we are all moving out of home at the same time which means we are now, reluctantly, competitors, competitors in the rental market, and it’s a cut-throat race to get the best house, no holds barred. Loose lips sink ships, but on the rental market, loose lips lose you the best properties.
There are two groups we are in. Three boys in each, each group is looking to rent a house in Bayside Melbourne, and when it comes to rental applications, ours must be almost identical, much like our colour coordination. Great.
Going to work has a different tone at the moment. The open ribaldry has been replaced by the fake chuckles of mates who can no longer trust each or themselves lest precious details get dropped to the competition, like how much we are prepared to pay a week, what secret herbs and spices we including on our applications, what area we are looking in and god forbid anyone mentions a street name.
We are keeping our cards close to our chest and until we hold the keys to Wegner Mansions in our grubby little hands, that’s the way, I’m afraid, it has to stay.
I seriously underestimated how much of a minefield the renting process was. Especially close to the city. And how much of an emotional roller coaster it is. I know moving house is probably second nature to many of you, but for if you have only ever lived in one house the whole of your conscious life, its full of wild imaginings, excitement disappointment and sometimes, heart break.
It's lucky I’m fit because this sort of thing would kill a lesser man. Have you ever had someone you love fall for another? That’s what inspections are like. You walk in the door, you fall in love and through the door comes a young family or an older couple, people who aren’t on a scrappy budget like us, people with some financial flexibility. They always have first dibs.
There is a pecking order when you’re looking to rent and we are at the bottom of the barrel which is a crowded place. About the only people we have it over are the university students, but even some of them turn up in German four-wheel drives. It helps having parents who aren’t trying to teach you to be financially independent. (Thanks Mum and Dad!)
Three boys in their 20s, not overly desirable to landlords apparently. “Haven’t you seen Animal House” said one agent. No.
And adding to the stress was another pressure, my deadline. The clock was ticking, 24th of January was the date. I was to be homeless if I didn’t have a place by then. I say homeless, I could live in Torquay with my parents (I assume…maybe not!), but that would mean commuting five hours a day on a bus, train, then tram. No-one does that, surely. If I lived in Torquay for a year and travelled to work every day, I would spend the equivalent of 53 days in transit….no thanks.
We spent January in top gear. Saturdays spent organising inspection routs, nights scrolling on Domain and realestate.com, days emailing property managers, tram rides plotting against our competitors, and constant rejection.
One part of the renting game that I wasn’t prepared for was the rejection. Once an application is sent it is usually three business days before you get a response. Wednesdays were littered with emails titled ‘unsuccessful’. What were we doing wrong?
I was applying with my brother and one of our oldest friends of more than 20-years. We (Liam and I – we’re twins) were one and a half years old when we met Lawson. We couldn’t see the problem. We were model tenants. Working full-time, in good jobs with strong character references. I was even turning up to inspections in a suit.
We caught news of the success of our opponents. Our close school friends we’d been competing with hit a hole in one. One application and one response. I wonder what they promised the landlord?
Maybe it was Chika. Maybe Chika (the family dog), our mild natured staffy, was being judged on appearances. Could they not see the warm personality behind that natural snarl? We dumped our canine handbrake back to the parents. No-one wants her in their house. Sadly, very sadly, she is no longer on our application.
But still the “not successful” emails kept coming.
We kept applying, we kept learning.
A few more weeks went by, churning out application after application. Our enthusiasm began to wane, apprehensions stirred, and the eviction date crept closer and closer, and then passed us by.
The 25th, 26th and 27th rolled along. Glad I have accommodating friends or rather, friends’ parents. Thanks, Deb and Ron for letting me couch surf (!)
It turns out the adage, good things happen to good people does eventually manifest itself. Our success wasn’t far around the corner.
After our 10th application, we landed on a property in Windsor, a 15-minute walk from work. Apparently, that means I can start work at 6:45 am. (Torquay looking good after all?!).
It's over. It's great. We are our own men for the first time in our lives. Saturdays are back to normal, the “Unsuccessful” emails have stopped and we are back on the tram sharing confidences with our mates. It wasn’t that hard after all.
We move in on Saturday. Kmart and IKEA will be getting a workout in the next few weeks. If anyone has any spare beds, sofa, cutlery and furniture please text me!
TOM’S RENTING TIPS
- Try your hardest not to be a group of young boys. Failing that, make sure you don’t arrive at an inspection hungover. (Don’t worry that wasn’t me)
- The biggest one in hindsight, unsuccessful applications are inevitable. Don’t get down on yourself. Keep sending them out. We ended up sending ten.
- The more info you supply the better. Provide a cover letter with an outline on each person you are applying with. It also helps if you mention you’ve been friends for a while if that is the case.
- Include things like what you like to do in your spare time and your work situation.
- Additional comments pointing to a healthy lifestyle and comments that you’ll endeavour to look after the place as if it was your own are also looked upon favourably.
- Supply references upfront – don’t leave them to check later.
- Mention that you’re not party animals. Watch Animal House.
- Say that you know landlords look for tenants that pay rent on time and respect their home and that’s you.
- Mention you’ll pay one payment into the landlords account instead of three separate ones.
- Nominate one person to be in charge as the main contact for the house.
- Say that you understand it is your first rental that you’re going into and they may be hesitant, but assure them you’re going to be great tenants!
- Offering a few dollars on top of what they’re asking for also goes a long way.
FOOTNOTE – Try not to mirror the actions of an unscrupulous friend who upon realising that cutlery wasn’t part of his lease agreement, decided to stay back at work every night and repurpose company cups, plates, bowls and cutlery as his own. It was a foolproof plan. Until the boss unexpectedly came back for his car keys. Long story short. He was repurposed out of a job.
You can email Tom about his wisdom or folly here: firstname.lastname@example.org