You Think Buying A House In Bellingham Is Complicated? Try Australia.

I just got back from a few weeks in Melbourne, Australia (pronounced Melbin if you live there).  My daughter is moving there to attend graduate school and I went along in the Make it Happen position, at which I excel.

First off, Melbourne is a fabulous city. I’m not that crazy about cities but I loved Melbourne. The people are very friendly and mellow. The traffic is a testament to their mellowness. Virtually no honking and you can make a u-turn anywhere that is convenient. You can edge your nose into standing traffic from a side street, in front of a taxi, and it is completely acceptable – no one blinks an eye! If you did that here – 12 people would honk, 5 would yell out their windows and probably one would try to pull you out of your car.

Here's a house that would be hard to build in Bellingham

Here's a house that would be hard to build in Bellingham

Real estate is handled very differently, too. We were shopping for apartments but by the end, got the skinny on buying also. For rentals, the leasing agent sets up 15 minute showings that are posted on a couple main websites. We were at one where 30 people showed up. No leasing agents seemed very motivated. We called a few where the apartment had been available for over a week and no showing times had been scheduled. That was the answer. Not let me set one up, let me get back to you, nothing. Just “check the website”.

When you are buying, it is throwback to the “buyer beware” days. All agents represent the sellers. There is no real functioning Multiple Listing Service (MLS) like here where everyone knows about everyone else’s listings. Since there is only a commission for the listing agent, no agent will tell you about some other office’s listing that might fit you perfect. It’s every man for himself.  The agents post pages and pages of “Inspection” times – which are like our open houses, but with no fluff whatsoever. It’s up to the buyer to compile their lists and times and routes and hit the road. If you call on an ad to see a house, they will tell you when the next inspection time is set. So again, any hot property will have all your competition right there in the room with you.

If you want to make an offer, you had better get a lawyer because if you go through the listing agent you may find the contract impossible to get out of it if you need to. There are no seller’s disclosures required – including if the roof leaks for if a freeway is planned to run right in front, as in one story I heard. All due diligence in up to you and you alone.

Pricing is tricky too. Some are priced in ranges. Some say the offer must be above such and such a price. Auctions are popular, but have a reserve price, under which the seller can refuse to sell. Pretty much all the pressure is on the buyer – even though they are saying it’s a buyer’s market.

If you have a good story about buying real estate in other countries, I’d love to hear it.